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:

  • Help your clients feel heard.
  • Be a sounding board that helps 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, making difficult decisions and generally doing the 'right' over the 'easy' thing.

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:

Help your client identify their life vision or business vision—and really connect with it.

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?

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

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.

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?

Leadership Qualities shown by person standing with team behind6) 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?"

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.

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?

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:


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!

If you liked this article about leadership qualities and tools, you may also like:

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, 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


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