20 APRIL, 2023


Effective leadership has moved from a passive experience of task management, to holding the pivotal role of driving influence and change within an organisation. The example modelled by leaders in how individuals should approach their work ripples through the culture of an entire organisation.

It is important for leaders to see themselves as role models and change agents. While it is the responsibility of a leader to promote an inclusive work environment and grant employees psychological safety and belonging, there are also exceptional benefits to having leaders as coaches and mentors.

This article discusses the five qualities of a good leader in the workplace to create a positive and lasting impact on an organisation.


Self-awareness lies at the core of a strong and effective leader.

The ability to be clear and intentional about one’s leadership style, and to share with your team your goals and aspirations, as well as your own areas of improvement, creates an environment that welcomes feedback and open communication.

“That ability to be very clear and intentional about the leadership style and the type of leader that they want to be, that they can feel proud of, and the impact they want to have, I think is a really key part of [self-awareness].” – Hannah Conkey, Head of Learning and Organisational Development, RACV. 

Additionally, being able to demonstrate self-regulation is vital, as leaders are not exempt from the learnings that as humans, we all experience.

An article in the Harvard Business Review challenges leaders to ask themselves; “why would anyone want to be led by you?”. This opportunity for self-reflection and self-accountability is tremendous to learn and grow professionally, as well as personally.

Active Listening

Active listening involves ‘listening to learn’. This means giving your employees your devoted time and attention, and most importantly, listening with curiosity.

To truly lead people in a way that they will both respect and appreciate, you should understand their individual values, experiences, and most importantly, their own professional development goals.

Active listening is one of the key qualities of effective leadership that will build a better professional relationship between employees, and will also facilitate a work environment where all team members feel heard and appreciated.

It also recognises that every person has different experiences and lifestyles, and can bring great new ideas to improve the efficiency and culture of the company. Actively listening to employees will ensure they are working in a space where everyone can feel comfortable to perform their best, which in turn, will promote overall performance.

Coaching Leadership Style

A recent movement of leaders as coaches involves offering mentorship and guidance to employees, in order to assist their professional development and career growth.

It includes taking employees on a journey from the moment they join the company to when they choose to leave.

“What do you need to do at those junior levels around coaching and including people to give them opportunities to shine later, whether that’s in  twelve months time, two years time or five years time, it really is having that succession planning in place.” – Amanda Pyman, Dean, Deakin Business School.

The Harvard Business Review shares how leaders are now required to manage two gears, figuratively speaking; to know when to command and take control, and then when to step back and let employees make decisions and take responsibility.

This is more than yearly or quarterly conversations for feedback. A coaching leadership style involves regular conversations, establishing short-term goals employees can work towards, and sharing purposeful feedback for improvement.

You should consider:

  • Asking questions instead of just giving answers.
  • Supporting instead of judging.
  • Not expecting leaders to have all the answers.


“When we look at business surveys of; ‘what are the most in-demand skills required across businesses?’, for at least the past ten years, if not twenty years, one of the top five has always been communication.” – Glenn Campbell, CEO, DeakinCo.

Here are some tips on effective communication as a leader:

  • Being explicit in how you are going to lead: What is your leadership style? What opportunities will there be for feedback and brainstorming? How do your goals align with the company goals?
  • Facilitating collective engagement: Referring back to our points earlier on active-listening, ask great questions, listen intently and be deeply curious about the different responses.
  • People absorb information in different ways: It is your responsibility to accommodate all learning styles in how you communicate. Consider visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles.
  • Tell them and remind them: Just because you have mentioned something once, doesn’t mean it’s going to stick in the minds of your employees. Ensure that you continue to remind people of your values, goals and intentions.

Being Inclusive

Inclusivity and diversity fit hand in hand.

Cultivating an inclusive culture within the workplace will enhance feelings of belonging and ultimately lead to increased retention and engagement. You will find that people are more open to collaboration and seeking feedback, and are willing to take risks in an inclusive space.

“Culture in organisations is everyone’s responsibility… If I’m an employee, what’s my accountability and responsibility in also actively helping this be a great place to work?” – Sam Fernando, Director, Clients and Leadership, Aurecon.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to create a culture that allows people to call out negative behaviours around diversity. It is important to become more conscious of creating spaces for reflection to occur, as often you are not aware of your own unconscious bias.

Women in Leadership

It continues to be important to have women in leadership roles in your organisation, especially as gender inequality and the gender pay gap continue to impact diversity, not only in leadership but in all levels of organisations (and is particularly acute in education and finance industries).

Importantly, businesses should note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Have the conversation with people in your organisation, and understand what is important to them at an individual level so that resourcing, mentoring, and opportunities are specific to their needs and goals.

Create a Lasting Impression on Your Organisation

To learn more about the qualities of a good leader in management, and facilitating an inclusive and positive working environment, you can watch our webinar recording on leaders as role models and change agents.