The Qualities of a Good Leader According to 10 Business Executives
Effective leadership plays a key role in the success of an organization. But what are the qualities of a good leader? We tapped into our network of professionals to get their opinions.
An organization’s leaders are vitally important to its success. Effective leadership involves understanding the company’s vision then developing and implementing a strategy to ensure it’s realized. But it also involves a responsibility to create a positive work environment that brings out the best in their employees. After all, an organization’s vision can only be achieved with a strong and dedicated team.
The impact that managers have on their team can’t be overstated. According to research by Gallup, they account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement, meaning bad leaders have the ability to quickly drag down a team. And what’s worse? The same study found that one in two employees have actually left a job to get away from their manager at some point in their career.
Given the extent to which leaders can influence their employees and, in turn, how greatly employee engagement can impact a company’s success, it becomes clear how important it is for organizations to hire and grow great leaders.
But what makes a good leader?
We tapped our network to get their insights into the qualities of a good leader and how they can be developed and honed. Here’s what they had to say.
Quality #1 – Being a Strong Communicator
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to inspire your team through both your words and your actions. This makes strong verbal and non-verbal communication skills one of the key qualities of a good leader.
Praise Your People for a Job Well Done
One of the most important ways leaders can communicate with their employees is by recognizing their achievements, whether monumental or miniscule. This is no secret to Ram Krishnna Rao, CEO at MarketOrders.
“The workplace has evolved a lot in the last decade,” explains Rao. “If respect was once sometimes gained by fear, it is now earned by your ability to make your collaborators heard, happy, and accomplished. You don’t become a great leader by putting people down, but by praising everyone’s achievements – no matter how big or small. Some people think that free food and gym subscriptions are what make employees happy. I believe they’re wrong. What people really want is recognition for their hard work and purpose.”
Practice Effective Performance Management
Jeff Arnett, Founder of Arnett Designs, echoes the sentiment of praising achievements but also cites feedback, transparency, and performance management as foundational skills for effective leadership.
“In order to focus on having a positive impact on their team, leaders must make sure they are committed to the success of the team and the business,” Arnett says. “They must always encourage their employees, give feedback, practice strong communication, and be transparent. A leader who focuses on performance management and employee growth will always have a positive effect on others.”
Even for seasoned leaders, brushing up on their performance management approach can be a great way to ensure they’re helping create the best possible experience for their team. If you’re looking for a way to help yourself or your leadership team to refresh on this front, check out our Productive Feedback & Performance Reviews training and development program. It’s designed to improve your team’s ability to deliver productive feedback in a more constructive way and to have tough performance conversations. Or, if you’re looking to help new leaders learn the basics, then the Performance Management Fundamentals program is a great option to cover the essentials.
Quality #2 – Possessing Clear Goals and Values
Another one of the key qualities of a good leader goes hand-in-hand with strong communication: the importance of possessing strong goals and values and sharing them with your team frequently.
Create a Vision Document and Live by It
According to Tim Cameron-Kitchen, Founder and Head Ninja at Exposure Ninja, it’s critical to have a vision document that you reference often and stick to closely.
“I’ve realised since starting Exposure Ninja that my values and goals are often reflected by my team,” he explains. “That’s why leaders need to be really careful about what they communicate – even accidentally – to their team. While values and goals are usually identified in some sort of formal vision document, employees will often pick up on inferred goals and values that you give off in your everyday speech and actions. So, I refer to our company vision document regularly to remind myself of the bigger picture and to make sure that I’m staying focused on the priorities we set for our organization. This way, our team has a stronger belief system when it comes to our vision document rather than thinking it’s a page of ideals that we bring out every quarter or every year but isn’t referenced in daily life.”
Provide Actionable Direction for Your Team
Shaan Patel, Founder and CEO at Prep Expert, agrees with the value of living your company’s vision and reiterates the importance of having an actionable roadmap towards achieving it.
“The most effective strategy I’ve found for developing my influence is providing my team not only an idea for where I see the company headed, but also providing a clear, actionable strategy to get there,” Patel elaborates. “Too often, CEOs and entrepreneurs will share grandiose visions of how their company can go forward but then have absolutely no clue how to make it happen.
For the employees tasked with executing on the vision, it’s easy to get frustrated with trying to piecemeal together an actionable plan while the boss keeps his or her head in the clouds. That’s why I provide my team with both vision and a step-by-step strategy with everyone’s roles clearly defined. By showing I’ve thought everything through, my team understands how invested I am in both the idea’s success and their own accomplishment by actually leading the way for them to execute,” he continues.
Know What You Stand For and Get Your Team Onboard
It’s also important for leaders to inspire their team by communicating what their company stands for. And for Calum Howarth, Northern Operations Manager at Digital Ethos, showing his team the impact of their work is vital.
“One of the most difficult attributes to nurture in employees is motivation,” Howarth says. “I’ve learned it’s not enough to simply demand higher levels of motivation or a more intense attitude. This has to be the employee’s prerogative. A method that works well to open the door to this way of thinking is to help the employee understand why we do what we do and why it’s important to take great action to succeed.
Focusing on the ‘why’ gives us another motivator aside from salary. As a digital marketing agency, we constantly reinforce this message to our employees. We do what we do to help businesses grow and prosper. It’s not just the businesses that benefit, it’s also the owners and employees who will be better off and gain higher levels of job security. Products and services also solve customer problems and, therefore, we could help to improve their
lives too. Our actions could have a positive domino effect and touch many lives,” he continues.
At Outback Team Building & Training, we share a similar sense of inspiration. We strive to help corporate groups build better relationships through memorable experiences. It’s a task our team takes seriously because we understand the value it provides to teams across North America.
We also offer a training and development program called Creating Mission, Vision, and Values that can help organizations identify and refine their mission statement, vision for the future, and core values. This, in turn, helps bring life to company culture.
Quality #3 – Practicing Two-Way Trust
The most impactful and inspiring leaders understand the importance of trusting their employees, but also of gaining trust in return.
Trust Your Team to Do Their Job
Kenny Trinh, Managing Editor at Netbook News, elaborates on the value of trusting employees more and being less of a micromanager.
“One of the best things I’ve learned as a leader is to trust your employees,” Trinh says. “I have personally learned the hard way about what happens if you don’t trust your staff. As a leader, you’re sometimes tempted to do everything yourself and to do it your way because you believe it’s the best way. You might not realize it, but this type of attitude denotes that you don’t trust your employees’ capabilities. Doing this has negative impacts on you, first and foremost on you, as there’s only so much you can do by yourself before fatigue and burn out set in. Secondly, this will also affect your employees’ satisfaction and engagement. Your lack of confidence in their abilities will result in micromanagement which can affect team morale and productivity.”
Great Leaders Need to Be Out in Front
According to Jordan Brannon, President and COO at Coalition Technologies, there’s a philosophy that leaders can adopt in order to avoid falling into the trap of micromanaging.
“When I began as a team lead, a mentor told me that leaders are individuals who are out in front,” explains Brannon. “They’re confident that those behind them are doing the right thing. He used a military analogy of a Colonel bravely leading the charge towards the enemy position, knowing that behind him his division was charging too. If the Colonel wasn’t confident in his people’s capabilities, the last place he would want to be was in the front.”
He continues, “I was taught that, to be effective as a leader, you have to ensure your team always knows what the end objective is and understands their role and responsibilities in achieving it. Bad leaders fail to provide clarity around the end objective and are unable to equip individuals to play some role in achieving it. On the flip side, micromanagers tend to try and lead from behind, pointing out what each and every person needs to do to be effective and where their next footfall should go. That can work for a short period of time in a very small team setting but, as the complexity and difficulty of a task increases, or as the team size increases, micromanagers slow down progress and demoralize their team members.”
Earn Trust by Proving Your Word Holds Value
Great leaders also understand that they need to earn the trust of their team in order to be effective. And, in the mind of Sean Hayes, Head of Technology at Hausera, there’s a key rule that needs to be adhered to: always stay true to your word.
“There is nothing worse you can do as a leader, in my humble opinion, than paying lip service to employees,” Hayes says. “Once your team comes to understand you’re the type of person who makes false promises and betrays the trust of your staff, that’s a label that will be stuck to you for the entirety of your time leading said employees.”
Quality #4 – Being Adaptable in Your Leadership Style
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. So, for leaders to be effective, they need to be adaptable in how they manage individual employees and teams as a whole.
Don’t Expect Everyone to Be Like You
Bryan Zawikowski, the Vice President and General Manager of the Military Division at Lucas Group, shares how great leaders need to embrace that what works for one won’t necessarily work for all.
“When I was first promoted into a leadership role, I assumed that my team members were motivated by the same things that motivated me,” says Zawikowsi. “For me, motivation came from rah-rah energy, high fives, and contests to reward performance. I liked to come in early, stay late, and live to work because it was just so much fun for me! I really enjoyed my work and I assumed every team member felt the same way. But by leading exclusively through that prism, my team’s performance started to falter. They began coming in later and not working as hard, so I was frustrated because everything I was doing as a leader would have improved performance had I been in their shoes.”
He continues, “That’s when a tenured peer of mine shared something I should have known – and maybe I did know it, but didn’t think to put into practice: ‘Don’t expect everyone to be just like you.’ The key takeaway was that everyone has a different set of motivations based on their personality and what is going on in their lives. It was hard for me to believe, but to some of my team members, having the opportunity to come in late or leave early was a big deal to them. They couldn’t care less about a sales contest or ringing the bell when a deal got done, which really confused me. Who were these people? Put simply, they weren’t me! I learned that if I was going to be an effective leader for the whole team, I was going to need to treat people the way they wanted to be treated – not the way I wanted to be treated.”
Speak with Your Actions, Not Your Words
For Reuben Yonatan, Founder and CEO at GetVoIP, an adaptable leadership style requires actions, not words. He believes in leading by example.
“As a CEO, I know from experience that people will mirror their actions based on what I do, not by what I say,” Yonatan explains. “I can see it in the little things. For example, if I say that I want everyone to go home on time instead of constantly working late into the evening, they’ll follow my words at first. But they’ll closely watch what I do, as well. If I keep staying at the office well into the evenings, they’ll start staying late again within days. They’ll do this even if I’m not around because I’ve set the culture, and that’s what everyone will consider as normal for our company. It’s a cliché, but in the world of leadership, actions really do speak louder than words.”
At Outback Team Building & Training, we offer a training and development program called Situational Leadership Styles. It focuses on helping leaders to identify and understand their own workstyles as well as those of their employees, offering an understanding of how individual team members prefer to be led. In understanding these styles, the program teaches leaders how they can adapt their style with each employee in order to bring the best out of their team.
Leadership is a dynamic endeavor and the qualities of a good leader vary vastly depending on the job and the employees.
What makes a good leader in your opinion? We’d love to get your insights in the comments section below!
Learn More About How You Can Develop Effective Leadership Qualities
For more information about team building, training and development, and coaching and consulting solutions that can help develop strong leadership qualities, just reach out to our Employee Engagement Consultants.