8 Best K-pop male and female leaders that fans love and respect

Worthy of respect


By Marissa Chin

8 Best K-pop male and female leaders that fans love and respect

Traditionally, K-pop group members are labelled with defined roles such as main rapper, main dancer and even visual of the group. Arguably the most important of them all, though, is the role of the leader. While several K-pop groups have done away with this tradition of having a clear leader such as NewJeans and Blackpink, leaders are undoubtedly essential to a K-pop group for several reasons.


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Apart from making sure their group stays on top of their practice and performance, they are also responsible for looking out for their members’ physical and mental well-being. They are usually the middle person between the group and the management, conveying any issues or challenges the group is facing. Further, K-pop leaders are usually always the ones to help resolve any conflicts within the group—all of this on top of their own training as idols. From being empathetic to being a good communicator, K-pop leaders certainly have their work cut out for them. 

Out of the vast list of K-pop leaders that exist right now, there are a rare few who have truly shown their quality leadership abilities and guided their group with exceptional grace and strength. Ahead, these are eight of the best male and female K-pop leaders who have earned every fandom’s admiration and respect.




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When you think of a respectable K-pop leader, RM from BTS definitely comes to mind. While RM is not the oldest in the group (leaders tended to be picked based on seniority), that didn’t stop CEO Bang Sihyuk from electing the rapper as the leader due to his maturity and emotional intelligence. Who could forget the infamous hidden camera prank in which RM was forced to pick between going solo or debuting with BTS? He chose the latter without hesitation, impressing his bandmates and solidifying him as a loyal leader. 

At only 19 years old, RM debuted in BTS in 2013 and led the group through many tumultuous times, including when the group was on the verge of disbanding due to financial issues just one year later and keeping up the group’s morale when they received negative criticism in the early years of their career. He is the undeniable backbone of the group. Here’s a video of RM intervening in an argument between V and Jin before a concert.

Further, RM is a strong pillar of strength and support for his members whenever they are on international programs (the White House no less!). From being the designated translator to fielding difficult questions, it’s clear that the rest of BTS relies on RM and listens closely to his advice. As his bandmates have frequently expressed, BTS would not be where they are now without RM as their leader.


Jihyo (Twice)


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There’s a reason why Twice’s fandom, Onces, calls the leader ‘Goddess Jihyo.’ The K-pop idol earned this nickname for being an exceptional leader and always looking good while doing so! The road to being an idol was not an easy one for the 26-year-old. Having joined JYP Entertainment at the tender age of eight years old, Jihyo has had one of the longest training periods of any idol which spanned 10 years. Rather than worrying about her debut, she never gave up and fought hard to debut in Twice in 2015.

However, after debuting, things did not let up for Jihyo as she was constantly receiving harsh criticisms for her curvier physique. Now eight years later, she won over the public with her hard work and determination. Perhaps it is because she has faced many challenges of her own that she is able to empathise with her members on their hardships. From lending her positive energy to encouraging her members, Jihyo is one of the reasons Twice is able to shine brightly.


S.Coups (Seventeen)


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K-pop groups tend to average about five to nine members. If you think that is already hard enough for a leader to manage, try 12. Yes, 12. Widely regarded as one of the best K-pop leaders around, S.Coups deserves all the credit for looking after 12 members, all of whom have different personalities. The group first debuted in 2015 and is still one of the biggest K-pop acts in 2023, and much of it is thanks to S.Coup’s ability to keep Seventeen together all these years. While being a leader was not something he initially envisioned for himself, he truly stepped up to the role and has earned the respect of both his members and their fans.

The group is known to have an exceptionally strong bond as the members grew up with one another from ages as young as 10. With him at the helm, Seventeen’s chemistry and synergy are palpable as he knows how to bring out the best in each of them. As S.Coups has shown time and time again, he is a fierce protector of his group. In an interview with Dispatch in 2018, the rapper revealed that he would even get into arguments with their management because “the members are more important than the agency.” Balancing the line between being strict yet gentle, it’s clear that the members deeply respect S. Coups and perform well due to his leadership that champions open communication and compassion.


Solar (Mamamoo)


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While Solar is known for her sweet vocals and infectious personality, don’t let that fool you as she is one fierce leader. Birds of the same feather flock together, as the saying goes—naturally, the members of Mamamoo match her energy as the quartet is filled with strong femme fatale personalities. That does come with its fair share of criticisms as members such as Hwasa and Moonbyul are constantly scrutinised for going against K-pop norms. However, trust Solar to protect her members whenever such situations arise! Here’s a video of her redirecting the question of an interviewer who was asking if Hwasa goes braless.

Apart from that, Solar does not hesitate to show off her playful side. She jokes around with the members often and even laughs off any criticism when she sees them online, which is an admirable trait of a leader who keeps it real! Not only that, the vocalist also owns a YouTube channel where she educates her audience on social issues such as genital mutilation and saving the environment. We love an informed, eco-conscious queen!


Onew (Shinee)

Onew is the leader of one of K-pop’s most iconic groups that massively contributed to the Hallyu Wave in the mid-2000s. While the vocalist doesn’t possess the outright charisma that many of the leaders on this list exude, Onew’s gentle and meek personality is what makes him an admirable leader. Indeed, he has the title of ‘servant-leader’ as he is often seen tidying up after the members. 

As age is taken seriously in Korean culture, it would be easy for Onew to use his role to be a bossy leader. But instead, the singer is an exemplary definition of a humble leader who leads with kindness. Onew’s leadership shined through again when the group faced an unforeseen tragedy when one of their members Jonghyun unfortunately committed suicide in 2021. Many were wondering what the future of Shinee would be and if the group could go on without one of its members. Through the group’s two-year hiatus, Onew has been there emotionally for his group and now, Shinee is back stronger than ever before.


Bang Chan (Stray Kids)


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At 21 years old, Bang Chan debuted as the leader of Stray Kids. His creative hand can be seen all over the boy group as it was him and the company’s CEO, Park Jin Young who chose the final debut lineup through a survival reality program of the same name in 2017. Throughout the show, fans were already able to see the Korean-Australian’s mature and caring side, as he would frequently give constructive criticism to his fellow trainees and was attached to all the contestants. The rapper and vocalist moved to Seoul when he was just 13 years old, which is probably why he exudes a natural leader-like energy as he constantly looks out for his members like an older brother (he is, in fact, the eldest in the group too). 

Apart from taking care of the group’s performance and production, Bang Chan is also known among fans to be painfully shy and even finds it hard to accept compliments. Because of this, the leader often supports his members from the shadows, allowing others to have their moment to shine while he’s happy to stand on the sidelines looking on. Previously, the artist held weekly live streams called Chan’s Room, in which he talked to his viewers on just about anything, from offering life advice and music recommendations to being candid about the K-pop idol life. Not only was it refreshing to see a K-pop star be transparent about their lives, but it also gave fans a small taste of what the leader is really like with his bandmates.


Soyeon (GI-dle)


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We’ve talked about how badass Soyeon is before as a K-pop idol but her role as a leader for her group should also be applauded. She wears many hats in (G)I-dle which includes leader, main rapper and vocalist. More than anything, she is a major creative force in the group, writing and producing many songs for the quartet—this is also where her leadership shines. With many solo writing accolades on her own and taking part in an idol survival show before (G)I-dle, Soyeon knows what it takes to stand out. 

As a leader, she is exceptionally good at discerning her members’ strengths and utilising them efficiently for their songs. Whether the leader is teaching her bandmates how to hit a note or encouraging them if they get too nervous, Soyeon is always there to support her team with constructive criticism. Further, she is responsible for many of (G)I-dle’s creative direction and concepts which led to the group having an impactful debut with La Ta Ta in 2018 and most recently, with their girl-crush female anthem Queencard. Wit Soyeon’s creative visions, (G)I-dle has managed to become one of the most prominent girl groups today.


Leeteuk (Super Junior)


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As far as legendary K-pop leaders go, Leeteuk is inevitable. Taking care of his nine other members for 18 years and counting, Leeteuk of Super Junior has proven time and time again that he is an exceptional leader. While most K-pop fans are familiar with his charming and witty disposition on TV shows, Leeteuk is actually a reserved and calm person who leads in the same manner. Apart from their extensive discography, the iconic boy group is known for their fair share of explosive fights (sometimes even involving fists!) that have led them close to disbandment! However, Leeteuk has always been able to help resolve those conflicts and bring the group back together much to the fans’ amazement. 

Because of this, the multi-talented artist has been a symbol of strength and solidarity for both the fandom and the group members all these years. With Super Junior being an experimental group that SM Entertainment was trying to establish in 2005, there was huge pressure on Leeteuk as the leader to bring them to success. Of course, not only did they achieve this but they also paved the way for the Hallyu Wave to take place. Having kept the group together for almost 20 years now, Leeteuk has shown to be the very definition of a leader who embodies the phrase “through thick and thin” and earned the respect of fans for his tenacity and loyalty.


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