What people look for in great leaders
One of the greatest benefits of working on The Leadership Project and The Leadership Project podcast is to survey and listen to a broad set of views about what good and great leadership looks like.
I have also been collecting over time my own personal views about leaders that I admire and that inspire me.
This has enabled me to develop a list of attributes that people look for in great leaders and the same common list comes up on a frequent basis.
An interesting point is that most of the answers relate to emotions and feelings rather than rational or tangible things.
#1 To feel valued (to matter)
The number one response in each survey conducted and a frequent response in all podcast interviews has been that great and inspiring leaders make their team members feel valued and feel that they matter.
This includes giving people a platform to find and share their voice and to deeply listen and demonstrate that you have listened and value their contribution and opinions.
It means taking the time to acknowledge contributions and successes in the team (individually and collectively). There is almost nothing worse than when someone works their butt off to complete a task or a report and you cannot tell if your boss even noticed or read the report.
This also includes taking the time to build a genuine connection with your team members individually. Take an interest in them personally. Remember things about them that they have previously told you about. Write handwritten notes of thanks, care and support for them. Show support and care for them when they are having a tough time, for example when they or a family member are unwell.
Take the time to understand their personal preferences and then make sure that any reward or recognition that you give them is in line with those preferences
The number two factor in our surveys has been Trust. Trust is a two-way thing. The most common answer is that their boss trusts them and demonstrates that trust through their actions. Conversely, that the boss does not show any behavior that brings that trust into question.
One of the key drivers in building trust is to demonstrate that you trust your team and every team member. This will create a reciprocity of trust between you.
To build and maintain trust over time is to ensure that your actions are always in alignment with your stated values and beliefs
An attribute that is raised with increasing frequency is that of authenticity. People crave a boss that brings their authentic self every day. Someone that is themselves and does not try to be someone or something else. This then extrapolates to providing an environment where people can also be their authentic self and to be respected for that.
#4 Vision, Purpose and Meaning
People crave purpose and meaning in what they do. They treasure leaders who have clarity around their own personal vision and the vision for their organization or team. These leaders are typically able to clearly articulate the purpose, positive impact and provide meaning to what the team does. That is, the impact of what you do, not what you do
These leaders will have a great ability to attract and retain team members that have similar purpose. All people want to work for an organization and have a job where they can clearly see the purpose and meaning of what they do. Where they feel valued and that what they do matters.
#5 Consistency to Values and Beliefs
People seek to work for leaders who communicate openly about the values and beliefs that are most important to them. Critically, their behavior needs to be consistent with those stated values and beliefs at all times. A great leader is not shy in making tough decisions to ensure these values and beliefs are maintained and respected.
This includes standing up for what is right and taking action when you see behavior that is not in line with the values and beliefs of the team (regardless of the source of that action). In summary, the team wants to see that you have their back in this regard.
Conversely, the quickest way to erode, or even destroy trust, is for your own personal actions to be incongruent with your stated values and beliefs. When you act in a way that is, or even perceived to be, misaligned with your stated values and beliefs, trust will disappear quickly.
#6 Empowerment and Enablement
Two attributes that often go hand-in-hand are the ability to empower (and back) their team and to give them the environment and resources they need to be successful. This can include both providing resources and removing roadblocks and providing a blame-free culture so that people back themselves.
One of my great mentors, Laurent Eskenazi, was exceptional at this. Giving the team the empowerment to get on with these, backing their judgment, and asking what resources they needed.
Without empowerment, teams can quickly become ineffective. Always waiting for approval before acting. This can be severely detrimental to progress, particularly when faced with time critical decisions that need to be made.
Always remember that you are employing people because of the skills and experience they are bringing to the table. It makes no sense to pay a qualified person a good salary and then spend all day telling them what to do and how to do their job.
#7 Accountability; Responsibility and Feedback
A great leader has the exceptional ability to take full accountability and responsibility of the performance of their team. They will step in front and take the heat when necessary and shoulder any blame for failure (and learn from that failure).
They will then also be the first to praise the team (collectively and individually) for successes as they occur.
Always remember that feedback is a gift and people crave feedback from their leader. When giving feedback be as specific as you can. Just saying "great job" doesn't help them know exactly what it was that you liked. Being specific with both your positive and constructive feedback gives people the opportunity to grow. They can repeat and do more of the positive and they can work diligently on their areas for improvement.
I would love your feedback on this list. Do you agree? Are their key attributes missing from this Top 7?
Gateway to High Performance Leadership
The Leadership Project Academy is currently taking applications for the next cohort of our flagship program, The Gateway to High Performance Leadership. In this program, we are flipping traditional leadership development on its head. We are embracing the science of how people learn to make our program truly transformative. We use collaborative (or social) learning; microlearning; and gamification to take students on a journey of discovery to find the leader within them.
If you would like to be involved in our next cohort, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
New Book Release - You're a leader, now what?
We are now less than 1 week away from the launch of my book "You're a leader, now what?". If you found this article to be interesting, you are going to love the book. If you would like to be part of the launch team of this book and get early access to your copy please contact email@example.com to register your interest.
Calling for Collaborators
If you have something interesting to say and would like to contribute to future editions of The Leadership Project Newsletter please do reach out to us. We are always looking for people that will challenge our thinking about what it means to be a leader. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to contribute an article.