12 Leadership Qualities You Can Develop With Coaching—Plus Tools to Help!

Confident Leadership Coach or Client

We are often asked for Leadership Tools. With a challenging landscape for so many businesses, more transparency via social media and the internet (disgruntled customers and employees make their thoughts and experiences public!), and studies that show leadership qualities are good for the bottom line—organizations want leaders!

But what's interesting is that when I ask what leadership tools people are looking for, or what they want help with—I get a big fat zero. Businesses want leaders, leaders want coaches, and coaches want tools to help. But it's not clear what those tools should be or do!

And this got me thinking: What is leadership? What makes a good leader? Can leadership even be taught? Are leaders born or made? If leadership style is unique to a person, where does coaching fit? How can coaches help bring more leaders into the world?

Well, a great place to start is to look at leadership qualities—and then think about how coaches can help develop those. So below are 12 Leadership Qualities plus some specific tools and ideas for how to help our clients be better leaders!

12 Leadership Qualities and How Coaches Can Help. The Best Leaders:

1) Are Courageous

The best leaders innovate and are not afraid to be different, challenge the status quo, make unpopular decisions or take calculated risks.

Great leaders fight for others, for the bigger cause and do what needs to be done, without shying away from difficulty.

How you, as their coach, can help:

  • Listen deeply to your clients. Reflect back to them who they are—and who they are capable of being!
  • Be a sounding board and help your clients fully explore the challenges they face.
  • Acknowledge difficulties and reflect successes back to them.
  • Support (without having an opinion!) your client in assessing and taking calculated risks as needed.
  • Help your clients make those difficult decisions, especially doing the 'right' over the 'easy' thing. Values work can be extremely helpful here!

Tools to Help Leaders Be More Courageous

Career Values Identification Workbook

Values (whether Career Values or Personal Values) are essential tools to help our clients connect with what matters most, be more courageous and do the right thing—whether for themselves, others or our planet.

2) Have A Clear Vision

Great leaders have a vision, and the best leaders can't help but share that vision with others. And while they think strategically and long-term, they also know how to operate in the present.

How you, as their coach, can help:

Questions to ask include:

  • What needs to be clearer?
  • What areas need developing?
  • How will they share that vision with others? Who needs to know?
  • What goals will they set and actions will they take to get there? What needs doing now/next to move them closer to their vision?

Tools to Help Leaders Create a Vision

Life Vision Life Coaching Exercises Page 1

Whether it's in the workplace, our country, community or life, leaders help us get to a desired future. So having a Vision (whether it's a Life Vision or Business Vision) is essential to help our clients be great leaders. Before they envision for the world, they need to be clear on what they themselves want from life.

3) Are Authentic

Strong leaders have strong intuition or gut instincts—and follow them. They are congruent, walking their talk. They know and show who they truly are, and are willing to be vulnerable when necessary.

They also have a leadership style—all of their own. They know their shortcomings, but have found strengths and strategies that outweigh their so-called 'weaknesses'.

How you, as their coach, can help:

  • Self-discovery! Help your client explore who they are—and what matters to them.
  • In particular, what are your client's values?
    • How are your client's values different at work and in their personal life?
    • Are they congruent ie. are they living their values?
  • What qualities do they value most about themselves? Find their top 5 qualities with the Troll Travels: Who am I? Coaching Tool
  • Are they showing who they truly are to the world, or are they hiding behind a people-pleasing or other persona?

Tools to Help Leaders Be More Authentic

Troll Travels Self-Discovery Exercise Page 1

What makes your client unique? What do they value most about themselves? What are the 5 personal qualities they would choose above all others?

Use the Troll Travels - Who am I? Self-Discovery Exercise to find out!

Values Identification Workbook 3D image

Our Personal Values are an leadership essential tool. Values are not only a good source of courage to do the right thing (number 1), but to be authentic we must be true to ourselves and live our values. And this also means we are leading our lives with integrity (number 4).

4) Have Integrity

The best leaders are open and honest, but also understand the political game—and play it ethically. They deal with problems and the elephant in the room. They are reliable and do what they say they will. They understand accountability and take responsibility for results—the good and bad. And they do the right thing, not just the easy thing.

Leaders, more than anyone, must have integrity and walk their talk—or lose the trust of those that follow them.

How you, as their coach, can help:

5) Get Results

Great leaders are determined. And they are usually 'self-starters', using their initiative and not waiting to be asked or told. They FIND a way.

In short, great leaders deliver.

How you, as their coach, can help:

Brainstorm and ask questions like:

  • Where could you go above and beyond?
  • What haven't you thought of yet?
  • What needs to happen for you to get the results you want?
  • If you were to look back having achieved your goal, how did you get there?

Tools to Help Leaders Achieve and Get More Done!

Goal Setting Tools for Coaches in a Folder Toolkit

Use the 10 tools and exercises in this Vision & Goal-Setting Toolkit to help your clients have a vision, get motivated and set altogether better goals!

Productivity and Time Management Coaching Tools, Forms, Exercises, Templates in a Folder

Use the 8 powerful tools, concepts and exercises in this Time Management and Productivity Toolkit to help your clients achieve more, prioritise better, be more focused, organized and more!

6) Observe and Listen to Themselves and Others

Strong leaders know when to speak and when to listen, when to take action and when to be patient, when to lead and when to follow, when to hold on and when to let go.

They also keep the bigger picture in mind and choose their battles wisely. They have great judgement, paying attention to their own inner 'nudgings' and gut-feelings as well as helpful suggestions and great ideas from others.

How you, as their coach, can help:

  • Ask questions that help your client consider many angles and think ahead.
  • Help them make informed and reflective, not reactive, decisions.
  • Ask them what they notice, what they heard, what is unseen but still present?
  • What is their intuition, feelings, gut-instincts telling them?
  • Ask them to take the helicopter view.
  • And last, but not least, role model "Level 3 Listening" for them.

7) Know it is Always a Team Effort

The best leaders know that it's all about people and relationships.

They delegate and know when to ask for help. They think win-win and give credit where credit is due. They say "Thank-you" and "Sorry". They understand the value of social time and connection. They think win-win.

How you, as their coach, can help:

  • Help your clients identify stakeholders and look for win-win solutions for everyone involved.
  • What can they do to team-build?
  • Encourage them to network and manage upwards and sideways, as well as downwards.
  • Help your client identify their strengths and weaknesses, what they love doing, and what they don't—and delegate accordingly.

Ask questions like:

  • What help do you need?
  • Who/what could you delegate?
  • Who needs to be appreciated and how?
  • What needs to be celebrated?
  • What needs to be done to make this situation right?"

Tools to Help Leaders Know their Strengths & Weaknesses—and Delegate

Personal SWOT Exercise Coaching Tool

This essential Personal SWOT strengths coaching tool will help leaders recognize their unique skills, strengths and talents, plan strategies to manage their weaknesses as well as identify new opportunities and potential threats.

Troll Travels Self-Discovery Exercise Page 1

Does your client struggle with delegation? Do they know what to delegate? This tool will help your clients brainstorm ideas for things to delegate, evaluate and choose the best of these ideas and wrap-up by choosing 3 actions to move them forwards.

8) Respect Everyone

Great leaders respect everyone even (especially) when they don't agree with them.

The best leaders are also loyal and kind. They know when to be (fiercely) kind and when to put their foot down. And they are forgiving—even if they don't forget.

How you, as their coach, can help:

  • In this day and age it's essential for leaders to understand and embrace diversity and inclusivity. Do they need to develop a deeper understanding or to get some training?
  • Ask questions that explore different sides and perspectives of a situation or relationship.
  • Challenge (carefully and with rapport) any lack of respect or labelling you observe.
  • Be a role model yourself, setting clear boundaries with your client and walking your talk!

9) Are Resilient, Flexible and Adaptable

Strong leaders aren't rigid: in fact they're flexible and adaptable both in life—and in their beliefs. They know we are always learning and that life is not 'black or white'.

This means strong leaders are  resilient—they know that change is the only constant in life. They roll with the punches, knowing that life is not always pretty, but they don't let it get them down. They maintain hope, while seeing the (sometimes harsh) truth of the situation. This is also known as The Stockdale Paradox (this is from our sister company Fierce Kindness).

How you, as their coach, can help:

  • Ask questions that help your clients move from polarised black and white thinking to "shades of grey".
  • Challenge them on their limiting beliefs.
  • With good rapport and after they feel heard, ask questions to help your client reframe difficult situations.
  • Help them re-plan goals and actions when things change.
  • Remind clients of past successes, their strengths and difficulties they overcame.
  • Also help clients own and mourn their losses before moving on.

10) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Great leaders avoid assumptions and check for understanding. They love clarity. They keep everyone up-to-date and are transparent in their communications. They negotiate and handle conflicts pro-actively.

How you, as their coach, can help:

  • Support your client in planning their communications.
  • Ask questions to clarify YOUR understanding (so they can practice being clear).
  • Observe their language—highlight judgements, limiting beliefs, assumptions, cognitive distortions etc.
  • Ask clients, "Who needs to know?".
  • Support your client in identifying training needs in areas like conflict management, mediation, negotiation, meeting management, public speaking etc.

A Tool to Help Leaders Communicate (and Read Other People) Better

Cognitive Distortions List for Coaching Tool

This powerful handout outlines the most common cognitive distortions and will help your clients observe their own language habits. These cognitive distortions point to limiting beliefs, and can be useful for both self-reflection and when dealing with other people.

11) Are Passionate and Enthusiastic

Who doesn't want to be around someone who is passionate about what they're doing? The best leaders have an infectious enthusiasm—and usually (but not always!) have a good sense of humour.

How you, as their coach, can help:

  • Help your clients figure out what really matters to them and why.
  • Identify values, a personal mission statement (whether work or life) that ties up with their vision.
  • Help them work and live their values.
  • Help them see the funny side of life and situations (only with good rapport).
  • Help your clients to celebrate their successes.

Ask questions like:

  • How does this fit with your mission and vision?
  • What gets you fired up?
  • What would it take for you to get really excited about this?

A Tool for Leaders to Create their own Mission Statement

Personal Mission Statement Generator Workbook & Tool Image

This workbook and coaching exercise takes clients through a step-by-step process to create their own personal mission statement. Starting with 10 powerful questions, it importantly also includes a helpful page of specific personal mission statement examples.

12) Value Themselves

And last but not least, the best leaders don't wait to reach certain goals before they esteem themselves. Instead they accept they are imperfect and value themselves now, even while they learn and grow.

They are open to feedback and challenge everyone to be their best (including themselves). Which means they are both confident—and humble, or at least humble enough to value others around them.

How you, as their coach, can help:

Tools to Help Leaders Know and Take Care of Themselves

Simple 360 Feedback Career Coaching Tool Page 1

Use this Simple 360 Coaching Exercise and Process to help identify your client's strengths and blind spots. This tool will give clients a fuller picture and feedback from people around them, including possibly finding hidden talents and shortcomings!

Life Balance and Self-Care Tools, Forms, Exercises, Templates in a Folder

Use the 8 tools in this Balance & Self-Care Toolkit to help your clients take better care of—and prioritise—themselves, so they can be the best leader they can be.


So, what do you think? I believe that coaches already have many of these qualities—which makes YOU a leader.

So, as you re-read the 12 leadership qualities above, I wonder how many you exhibit in your life, your coaching practice? Which would you like to develop?

Perhaps coaching is really about helping people develop personal leadership?

I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts. What did I miss? If you know of any great leadership tools or qualities to add, let us know below!

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce Kindness.com. She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Image of A Confident Client showing Leadership Qualities by sirtravelalot via Shutterstock

Image of A leader with team in background by Sergey Nivens via Shutterstock


  1. Lalitha Brahma

    Emma-Louise, I find this article not only informative, but very useful too. You have taken pains to study best leader's attributes. Not only have you expanded on each of those attributes and linked to some of your coaching products, but more importantly have helped coaches develop a leader.

    Thank you so much!

    • Emma-Louise

      Lalitha, thank-YOU so much! Your comments always inspire me to keep trying, to improve - knowing that someone is noticing and appreciating. I'm really glad you enjoyed the article. And if you have any additions/suggestions on the leadership front, just let us know! Warmly, Emma-Louise 🙂

  2. CoachRandawa

    Emma-Louise, your article is indeed an in-depth and well-researched contribution to leadership.Hats-off to you.

  3. Genevieve

    This article embodies all that I offer my clients in my Equine Life Coaching Business. All of the 12 qualities are part of my building block program where horses help people identify and grow personally and identify with their inner leader. You’ve articulated all of this so well. Thank you, I know I will be coming back to this article many times.

    • Michela Phillips

      So glad you found this article so relevant, Genevieve 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
      - Kindly, Michela

  4. Tom Schweickert

    Emma-Louise -

    As usual, you have provided timeless advice and wonderful resources! We're indebted to you and your fine work -

    Tom Schweickert


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