On Writing & Roleplaying Characters Who Are Good Leader Material
If you're looking to write or play a character who is supposed to be perceived as a good leader, here's a list of qualities that a good leader needs to have. It doesn't matter whether your character is a monarch, a general, a scout leader, or even in charge of a school group project. It doesn't matter whether your character is trying to stop an alien invasion or trying to manage a store through the holiday season. The qualities that a good leader needs are universal, and so no matter what your character is doing, any and all of these will most likely apply:
Recognizes own flaws and shortcomings: Nobody is perfect or knows everything, and someone who is good leadership material will recognize this and won't try to act otherwise. A good leader will recognize that there are subjects and scenarios that xe doesn't know enough about to make immediate judgment calls on, and will seek advice from those who know more about it. Xe will also recognize when xe has become compromised to the point that xe is no longer capable of carrying out xir responsibilities as a leader, and will appoint someone to assist or even take over if necessary.
Keeps a cool head when things get tense: Managing any crisis or problem requires keeping calm so that one can think clearly and rationally. Furthermore, subordinates take the behavior of their superiors as indicators of how things are going - if they see that their leader is calm and confident, they can take confidence that things stand a good chance of working out well. But if they see that their leader has lost control of a situation or has no hope of success, they'll take it to mean that things are very bleak indeed and lose morale.
Knows that respect must continually be earned, rather than given implicitly and unconditionally: A good leader knows that people shouldn't respect xir simply because xe's been appointed to a position of rank/authority, but because xe can be trusted to capably handle problems as they come. This means recognizing that xe can't expect to stay respected if xir track record shows little more than failures and near-failures and/or makes a habit of treating people with scorn, contempt, and callousness.
Knows how to prioritize: A good leader needs to be able to take stock of a situation and figure out which issues are the biggest and most important at the moment, and which issues are relatively trivial and can wait until later. A good leader also needs to be able to figure which kinds of things need to have rules and regulations on them to keep things moving smoothly, and which things are trivial enough that regulating them would be more effort than it was worth.
Thinks and plans ahead: While it's impossible to predict with 100% accuracy how any situation or scenario could possibly go wrong or end up more complicated than expected, a good leader will try to prepare for some of the more obvious ways things might go sour - which includes having resources on hand or a backup plan to deal with reasonably expected complications, and leaving plans flexible enough that they can be adjusted on the fly if need be.
Is able and willing to recognize flaws and mistakes in the system, and correct them to the best of xir ability: A good leader needs to be able to appreciate the difference between a problem with the people and a problem with the system, and thus recognize when when current rules and protocols aren't actually working (or are even causing harm!) and try to fix the system as much as possible.
Owns up to mistakes: A good leader doesn't try to rationalize away mistakes, blame someone else for them, or deny them, but instead owns up to them, tries to make reparations, and tries do better in the future. And if a subordinate chosen or assigned by the leader does something wrong, then the leader accepts at least partial responsibility and does xir best to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Can get the right people assigned to the right jobs: This means having the skills to figure out the best options to assign to which tasks and who to promote to which positions. It also means being impartial in one's choices, picking those who seem best suited for jobs and tasks rather than assigning friends and family.
Can appreciate and see to the emotional needs of subordinates: It's important to recognize that subordinates need and deserve encouragement and praise for their efforts. It's also important be able to recognize when someone has been pushed too far and needs a break for xir own mental well-being, and to recognize that belittling and insulting subordinates can wear down on their morale. A good leader is also able to recognize that people who work in areas that aren't considered glamorous or interesting also need and deserve recognition for their work to keep morale up, and will see to it that they get it.
Can take decisive action - even when it's not easy: Sometimes there will be scenarios where a decision must be made, and there is no "right" decision - someone somewhere is going to lose out, somehow. But even so, these decisions must be made, and a good leader must be able to make them. There will also be times when someone that the leader is fond of will mess up and will require disciplinary action - and the leader needs to be able to see that appropriate action is taken.
Remembers that the end doesn't justify the means: This means recognizing that one should not abuse people or resources to reach one's goal, even if it is a high and noble one. It also means trying the least-harmful and least-damaging solution possible in any given situation first.
Doesn't bully subordinates: A good leader avoids engaging in bully behavior for any reason - even (and especially) when trying to get subordinates to do their jobs and mind their places.
Makes decisions and actions that directly lead to getting the job done: No matter how kind-hearted or well-intentioned your leader is (as explored in Why "Purity" Is An Overrated Character Trait, intentions do not on their own a good leader make), if the only reason your character's plans end up working out is because of lucky coincidences or deus ex machinas, your character is not a qualified leader - just someone who just happened to get really lucky.
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