How to Be a Good Team Leader: 7 TOP Qualities

Author: Karolina Matyska

In the corporate world, we often hear the expression “Be a leader, not a boss”.

What exactly distinguishes these two words?

First and foremost, great team leaders care about their team and manage them in a way that they are able to handle important tasks efficiently and build stronger relationships.

However, a list of team leader skills is much more extensive and includes self awareness, public speaking skills, and more.

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Read the article to learn:

  • How to become one of the best team leaders your team’s ever had
  • What skills have effective team leaders?
  • How to create a leadership style which is true to yourself and aligned both with the team goals and the company goals

How to be a good team leader in 7 steps

Taking on a team management role might seem like a sweet career move but it’s tougher than it looks if you’ve never led before. It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a remote team, managing a software development team or a marketing team, once you dive into leading a team, you’ll see it’s not all smooth sailing.

It can be a real balancing act — pretty stressful, eats up your time, and sometimes, just not that fun.

With the right skills, however, you can turn into one of those effective leaders with a clear vision, excellent communication skills, and healthy working relationships.

Let’s take a deep dive into how to be a good team leader.

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1. Foster open communication and be a part of it

Clear and honest communication is a cornerstone of professional relationships, yet it’s often one of the first things to be compromised in the workplace. As a vital aspect of effective team leadership, maintaining an open line of communication should be a priority.

A leader’s openness and honesty are not just personal traits but benchmarks for the team. Employees often emulate the communicative style of their leader, so it’s important for leaders to clearly articulate what they expect from each team member, tailoring their approach to suit individual preferences.

Understanding and accommodating the preferred communications apps or methods of your team—be it phone calls, e-mail, or in-person meetings—can make a significant difference.

Active engagement in transparent communication by a leader can enhance trust and lift the team’s spirits.

2. Embrace innovation and fresh perspectives

Open communication and good communication skills in your team pave the way for fresh ideas. As a leader, it’s crucial to create a space where team members feel comfortable voicing their thoughts. This openness sparks innovation and keeps the team engaged.

Encouraging a steady flow of new ideas prevents stagnation and keeps your team from falling into ineffective routines. By showing enthusiasm for diverse perspectives, you maintain a dynamic work environment where creativity thrives.

This approach helps avoid the pitfalls of complacency, ensuring your team remains forward-thinking and adaptable. A leader’s willingness to welcome new concepts is key to fostering a vibrant, evolving team.

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3. Lead by example, not orders

Being a great leader isn’t just about having the title; it’s about being actively involved in the team’s work. You show your dedication to the leadership position not only in planning and oversight but also by joining in the practical tasks—whether it’s organizing the office or covering extra shifts.

Leading by doing sets a real example for your team, showing them the work ethic and commitment expected.

In your leadership role, you’re a coach and a teacher rolled into one, focused on developing your team’s problem-solving abilities and fostering new leaders. You’re there to support and build up your team, not just to issue orders.

By promoting a culture of collaboration and empowerment, you don’t just get tasks done—you cultivate a team that’s resilient and self-sufficient. The true mark of a good leader is seen in the leaders they mentor and the team’s overall growth and skills development.

a team celebrating their achievement

4. Care about the team dynamics and manage emerging conflicts

Maintaining awareness of team spirit requires a balanced view of the big picture, especially amidst the flurry of daily tasks. For great leaders, it’s essential to consider the important elements that contribute to a cohesive team environment, such as collaborative brainstorming and strong interpersonal connections.

As a leader, fostering a positive atmosphere is your responsibility.

How do you cultivate stronger bonds within your team?

Keep an observant eye on body language and the general mood to gauge if everyone is content and if tasks are being managed efficiently. Ensure that each team member’s efforts are aligned with the overarching goals. When someone is facing a challenge, it’s important for you to detect it early and provide support.

Dedicate time to strengthening team relationships. Proactively address emerging conflicts before they escalate and understand what drives your team’s motivation and productivity. Leading a team is comparable to nurturing a garden—it demands consistent attention, the ability to spot early signs of issues, and a dedication to ensuring a thriving environment.

goals in a puzzle

5. Establish clear objectives

To harness the full potential of team collaboration, effective project management is crucial. Every team member must be crystal clear about their roles and the final objectives. Good leaders know that job descriptions should include clear targets, as they not only guide daily efforts but also provide a sense of direction.

How do you build a high-performing team?

Communication is the cornerstone here. This means not just delegating tasks but actively involving your team in the decision-making process for setting both collective and individual goals. This approach not only clarifies what’s on the agenda but also ramps up their commitment to the important elements at hand.

Crafting these clear, attainable goals is a game-changer for team success. It prevents the team from becoming stagnant and keeps everyone on the right track. As situations evolve, be ready to tweak these goals to keep your team sharp and focused—a sign of truly adaptive leadership.

6. Offer genuine feedback

Providing honest feedback is one of the best ways to improve employee productivity. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, employees need to know how they’re doing to improve. It’s important to be straightforward yet respectful, offering critiques constructively and acknowledging achievements with specificity.

Celebrate their wins openly, but save any critiques for a private setting. This approach respects the individual and protects team morale. By linking their successes to the company’s progress, you also help employees see their role in the bigger picture, which can be incredibly motivating.

7. Ask for feedback

The process of giving feedback shouldn’t be a one-way interaction. True growth as a leader comes from also being open to feedback from your team, superiors, and peers. They’re the ones who experience the effects of your leadership skills firsthand and can offer valuable insights that might escape self-analysis, which is often challenging to conduct objectively.

Encouraging feedback from others helps pinpoint areas for your own development and better aligns your approach with your leadership ambitions. Plus, feeling supported and understood by your team and colleagues is crucial, especially when it’s time to roll out new strategies or changes.

Listening to your team’s feedback provides clarity on what aspects of your leadership are effective, what needs tweaking, and the obstacles that need addressing for everyone to succeed.

What makes a good team leader? The top qualities of a good team leader

1. Emotional intelligence

This is a fundamental quality, as successful work relationships don’t work if they’re simply built on technical expertise.

An effective team leader can manage their emotions and influence and recognize others’ feelings.

It’s important to be self-aware, motivated, and eager to learn and develop more hard and soft skills. With emotional intelligence, stress, and anxiety are better managed and subdued.

How does stress affect work productivity? Find out in our post.

2. Ability and time to provide feedback

It’s incredibly important to develop a rapport and relationship within your entire team.

Obviously, good working relationships need to exist across the company, with other team leaders and departments, but these are secondary to the team you lead.

Ensure that these team relationships are strong since you should have a bond in order to be able to give feedback on things the team does well, and in areas in which they need to and can improve.

Giving feedback to the team is a job that cannot be taken lightly. 

3. Strong ethics

Being a team leader is about more than just juggling tasks – it’s about being the moral anchor for your crew. When you read the job description for a team leader, sure, it talks about coordinating and organizing, but what it really boils down to is showing up with integrity and mirroring what the company stands for.

It’s super important for a team leader to have a solid ethical game, one that lines up with the company’s values. Holding yourself to these high standards isn’t just good practice, it’s essential.

Why? Because it shapes how the whole team pulses together. When they see you walking the talk, it gives everyone a boost. They’re more jazzed up to hit their marks because they see their leader is all-in with the values that make the company tick.

4. Technical expertise

As a leader, you should be able to coach and advise your team members.

Having the technical expertise and the necessary skills (in this case, hard skills) to perform the work, is a mark of credibility and growth.

Teamwork means that not only your team but also leaders need to put in some effort. Possibly, becoming a team leader would mean that you need to acquire new skills like time management skills or public speaking skills which help to improve self-awareness.

5. Curiosity

Curiosity in leadership is an ongoing desire to uncover and understand more than what meets the eye, which is critically important in a constantly evolving business landscape. This innate inquisitiveness prompts leaders to continuously seek new knowledge, strategies, and solutions.

It’s this ongoing desire to know more that ensures leaders never rest on their laurels. The moment they think they’ve learned all there is to know is the moment they become outdated.

Curiosity is critically important because it drives leaders to challenge their assumptions, to learn from different people and situations, and to evolve with the times. It’s a safeguard against becoming stagnant, ensuring that both leaders and their teams are always pushing boundaries and expanding their capabilities.

6. A growth mindset

A growth mindset is vital, especially for those in leadership roles, as it directly impacts how they guide and elevate their employees. Leaders who prioritize self-awareness and personal development set a powerful example, showing that it’s possible to constantly evolve and enhance one’s skills.

This belief in the potential for growth influences their approach to challenges, learning, and the belief that abilities aren’t fixed but can be developed over time.

With this mindset, leaders are better equipped to support their employees in becoming more self-aware and open to growth. It creates a supportive environment where employees are encouraged to embrace challenges and are given the space to learn from them. This kind of leadership fosters a team culture that values progress and sees effort as a pathway to mastery and success.

Read also: How to be more efficient. Achieve more in less time

7. Ability to delegate and be flexible

Mastering the art of delegation is one of the key steps in leading a team effectively. A savvy team leader recognizes the strengths of their team members and delegates tasks accordingly. It’s a common misconception that trying to juggle everything yourself through multitasking will lead to success.

In reality, it’s quite the opposite. Delegating tasks effectively not only streamlines project execution but also ensures that each task is handled by the most capable hands.

A skilled team leader combines practical know-how with emotional intelligence to discern which project components require their direct involvement and which can be entrusted to others. This strategic delegation not only optimizes the use of resources but also boosts team members’ morale, making them feel more invested and appreciated.

Moreover, the agility to adapt is crucial. Monitoring work progress and being prepared to tackle challenges as they arise is a testament to a leader’s flexibility. And when it comes to prioritizing and determining which tasks to delegate, the time management matrix quadrants can be an invaluable tool.

By categorizing tasks based on urgency and importance, leaders can make informed decisions that align with their team’s goals and drive efficiency.

If you need some help prioritizing and delegating tasks, the time management matrix quadrants might be what you need.

Conclusion

Most of our work in the world is done within teams. Even athletes in single-person sports like tennis or swimming, have a team that keeps them going.

What makes good team leaders? What leadership skills do you require to build a strong bond with your team members? There are many, however, this article aimed to discuss the most crucial skills that a good leader should present.

To lead their team well, a great team leader must try to grow continuously and help their team members do the same.

Note that it isn’t enough to measure what the team accomplishes. Great team leaders also need to consider how the work gets done, what are the processes and workflows behind it, and what the team dynamics are.

Paying attention to results, processes, and relationships provides a holistic way to ensure the team’s, and its leader’s long-term success. Don’t ever stop learning from the examples of leaders you admire, as inspiration is everywhere.