Let’s face it, being a leader is not an easy task. You have to balance maintaining work relationships with meeting deadlines, and walk a difficult boundary line between friendship and authority with your team. We’ve collected a list of seven character traits that we think every truly great team leader needs.
1. Decision Making Prowess
A good team leader is able to make tough decisions, even if it means she’ll be putting more work on herself or the team. This means always having an accurate assessment of the situation, all possible outcomes, and which choice will be the best for the company, the team, and the client.
Your team should be able to recognize that you made your decision while taking everything into account. Sometimes, that might mean that the chosen path goes against what they were hoping for because of the overall benefit. Your decision should be made in such a way that there is no question that it was the best choice for all parties involved.
2. Good Great Communication Skills
Without communication, a leader is nothing more than a figurehead. In addition to being able to communicate with the team about his decisions, a good leader is able to discuss any sensitive issues with the team without the situation becoming awkward or demanding.
Leaders need to be masters of both written and vocal communication, and know when each method is appropriate. A team-wide memo to ask how everyone is doing today isn’t appropriate, nor is a text message to update the team on a complete change in project scope. Switch those two around and we might be getting closer.
3. Honesty and Openness
If a team member has an issue with a decision that was made, he should feel welcomed when bringing his concerns to the team leader’s attention.The project manager needs to be able to back up the decision with facts and as much decision-making discussion as is called for.
Not every decision needs to be aired in the open with all of its contributing factors. And that’s just fine. But when there is available information that can help your team understand and come to terms with a situation, it pays to keep them informed.
4. Positive Outlook and Attitude
As any sports coach knows, having a positive attitude can completely change the game. Similarly, the attitude of a project team leader can have a huge impact on the team.
If you receive an update from the client that puts you in a bad mood, expect your team to pick up on it even if you don’t verbalize the situation. And surely if you do, you can reasonably expect productivity on this project to suffer since your attitude will be reflected in your team’s outlook as well.
A great team leader will be able to make tough decisions and communicate effectively with the team, even if things aren’t completely rosy. When the team sees a confident leader, they won’t question the project direction. On the other hand, a team leader that second-guesses himself will eventually foster a team atmosphere of doubt as well.
6. Inspiring and Leading by Example
In addition to confidence, a team leader should be able to inspire her team to achieve a higher goal than they might have thought possible. If the project manager has lofty expectations but also sets an example that these goals can be reached, the team will see that example and strive to emulate it. However, a team leader that doesn’t set an example will see her team disregard suggestions and expectations because there is no one to show that it can be done.
If you expect your team to show up on time, don’t stride through the door five (or thirty) minutes late. You can always try to justify why your actions don’t mirror your expectations of the team (I was busy with a client!), but by setting an example that is not in line with your expectations of the team, you’re setting yourself up to be ignored.
7. Delegating Effectively
The final piece of the leadership matrix is the ability to delegate. This works in conjunction with the other 6 traits we listed here.The leader must make the decision to delegate the work and then communicate that decision to the team members. This inspires the team members, as well as shows honesty and confidence in their work, and that the team leader is optimistic that they will achieve the level of work quality that is necessary to succeed with the delegated tasks.
How many of these leadership qualities do you possess? Have you tried to consciously work on them at all as you’ve become a more experienced team leader? Start working on at least one of these every week, and you and your team will notice improvements immediately.