A leader is a coach, a decision maker and a visionary. The way leaders behave and treat employees directly impacts company culture, employee engagement, and a company’s ability to retain and attract talent.
The Talent Trends 2022 The Great X report by Michael Page found that leadership was rated the fourth most important factor that influences candidates’ decisions on where to work, coming in closely after remuneration, company cultures and values, and a greater sense of purpose. It is a trait that employers often undervalue compared to employees.
Not everyone is a born leader; like any skill, leadership can be learned and honed. Nonetheless, a leader’s effectiveness also depends on the support they get from their team.
You should never assume that people you work with would automatically follow your lead and respect your decisions just because you are in a leadership role. Your immediate supervisor may have your back since they hired you, but you need to win over your peers, direct reports and the wider team members to earn their respect.
If you are stepping into a leadership position from an individual contributor role or looking to progress in your career, here are 11 leadership qualities you can adopt.
1. Acknowledge, appreciate and give credit
To inspire employees to give their best, they need to know that they are on the right track and that their work is being valued and appreciated. Great leaders publicly express appreciation and acknowledge their team for their contributions. In providing positive feedback, you help encourage a positive work environment.
Find ways to celebrate your team’s achievements, even with a simple “well done”. Do it consistently and deliberately. However, praises for minor reasons, and overly frequent praises can come across as insincere and even demotivate your team.
2. Active listening
After resigning in 1985, the late Steve Jobs said he returned to Apple as a humbled and better leader; former Apple CEO John Scully credited much of this to his newfound ability to listen.
While setting ground rules or implementing new approaches to various work processes is essential, taking a step back and listening to your team is also highly crucial. A good leader must stay attuned to what is going on with their team and company to make informed decisions.
To be a great leader is to be a great communicator – and great communicators listen. To be an active listener, you must never interject or interrupt, always maintain eye contact, and use visual cues like nodding to show that you are genuinely listening. Employees want to feel listened to, not patronised or, even worse, ignored.
3. Communicate effectively
Communicating clearly, concisely and tactfully is a crucial leadership skill.
Communication involves more than just listening attentively to others and responding appropriately. It also includes sharing valuable information, asking intelligent questions, soliciting input and new ideas, clarifying misunderstandings, and being clear about what you want. The best leaders also communicate to inspire confidence, drive motivation and energise their employees.
4. Show commitment
No one likes to work for a non-committed leader or in a non-committed team. A committed leader is more likely to gain their team’s trust. Your commitment as a leader can help foster a strong team spirit that will differentiate an outstanding team from a mediocre one.
5. Embrace failure
Failure is part of success, and good leaders don’t shy away from failure – they use it as an opportunity for growth. Whether it’s a personal setback or a challenge within your team, understanding moments of failure is helpful as it encourages your team to improve and innovate.
Encourage your team to embrace failure by publicly acknowledging your setbacks and sharing how you grew from each situation.
6. Invest in your team’s future
A clear career progression plan is essential to employees. Along with planning your team members’ career paths in the company, a good leader will also create leadership opportunities for them.
Creating entry-level, low-risk leadership opportunities empowers team members and allows them to practise leadership without too much pressure. Challenge them with high expectations, and encourage them to be creative and innovative. Communicate clear goals and deadlines to your team, and give them the autonomy to decide how the work gets done.
These opportunities can be as simple as leading a meeting or team-building activities, which can help build vital confidence in your team. From these activities, they can also get feedback from you about their leadership capabilities.
7. Lead with empathy
Being empathetic is being able to see and understand situations from the viewpoints of various employees of different seniority in the company, and comprehend the consequences of their decisions on everyone in the company. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of compassionate leadership and showed how building open and sincere relationships between managers and their team directly impact workplace culture. Compassionate leadership creates a psychologically safe workplace where employees are not afraid to discuss difficult topics.
8. Demonstrate integrity
A leader with integrity draws on their values to guide their decisions, behaviour and dealings with others. They have clear convictions about what is right or wrong and are respected for being genuine, principled, ethical and consistent. They have a strong sense of character, keep their promises, and communicate openly, honestly and directly with others.
9. Act objectively
A successful team leader is an objective leader who can understand various points of an argument or discussion while reaching goal-oriented solutions. Objective leaders also make fair decisions that sit well with the whole team. Team members will be convinced that the decisions are duly justified, rather than based on preferences or other factors.
10. Lead by example
As a leader, the best way to build credibility and gain others’ respect is to set an exemplary example. Demonstrate the behaviour that you want people to follow. If you demand a lot from your team, you should also be willing to set high standards for yourself. Aligning your words and actions will help build trust and make your team more inclined to follow your example.
11. Share their vision
Leaders with a strong sense of the company vision and the ability to effectively communicate that vision can help drive up employee engagement and drive the organisation forward. As a leader, be sure to articulate your vision clearly and passionately, ensuring your team understands how their efforts contribute to higher-level goals, and what success looks like. Working towards your vision with persistence, tenacity, and enthusiasm will inspire others to do the same.
Share your vision early and often, and set clear team goals that support this. If team members approach you for advice, give your input and don’t be afraid to make the hard decisions. The more decisive and transparent you are, the easier it is for employees to contribute to your vision.
This article is contributed by Michael Page.