What Leadership Qualities Make Managers Better?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

A manager with top leadership qualities can better inspire and motivate people. Discover the leadership qualities to help you build a stronger team and support business success.

[Featured Image] A woman leads a team meeting in a conference room.

Leaders must think strategically, help their businesses adapt, and help their employees evolve. Certain leadership qualities play an essential role in your success as a manager. This article rounds up leadership qualities common to top leaders, explores how to develop your leadership skills, and identifies leaders to look to for inspiration.

What are your leadership qualities used for?

As a leader, you’re responsible for establishing a vision, encouraging your team, enabling employees, setting strategy, providing feedback, modifying behavior, mentoring and training others, and so much more.

Ineffective leadership can undermine business success. Gallup research finds that just 21 percent of employees are actively engaged worldwide. Worker stress is also at an all-time high, with 44 percent of employees experiencing daily stress the previous day, up from 43 percent during the pandemic [1]. In an earlier study, Gallup found that poor management leads to lower productivity, less profitability, and increased turnover [2].

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With the right leadership skills, you can better manage team members to create a positive work environment that helps alleviate stress and improve engagement.

Types of leadership qualities

In addition to different leadership styles, many leadership qualities can help you and your business achieve your goals. Your leadership attributes will support strong relationships with team members and allow you to enjoy greater success in organizing, guiding, motivating, and inspiring others.

Successful leaders share many of the common qualities we discuss in this section. The good news? You can develop many attributes through learning, practice, and reflection.


Believing in yourself is a core leadership quality. Confidence in your problem-solving and ability to motivate others will inspire others to follow you and trust your decisions. Leadership guru Tony Robbins suggests that nonverbal cues are important in conveying confidence. These can include:

  • Standing tall

  • Making and keeping eye contact

  • Controlling fidgeting

  • Maintaining a relaxed arm position 

  • Having a firm handshake

  • Listening attentively


As a leader, you’re responsible for setting timelines, keeping projects on track, and planning. Strong organizational skills will make all the difference. You can have the ability to focus and think ahead, but you’ll also need time management skills and the ability to prioritize to be able to multitask effectively.


People follow leaders that they trust. Being honest and demonstrating that you respect your team members will help you build stronger relationships. This, in turn, encourages people to do more and try harder, which can lead to innovation and rewarding risks.

Another way to think of this is demonstrating authenticity or being genuine. Leaders who have this quality can enjoy greater credibility, which supports a stronger overall team culture. 

Communication skills

Strong leaders communicate goals and vision. It’s best if you know how to offer feedback and provide objectives, as well as how to listen and ask powerful questions that result in reflection and positive actions. Communication is not one-sided. You need to be both a motivational speaker and a listener that encourages and empowers team members.

You’ll also need to consider cultural differences and factor these into your modes of communication. The successful leader is always working to effectively communicate expectations and objectives in a way that resonates with everyone on the team, with clarity and conciseness that translates efficiently over email, in person, or through other communication channels.

Being consistent and transparent can also help your people know what to expect. These qualities your leadership expectations more predictable. Plus, your employees will feel more respected. When you are willing to be honest and open, this can encourage your team to communicate similarly.

Use your communication skills to convey positivity, and you’ll be rewarded with more engaged employees. For instance, embracing challenges as opportunities and encouraging people to take risks can reassure employees and elevate their efforts.


Strong leaders learn from mistakes and recover from failures. They have the resilience needed to face challenges and adapt to changing environments. By acknowledging responsibility and being accountable, you can demonstrate inner strength and resilience. This can encourage your team members to take valuable risks, driving employees to move the business in new, positive directions.


Also known as agility or flexibility, this quality speaks to your ability to excel in any circumstance. Be ready to adapt to changing external pressures. Be willing to accept changes as positive. Showing you can revise plans and consider other people in changing situations can differentiate you as a leader. Business is evolving rapidly, and with this quality, you’ll have the ability to adjust quickly to both risks and opportunities. 


Your team members will look to you to make decisions and problem-solve. Depending on your leadership style, you will involve your colleagues in making decisions in various ways. Ultimately, a strong leader demonstrates a willingness to lead under pressure and make critical decisions. 

Business agility could rely on your decisiveness. Making decisions promptly and confidently can prevent missing out on valuable opportunities.

Willingness to delegate

Delegation is essential to leadership success. Otherwise, you risk taking on too much, getting overwhelmed, and being less productive. Delegating frees you up to take on the more mission-critical tasks of a leader or manager.

Your willingness to delegate also empowers others by giving them opportunities to grow and develop. Feeling that they can make decisions and problem-solve independently can help team members’ productivity and give them a sense of responsibility that engages them in their work.

It may seem easier to do the work yourself, but delegating pays off. Those who can effectively delegate are more likely to maintain employee support. Delegating creates a sense of autonomy for team members and shows that you respect their efforts. This can enhance their productivity and make them more willing to contribute fresh ideas.

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How to develop your leadership skills

You may be in charge of a team of three contractors, the manager of 60 remote employees, or the leader of an enterprise-sized business. Whatever the size of your organization or your industry, having strong leadership qualities can help you, your people, and your business thrive. 

Develop self-awareness about strengths and weaknesses.

Through self-awareness, you can better understand your strengths and areas to develop. You’ll know what qualities to lean into and which ones require improvement. Conducting self-assessments and requesting feedback can help you to establish your priorities.

Reflecting on how others view you is another way to develop your self-awareness. Plus, knowing how others perceive you can help your awareness of what you model to others through your actions. For instance, if you are unaware that you become reactive under stress, you could cause your reports to feel more anxious around you at deadlines. 

Understand your leadership style.

Knowing your own leadership style and the way that you communicate with others can help you be a more effective leader. First comes identification. Then, you’ll need to learn the strengths and weaknesses of how you lead and communicate. Taking stock like this can help you develop stronger management, negotiation, conflict resolution, and persuasion skills.

Set measurable goals.

Goal setting is a good way to develop your leadership qualities. You might consider specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals as a way to set practical objectives.

SMART goals can improve your likelihood of success because they provide clear objectives and demand continuous effort. While it’s often easier to think short-term when setting goals, think also of mid-term and long-term goals. This can help keep your development of leadership qualities in management ongoing. 

Consider leadership development courses.

You can learn about leadership by reading books and articles on your own. You might also read interviews or view videos featuring leaders you respect. To discover even more about yourself as a leader, consider enrolling in leadership development courses. These often encourage you to identify your leadership style, reflect on strengths and needs, and discuss scenarios with peers equally interested in practicing effective leadership. 

Some top-rated leadership courses are even free, such as Finding Your Professional Voice: Confidence and Impact offered by the University of London online, which can help you improve your communication skills. You can also take courses to help you develop problem-solving and decision-making skills, conflict-resolution skills, and greater resiliency. This focused, practical experience can prove invaluable to developing as a leader.

Observe other leaders.

A leadership mentor can help you develop the qualities you want to improve. Working with someone more experienced in training or creating shared ownership can help you observe traits that you may want to nurture in yourself. 

Strong leaders to learn from 

You can look to leaders throughout history to see the importance of the qualities we’ve discussed. Consider these famous examples when seeking inspiration for your leadership success.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his vision for a better world in leading civil rights change. He also demonstrated confidence in his beliefs and the communication skills to inspire others to follow and enact his ideas.

  • Steve Jobs is credited with dreaming big and inspiring others to do the same. His strength was in communicating his passion and his decisiveness. He’s also known for being a tough taskmaster, but his demand for excellence prompted people to improve their performance.

  • Winston Churchill served twice as prime minister of the United Kingdom (1940–1945 and 1951–1955). He was known for his communication skills. During World War II, he embodied resilience.

  • Oprah Winfrey, best known for her talk show, is also a CEO and influential leader. She reached international acclaim, despite initial rating struggles, with authenticity and by refusing to engage in cheap tricks on TV at the time. Her success also demonstrates the need for communication skills, adaptability, and resilience.

  • Walt Disney’s strength was communicating his vision and empowering others to play a clear role. He delegated and gave people opportunities to enhance their skills.

  • Mary Kay Ash, the founder of a cosmetics empire, encouraged her people not to limit themselves. She had confidence in herself and demonstrated it in her employees as well. Follow-through was critical to her leadership style, and she involved others in the design and decision-making process to earn their buy-in.

Next steps

There’s no underestimating the importance of strong leadership. Now that you’ve thought about top leadership qualities and how to develop leadership skills, you’ll want to act. You can learn to lead people and teams with the Leading People and Teams Specialization by the University of Michigan on Coursera. 

You might also focus on having an impact and decision-making with a Strategic Leadership course from Dartmouth College. If you’re already a manager, you might enjoy a Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Managing People at Work course offered by the University of London on Coursera. 

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Article sources


Gallup. “State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report.” Accessed November 20, 2023.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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