how to be a good leader
MBA graduate and President of the World Bank Ajay Banga (R) and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Kristalina Georgieva (L). Source: AFP

Leadership is a crucial skill that moulds the success of individuals, teams, and organisations. A skilled leader can inspire, guide, and extract the best from those under their purview.

“How to be a good leader” is a question so significant that academics and the business world spend billions — in dollars and hours — to crack the code. To turn their executives into leaders, US businesses reportedly spent as much as US$166 billion.

While this figure seems staggering, companies know this is just a small investment in return for the big benefits good leaders bring to a business.

The importance of being a good leader

Before discussing how to be a good leader, let’s look at the importance of good leadership:

  • Strategic vision: Effective leaders provide a clear sense of direction and purpose, aligning individual and team efforts with overarching organisational goals.
  • Positive work environment: Good leadership motivates employees by fostering effective communication, providing constructive feedback, and acknowledging achievements. This, in turn, enhances employee satisfaction and engagement.
  • Morale enhancement: Around 79% of employees will quit due to a lack of appreciation. However, good leadership significantly contributes to improving morale within a team. Through effective communication, recognition of achievements, and a positive work environment, leaders boost their team’s overall satisfaction and motivation.

10 leadership lessons from the world’s best MBAs

MBAs are prestigious postgraduate qualifications that provide an overview of key business practices. Top employers value these master’s level degrees for many reasons — chief among them is how they include the latest knowledge on how to become a good leader.

Can’t find the time to get an MBA yet? Check out the growing list of online MBAs and our summary of the top leadership lessons from the world’s best MBAs. 

1. Know how to empower team members

Wharton offers an MBA programme covering the foundations of teamwork and leadership. It emphasises on developing a leadership style by providing you with a highly interactive environment to work with team members. This programme teaches how to be a good leader by creating an environment that values autonomy and encourages initiative to empower team members.

McKinsey & Company report reveals that about 26% of employees leave jobs due to lacking workspace flexibility. Motivating your employees to own their work brings more creativity to the workplace.   

how to be a good leader

How to be a good leader? Give everyone in your team a voice. Source: AFP

2. Find your leadership signature

MIT Sloan offers an MBA programme focusing on developing a leadership signature. It’s based on identifying your unique leadership style and determining if it hinders or forwards your way as an effective leader. 

Acknowledging that leadership styles vary among individuals is fundamental to your journey to answer that baffling question “how to be a good leader.” Each leader possesses unique strengths, values, and approaches. 

While there are various leadership styles, staying authentic is often considered the most impactful. It allows you to lead with genuineness and integrity, creating a connection with your team based on trust and transparency.

3. Clear vision is a must

Harvard Business School’s MBA offers a leadership and organisational behaviour course that focuses on creating highly performing teams. The curriculum is designed to help future leaders articulate and communicate a compelling vision that directs the team toward a shared purpose. 

A clear vision is the cornerstone of becoming a good leader. It presents a clear and inspiring picture of the future, motivates the team, and instils a sense of direction. An effective leader can practically translate their vision into reality by harnessing the combined efforts of their team members.

how to be a good leader

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates were the power team of the 90s. Source: AFP

4. Know how to analyse people

Michigan Ross offers an MBA programme with a core course in leading people and organisations. It is a rigorous curriculum that creates the analytical capabilities of the leaders. The programme emphasises the analytical understanding of leaders in the context of the organisational setup. 

Leaders should be prudent in knowing workplace issues and convincing their employees to implement proposed solutions with maximum efficiency. They should exercise influence without formal power tactics and be able to resolve the problems with psychological frameworks.

5. Focus on innovation

The full-time MBA program at Berkeley Haas adopts an unconventional approach to leadership. Its core focus is developing an intelligent and bold leader who isn’t afraid to lead an organisation in times of uncertainty with his excellent decision-making and calculated risk-taking approach. 

The top leaders prioritise innovation, which sets them apart from the crowd. Innovation involves fostering a culture that values creativity, forward-thinking, and adaptability. Encourage your team to explore new ideas, embrace change, and continuously seek improvement. 

Also, actively support and champion innovative initiatives, providing the necessary resources and freedom for experimentation. This will bring a certain sense of excitement to your team, steering your organisation toward success.

how to be a good leader

If you can genuinely with a team member, you’re on your way to becoming a good leader. Source: AFP

6. True, deep connection

Arizona State University offers a Connected MBA that teaches aspiring leaders how to connect with their employees on a deeper level. This programme is filled with team leadership skills, organisational behaviour, and ethical execution of power.  

Influential leaders fully know their strengths and the team’s collective potential. They can navigate through uncertainty by connecting with human resources at their disposal. This leads them to make informed decisions and adapt their leadership approach based on insights gained through observation and experience. 

7. Sharpen your soft skills

The full-time MBA program offered by the University of Texas at Dallas has a concentration titled “Leadership in Organisations”. This concentration offers various courses focused on topics like leadership theories and soft skills like conflict management, social networking, and negotiation.

Effective leaders possess an arsenal of soft skills that help them make their way successfully in the corporate environment. They are adept at negotiations, conflict resolution, and networking with people from different backgrounds. 

8. Communicate often and honestly

INSEAD’s 10-month intensive MBA program teaches a leadership communication foundations course in the second period. The programme provides practical advice on how to be a good leader by polishing your communication skills. Your ability to communicate effectively establishes the tone for the entire team and promotes employee engagement. 

A Gallup survey reveals that only 32% of employees feel engaged. Every year, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is increasing.

Thus, it’s crucial to clearly articulate expectations, goals, and strategies to align team members toward common objectives. Transparent and open communication allows team members to share their concerns and ideas, resulting in a dynamic work culture.

how to be a good leader

Celebrity chef Ina Garten is worth US$60 million (according to Celebrity Net Worth). In addition to a loyal, diverse and growing fan based, she holds an MBA from George Washington University. Source: AFP

 9. Master multiple disciplines 

Kellogg’s University’s MBA prepares students to take on leadership roles in various sectors by providing a Growth Core MBA curriculum. It has a core course, “Leadership in Organisations,” and a half-credit course at the start of the second year, “Leadership and Crisis Management,” encompassing much of the course material from the first-year core course.

This programme reveals that expertise in one domain is good, but great leaders are always well-versed in different categories. In today’s fast-paced world, leaders need to deal with complex problems that require expertise in diverse fields.   

10. Be sustainable and socially responsible

Pennsylvania State University offers leadership courses in their MBA degree spanning around the ethical practices of running a business. The programme’s core focus is to make leaders socially responsible and instil in them regard for sustainable practices. 

World-class leaders have an internal compass that propels them to act aligned with their higher values. This creates an environment of trust and courage among the team members where they interact without the fear of injustice or unethical practices. 

how to be a good leader

In your quest to discover how to be a good leader, there will be many obstacles in your way. Source: AFP

How to be a good leader and the top challenges that’ll stand in your way

As any manager will know, even the best advice isn’t foolproof. Don’t get discouraged. Below are some challenges that can come in your journey of how to be a good leader. Prepare well and you’ll be able to overcome them with confidence.

Managing anxiety and stress

Leadership roles often come with inherent stress and anxiety, stemming from the responsibility to make crucial decisions and navigate challenging situations. Leaders must develop effective strategies to manage and mitigate stress while maintaining a composed and focused demeanour.

Sustaining self-confidence

Leaders face the ongoing challenge of sustaining self-confidence, particularly amid setbacks or uncertainties. Overcoming self-doubt and maintaining a positive self-image are crucial for inspiring trust and motivation among team members.

Delegating chores effectively

Delegating tasks is fundamental to leadership, yet it becomes a huge challenge if not managed properly. Leaders may do micromanagement, overseeing every minor subtask, leaving little room for team members to take the initiative. 

On the flip side, another challenge arises when a leader fails to delegate tasks altogether. This often stems from a lack of trust in others’ abilities to handle responsibilities adequately.