What makes a good leader? | Teen Ink

What makes a good leader?

July 26, 2022
By Anonymous


Leadership, leadership, leadership. As an upcoming senior, leadership roles are quite intriguing considering how impressive they look on college applications. I know people who are passionate sports captains, members of student government, service organization leaders, and more. Being surrounded by such people, and being in similar positions myself, I pose the question, what distinguishes a “good” leader from just another leader?

I first began thinking about this when I completed Grade 6. I was told by one of my teachers that I had been elected for the next year's student council and leader for a service project in my school. As much as it seemed like an exciting challenge to take on, I was 11, and had no idea what it meant to be a leader, let alone a ‘good’ one. That summer, I wrestled with my anxiety and excitement, spending much time trying to understand my duties and responsibilities.

Understanding leadership

I was not able to figure it out. I entered the school year mostly clueless of what student government was, and how I was going to organize my service project. I just thought to myself “okay, let me watch other people”. Luckily, there were many older students in leadership positions that offered to mentor me. I watched as they took on new challenges, and faced their fears of meeting with the administration to discuss new ideas and changes for our school. Seeing them nervous reminded me that they too were humans, and that feeling anxious as a leader was completely normal.

I attempted to mimic their actions. I organized meetings the same way they would, and utilized the limited time through presentations in order to have everything completed. I sent constant meeting reminders, and maintained close contact with my supervisors and administration. It was then that I discovered one of the aspects that I believe makes someone a good leader; the importance of organization.

Organization as a leader

One of my mentors told me “organization doesn’t just help you; it helps others”. While there is relief when nothing is forgotten and all deadlines are met, there are also great benefits for those who are led. When leaders are organized, they build trust within their community. They are able to prove to their peers and teammates that they are capable of executing what is asked of them, thereby increasing confidence in their abilities. They are also able to demonstrate that they have clear plans, and that there is flexibility for minor changes and shifts.

I remember when one of my teammates told me “Wow, you’re so organized! I’ll make sure to get my poster done by next Monday so we can get the word around by Friday.” I was elated to hear this, not because of the compliment, but because I realized that my organization helped my team visualize and understand what was ahead of us. My teammate was able to think beyond the upcoming deadline, and find ways to “get the word around”. Being organized also effectively reduced the anxiety my teammates may have felt from the idea that they would be asked to do something last minute.

Listening and handling criticism

But, a good leader cannot be made by simply watching and mimicking their role models’ organizational skills. They must be able to do more than overlook and organize a team from the outside. Although such skills play a large part in the success of a team and certain projects, there are other interpersonal skills needed for successful team dynamics. 

A good leader is able to understand, listen, and hear from their teams. Listening was a skill I developed over my many years in leadership. To be a ‘good’ leader, you have to listen to what you are being told, whether it is improvements, compliments, and especially complaints. There were times where my project didn’t go as planned, or I received criticism from my classmates about one of my service fundraisers. I had to absorb what was being said and think about how I could improve. There was not much time to be sad or sulk; over time I learned to pick myself up and understand the comments meant no harm.

Understanding others, as well as yourself

However, being an effective leader does not end with listening to external voices. Listening is also extremely vital within your team. Team members are able to view projects, events and community dynamics from a level different, and often more personal, than leaders themselves. 

In addition, as they are human, they go through rough or stressful situations that ask for an absence from their role. I learned this especially when I was working with older students who take academically challenging and intense courses. In those moments, I learned the true value of listening. Being able to take public feedback into account is critical, but being able to understand the people who work to improve with the feedback is just as important. In my experience, there were several occasions where my teammates could not attend meetings or events, and sometimes needed an extension to deadlines. Listening to their personal needs allowed me to understand how I could better try to support them. I grew to recognize that a good leader attempts to understand their teammates' personal circumstances, and provide them with what they need to recharge, whether it’s a break, deadline extension, or catch-up talk.

This also applies to team leaders themselves. An effective team leader should listen to themselves as much as they listen to others. Sometimes, a leader may need a break, and one who has confidence in their leadership should give themselves the time to rest. Although resting is difficult during stressful times, I believe that overworking has consequences far worse than a short break.


I know that what I have written is easier said than done. It is very idealistic, especially in a world that values efficiency. Sometimes, even if sleep is what one needs, they cannot get it. I am only an upcoming senior, so my experience in the real world is limited, and I am given much more flexibility than one who works a full-time job may have. I am just hoping that holding these morals will make one a good leader, despite the conditions a leader may find oneself in. Being a successful leader involves punctuality, organization and listening abilities; but one who can lead and care for others must be able to do the same for themselves, too.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.