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5 Characteristics of a Valuable Leader

Published: 04 December 2023

Poor leadership can lead to more than just a dip in morale. Gallup's studies show that 24% of employees lose engagement due to inadequate management, resulting in teams that are less productive and profitable, and have a higher likelihood of employee turnover. This turnover can be costly, amounting to almost twice the yearly salary of each departing employee.

This highlights the critical need for strong leadership skills. To keep employees, satisfy customers, and boost company productivity, it's essential to have leaders who can clearly communicate the company's vision, effectively steer teams, and drive meaningful change.

If you're aiming to be such a leader, here are five steps you can take to enhance your leadership effectiveness.

Influencing team members

Leadership fundamentally revolves around the ability to impact others.

In the initial stages of your career, you might establish authority by being the resident expert on a specific topic in your business or by being adept at listening and fostering agreement among team members. As you progress, your influence might grow through your ability to clearly propose future directions for the company.

At its core, influence is the ability to shape the behaviour of others. Establishing this kind of influence requires building strong, trust-based relationships with your colleagues.

Being able to understand what is important to others, especially in areas related to their sense of security and self-worth, is a key to effectively exerting influence.

Understanding the motivations of your colleagues and fostering an environment where they feel comfortable expressing their ideas allows you to leverage this knowledge to effect change and show that their contributions are appreciated.

Being transparent

Building trust involves being transparent. When employees are well-informed about the business’s objectives and challenges, it becomes easier for them to recognise their individual roles and contributions towards the company's success. This understanding fosters a sense of value and purpose, leading to increased employee engagement.

Getting team members on board requires clear communication that resonates with them, provides a vision of the organisation's future, and offers a clear path for bridging the current state to the desired future.

However, while transparency aims to enhance collaboration, knowledge sharing, and accountability, excessive transparency can backfire. Environments that are too open or provide too much real-time data on individual activities can make employees feel exposed and vulnerable. This feeling of being constantly watched can alter their behaviour, leading them to go to lengths to conceal their activities, even when they're not doing anything wrong.

To counteract this, it's suggested to find a balance between transparency and privacy. Implementing various types of boundaries can help maintain an atmosphere conducive to experimentation and collaboration.

Encourage thinking outside the box

Experimentation is essential for maintaining your company's edge in the market. Effective leaders understand the importance of this and promote a culture of risk-taking and innovation.

Leaders can't simply command creativity and expect immediate change. Rather, they need to cultivate an environment that encourages innovation, challenges established norms, and views mistakes as opportunities for growth.

This approach, informed by data, often leads to breakthroughs that might not have emerged otherwise.

In a workplace where trial and error are welcomed, employees feel empowered to test new theories or suggest innovative ideas, knowing that their creative efforts are appreciated. For instance, Google's innovation lab, X, rewarded team members working on projects that were eventually discontinued, reinforcing the notion that it's okay to fail.

Significant breakthroughs rarely occur in risk-averse settings; bold experimentation is necessary to achieve ambitious business objectives. Failures, when approached with good intentions, often transform into valuable learning experiences.

Acting with Integrity and being Accountable

Demonstrating integrity is a crucial element of effective leadership. According to a Robert Half survey, 75% of employees believe integrity is the most vital trait of a leader. Similarly, in research by Sunnie Giles, the creator of Quantum Leadership, 67% of participants identified "high moral standards" as a key leadership quality. However, leaders often struggle to maintain integrity in the face of organisational power. The skilful management of power and accountability distinguishes successful leaders from their less effective counterparts.

This balance of sharing power and ensuring accountability is essential for regulating power both in workplaces and broader societies.

Leaders are expected by their teams to stand up for them, treat them justly, and make decisions that are in the best interest of the business. It's important for leaders to not only avoid accumulating too much power but also to make choices that do not adversely impact others. Such practices build trust within the team and set a standard for others in the organisation. These combined efforts are pivotal in creating a successful team.

Make Decisive Actions

In the rapidly evolving and intricate world of contemporary business, it's crucial for leaders to be adept at making strategic choices quickly, sometimes even without full information at hand.

After deciding on a course of action, it's important to remain committed to it unless a significant reason arises to consider a change. The advancement of a business relies on the leader's ability to decide firmly and confidently.

It's essential for leaders to understand that making decisions promptly is a key part of effective leadership, but it's also critical to realise that decision-making is not a one-time event, but a continuous process.

Many perceive decision-making as a singular moment, but it involves a series of steps and considerations. This process, which a manager oversees, is both straightforward in its objectives and complex in its execution.

Leaders who make decisive actions, reassess their choices regularly, and adapt as needed are well-equipped to guide their businesses through the fluid landscape of modern business.

What’s the next step?

Developing into an effective leader is a gradual and ongoing journey. It involves continuous self-reflection, recognising your strengths, and understanding your role as a communicator and collaborator.

Often, it's your success as an individual performer that paves the way for leadership opportunities. However, the qualities that contributed to your individual success might not be the same ones that propel you forward in leadership roles. The transition from hands-on work to fostering an environment where others can thrive shifts the focus from your personal achievements to the collective efforts of your team.

Keeping this transition in mind, you can actively work on refining your leadership approach to meet the needs of your business effectively.

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