Great Leaders vs. Average Leaders: Here’s the Difference

Great Leaders vs. Average Leaders: Here’s the Difference

female leader meeting with her team

What makes a good leader vs. a great leader? Great leaders inspire and motivate employees, drive business results, and have a genuine desire to change the world through value-driven business practices. Despite this, 77 percent of businesses report that leadership is lacking in their organization. So, how must leaders develop to meet the evolving demands of the workforce? Many business professionals who aspire to improve their leadership skills choose to further their education in an MSc in Business and Management program. This degree instills a unique set of skills, including managerial thinking, strategic decision-making, and functional expertise. 

Which leadership traits do organizations and teams value the most? This blog explores the top five leadership traits that differentiate top leaders and how you can emulate important leadership skills throughout your business and management career.

5 Leadership Traits That Make a Great Leader

Developing important leadership skills is top-of-mind for organizations across industries. Approximately 95 percent of learning organizations plan to increase or maintain their current investment in leadership development to support this mission. On average, businesses worldwide spend approximately $366 billion on leadership development each year. As a result, organizations and individuals must determine which leadership qualities are worth the investment. 

For years, research departments and organizations worldwide have conducted surveys to determine which aspects of leadership rank as most essential in employees' eyes. The following list captures five of the most desirable leadership traits in 2022.

1. Ethical and Purpose-driven

A company’s mission statement is no longer a “nice-to-have”; it’s an essential component to success. According to recent research, more than a third of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services. Additionally, 71 percent of job seekers want to work for environmentally sustainable companies, a percentage that has only expanded post-pandemic. As a result, business leaders are increasingly focused on demonstrating purpose-driven leadership to achieve positive societal impact. A great leader understands that Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices must be one of the most important aspects of leadership to motivate employees, attract customers, appeal to stakeholders, and change the world around them.

2. Strategic Thinking and Data-driven Decision-making

Great leaders must develop an understanding of the fundamental aspects of the global business environment that influence business decisions and behaviour. Today’s most successful leaders use data to inform critical business decisions. Data-driven decision-making (DDDM) uses objective metrics, statistics, and data to garner insights that inform business decisions. Leaders make decisions daily, related to everything from hiring and recruitment to technology roadmaps and business strategies. Global world leaders even use data to promote climate action, improve healthcare outcomes, and direct political campaigns and actions. As a result, a great leader must have foundational data and technology skills and be capable of extricating valuable data to make strategic decisions.

3. Communication

Effective communication will likely always rank as one of the top traits among the world’s most influential leaders. What makes an effective communicator? According to the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), there are three essential components to better communication, including authenticity, visibility, and listening. People admire and respect authenticity; leaders who speak honestly and sincerely will gain a receptive following from their peers. During the pandemic, many leaders exhibited authenticity by communicating their personal struggles and being transparent in times of uncertainty to comfort their teams. Another critical aspect of leadership and communication is maintaining visibility, which involves being present, available, and visible to people. This could mean being physically in the office or simply meeting more frequently with teams online. Finally, great leaders are also great listeners. Speaking is only one component of communication; an effective communicator is an active listener and displays respective attention to their people.

4. Team Development

Employees want to feel inspired, motivated and engaged at work. Despite this, only 33 percent of employees report feeling engaged at work. In addition, 69 percent of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized by leadership. Employee engagement also pays off for organizations; companies with strong employee engagement are 22 percent more profitable. One way to engage teams is to invest in them. A recent survey found that 47 percent of Canadian respondents said their companies planned to spend more on training employees, and 42 percent said they'd spend more on employee satisfaction and well-being. Good leaders are laser-focused on personal development, and great leaders are equally passionate about team development. Team development includes training and skilling opportunities, one-on-one mentorship, coaching, career development planning, and more.

5. Self Development

Great leaders are life-long learners, passionate about self-improvement, education, and learning and development (L&D) for themselves and their teams. Many aspiring leaders choose to further their education with an MSc in Business Management degree to learn essential skills like managerial thinking, strategic decision-making, and functional expertise. The right program bridges the gap between the classroom and the boardroom by teaching future leaders practical skills to solve today’s most significant business challenges. Education pays off; studies show that organizational transformations where leaders model the change themselves are more than four times more likely to succeed than transformations without proper leadership practices. Additionally, furthering their education allows leaders to connect with like-minded international students and grow their network to fuel career pursuits and partnerships.

Become an Influential Leader with a Leading Business School

Enrolling in a world-class program can transform an average leader into an influential, knowledgeable, and inspirational one. The Aston University fully online MSc in Business and Management suite gives working professionals access to an education that is practical, applicable, relevant, and specialized. The programme is affordable for working professionals; it costs £9,500 across all of the Business and Management suite programs.

Enrolling in an online MSc in Business and Management from Aston gives you the flexibility to continue full-time or part-time work while you build essential leadership skills like collaborating with others, building your network, crafting an organizational strategy, leading complex organizations, and more. Taught by esteemed academics, you can refine your unique leadership style in a supportive educational environment as you gain the skills and confidence to succeed in the evolving business world.

Aston University is a globally distinguished university that is proudly recognized by numerous education authorities and employers around the world, including: 

  • Triple Accreditation from AMBA, AACSB and EQUIS
  • University of the Year, The Guardian 2020
  • Outstanding Entrepreneurial University, Times Higher Education 2020
  • 30th Best University in the UK, The Guardian University Guide 2021

Start your leadership journey with an MSc in Business and Management from Aston University.