BLOG: All Things Higher Ed

What is a good leader? Seven ways to know you're on the right track

Whether you have a goal of becoming a leader or find yourself thrust into a leadership role, there are many times in business when someone will need to step up to the plate and lead a team. You may be wondering whether you are an effective leader or if there are ways you could improve your leadership skills to better inspire the people under or around you. Here is a closer look at what a leader is and the signs of a good leader you should be cultivating in your work. 

Explore what leadership means at Central Michigan University by checking out the Sarah R. Opperman Leadership Institute and its programs.

View leadership programming


What it means to be a leader 

What is a leader? A leader is not necessarily someone in a leadership position, like a manager. You can be a manager without being a true leader. Instead, a leader can motivate and inspire others to do their best. Are you a good leader? Evaluate each of these signs to find out. 

1. You have distinct goals

Leaders must have clearly defined goals. Only with goals in mind can you be sure you are motivating your team for success. The goals should be S.M.A.R.T., meaning they are: 

  • Specific 
  • Measurable 
  • Attainable 
  • Relevant 
  • Time-Based 

If you can make goals that fit this mantra, you are on the right track toward being a good leader. 

2. You set a clear vision for your team and organization 

Goals translate into vision. You will grow into a strong leader if you have a clear vision for your organization and the team members underneath you. People will be inspired to reach for that vision, but only if you have it. 

How to make your vision clear –  strong communication

How can you make your vision clear to the people under you? The answer lies in strong communication. Being able to communicate not only your vision, goals, and expectations for your team members is crucial to being a good leader. People generally rise to the occasion when they know what is expected of them. 

3. Trust within the team

Another sign that you are a good leader is that you have a team that trusts each other. Trust within a team does not happen by accident. It takes strategic leadership to grow a team that is honest and open with one another. 

Ways to build trust 

If you want to build trust within your group, start by being an honest and trustworthy person yourself. Then, build accountability into your workplace so people are held accountable for what they do and do not do. Set up a system where you can get feedback from your team, and be responsive to that feedback. Show that you value honesty and the opinions of others, and soon you will have a team that works from a position of trust. 

In addition, create an environment that fosters compassion and empathy. Both help you create an atmosphere of trust and let people know they can trust you to be a good leader. People who know they will be treated with compassion aren’t afraid to express concerns or worries, and this will help you address potential issues before they grow into problems that hurt your team’s effectiveness. 

4. You express yourself openly and candidly 

Being open and honest with your team will cause them to trust you. It will also give you a more human feeling as their leader. People want to work for leaders they relate to, and openness in your communication will foster that feeling. However, this also means you are willing to have difficult conversations when needed. Being candid when problems arise shows that you are a good leader. 

5. You inspire others 

Good leaders inspire others. They can share their vision so that the entire group captures it and wants to push for it. Inspirational leaders will get high performance and loyalty out of their team members. 

When followers have a vision, you motivate them to achieve it

Similarly, good leaders will not just inspire others to follow the leader’s personal vision. They will also see when their team members capture a vision and encourage them to push to achieve it. If your team members are on board with your over-arching goals for your organization and express the desire to pursue a particular purpose, a good leader will motivate them to do just that. 

6. You foster innovation 

For any organization to grow and develop, it must innovate. To improve your organization through your team’s work, you must encourage innovation and create a community where new ideas are celebrated and explored. 

Encourage new ideas and support risk-taking

To foster innovation, you must support new ideas. When someone comes to you with a new idea, hear them out. If the idea has merit, you need to let the person try it and reward them for success and thinking outside the box. You can also set up motivators encouraging people to present new ideas, with accolades and awards for those that work. 

In addition, you must support risk-taking. Innovation cannot happen without a measure of risk; sometimes, that risk doesn’t pay off. You cannot penalize team members if they take a chance and it fails, or you will squash the creativity you are trying to develop. Instead, encourage risk-taking and even lead the way by taking some risks yourself. Ensure your risks are well-calculated, so you don’t unnecessarily waste resources. 

7. You maintain high standards

Finally, you must maintain high standards for yourself and each team member. These standards should not be out of reach, but they should be high. People will only strive for what you expect from them, so expect a high level of success. 

You hold yourself accountable for results

One of the best ways to hold high standards and encourage people to push for them is to hold yourself personally responsible for the results. You are the leader, and you sink or swim based on your team’s work. Thus, you are the one that is accountable for the results. With this attitude, you will be willing to jump in and do some of the work yourself, further inspiring your team members to succeed. 

Make difficult decisions on behalf of your team

Sometimes, being a leader means making tough calls. When you maintain high standards, you will be able and willing to make those difficult decisions. Good leaders never back down from making hard decisions and take responsibility for the repercussions of their choices. When you stand behind your decisions and do not try to pass the blame off on someone else, you inspire others on your team to follow you, creating a successful, effective team within your organization. 

Build your leadership skills and potential with the right training

If you want to grow your leadership and decision-making skills, consider getting additional business leadership and management training. An effective leader is always learning and growing, and sometimes that means going back to school. Central Michigan University has several programs for business leaders and managers that can help you develop the skills you need to inspire people toward success. Learn more about our leadership graduate and undergraduate programs today. 

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Categories: General Education
The views and opinions expressed in these blog pages are strictly those of the page author.