Leadership behaviors that matter to successful companies

It’s normal to assume that all managers in a company are leaders. In the technical sense, they are. They make significant decisions for their teams and the company they work for. But not all managers possess leadership behaviors that earn the respect of their subordinates and colleagues.

So, what leadership behaviors separate good managers from bad ones? What qualities do employees most value in the people that lead them?

In this article:

  • Everyone can be a manager, but leadership behaviors separate the good ones from the bad.
  • Effective leaders don’t intimidate their colleagues to show who’s the boss. Instead, they create an avenue for their team to collaborate and discuss ideas together.
  • Employees become more engaged at work when their efforts are being recognized and when their achievements are celebrated.

What makes a good leader?

1. Leaders don’t tell, they show

Any boss or manager can dictate to his or her team what is expected of them, but a real leader shows them. Leaders lead by example. They ensure that their team members fully understand what is expected of them, as opposed to assigning tasks with little explanation and seeing if the team member sinks or swims. Leaders know that the team’s success is their success.

2. Leaders take accountability

A leader shares in their team’s successes, but also their failures. As the last line of defense, a leader takes responsibility when his or her team produces less than favorable results.

This is not to say all failures are directly the leader’s fault, but it is the job of a leader to ensure that all team members know what is expected of them and are meeting a certain performance standard. When this standard isn’t met, a leader doesn’t point fingers or assign blame. He or she looks for collaborative solutions.

Alternatively, when a team succeeds, a true leader acknowledges the role that each team member played in that success and doesn’t simply take all the credit.

3. Leaders don’t just talk, they listen

Good leaders are collaborative. They sit down with their teams to understand where they are coming from, how they are handling their workload, and if they have any suggestions for improving their output.

Leaders also engage in one-on-one discussions with their subordinates to get honest feedback about the overall work culture and processes, the delegation of jobs, and even personal development.

4. Leaders don’t intimidate, they empower

There are certainly different leadership styles or strategies, but some are more effective than others. Leading with fear – intimidation tactics, shouting, low tolerance for error, etc. – is an option, but one that does not sustain.

Employees want to be encouraged and inspired. They want leaders who value their ideas, opinions, and growth. A good leader never tears their employees down, but always aims to build them up.

People quit their managers, not their jobs

An old adage, “people leave their managers, not their jobs,” still rings true today. In 2019, the Development Dimensions International Frontline Leader Project conducted a study of 1,000 managers, senior leaders, and individual contributors. The study found that 57% of employees had left their jobs because of their managers, while another 32% had seriously considered abandoning their position because of a bad manager.

According to Stephanie Neal, the director of DDI’s Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research (CABER), “How leaders manage their emotions and how they make other people feel are the strongest drivers of talent retention.”

The only way for a company to attract, retain and foster the best talent is by ensuring that it grooms managers to be the best leaders they can be. How managers carry out the leadership behaviors will play a crucial role in inspiring young employees to be their own leaders in every project assigned to them.

Leadership behavior, by definition

Leadership behaviors are fundamental traits that make a manager an effective leader within an organization. They are the strengths that individuals carry to guide and inspire their colleagues to work their best and meet the company’s short- and long-term goals.

While these leadership behaviors can be learned over time, some managers are naturally born to empathize with the needs of the organization or the teams they manage. Learning how to carry out positive leadership actions will allow managers to make the best decisions and groom the best employees for future generations.

Types of leadership behaviors

While there are many different types of leadership behaviors, skills, and abilities, here are some of the most important ones:

1. Communication

Great leaders know there’s no such thing as over-communication. This is more true right now than ever, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as so much of the global workforce has shifted to more agile, remote teams.

It’s important that leaders are going the extra mile to keep the lines of communication open so that all team members remain aligned and on the same page as they tackle projects, initiatives, and daily tasks from their respective homes.

2. Trust building

When there is trust between and among co-workers, it truly shows. Good leaders create a positive and safe environment for their team to share ideas and opinions, as well as provide and receive critical feedback in a way that is constructive as opposed to destructive. This fosters confidence, and confidence yields better work.

Leaders also need to trust that their team members are capable of doing the tasks assigned to them. Hovering tactics like micromanaging can have a discouraging effect. Remember that everyone works differently. As long as the end goal is met, it’s OK if they got there a different way than you would have.

3. Decision making

Managers are entitled to make a tough call when the opportunity presents itself. They are entrusted by their colleagues to set a clear path towards a common goal and decide the best course of action to take if a task, project, campaign, or initiative doesn’t go as planned.

Leaders back their decisions with facts and experiences, making them credible and reliable. They take accountability for the positive or negative outcomes of every choice they make.

4. Encourage innovation

Good leaders will encourage innovation and aren’t afraid to try new things. They aim to inspire and fuel creativity across all facets of a business – be it marketing ideas, sales techniques, or process improvements – with the goal of enhancing both the customer’s experience and the internal experiences of their staff.

Beyond just welcoming new ideas, they give credit where it’s due when employees bring an idea to the table and execute it to success.

5. A coaching mindset

Today’s assistant is tomorrow’s manager. Leaders must embrace a coaching mindset towards the employees they oversee. This way, these individuals are prepared to move up in the company and eventually take on bigger roles with more responsibility.

Managers need to cultivate future talent by nurturing their subordinates’ potential and paving the way for their growth. Leaders recognize their employees’ strengths as well as the areas in which they can improve, and guide them to making those improvements.

6. Reward achievement

The best way to reinforce good work is to acknowledge and reward it. Business owners should work with their HR departments to create reward programs that incentivize their employees to up their game.

This could be as simple as a monthly newsletter that highlights staff achievements. When employees see their work is being recognized, it makes them feel valued, and feeling valued translates to becoming more engaged at work.

The behaviors of a good leader will reflect the organization

No matter what a company’s goals are, a great leader will work to ensure the whole team gets there. They also balance their emotions with reason to make sure that everyone moves forward together, and learns from mistakes when they occur.

This list of leadership behaviors is meant to guide business owners to lead their own teams and identify good leaders to take on managerial roles as they grow their companies. Take note that there are other leadership actions that will help the company solve more problems and achieve more.

Serine Alejandro
Serine is a graduate of Journalism from one of the most prestigious universities. She has broad experience in public relations and marketing communications for the lifestyle, travel, tech, and banking industries. She is now a co-owner of a growing condiments business, a manager of her family’s pharmacy, and a full-time writer for SMB Compass.

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