Leadership is the process where someone is able to motivate and inspire others to follow them. Successful businesses and companies need solid leadership to help them thrive, and successful leaders are defined by the behaviors they exhibit as they lead. These behaviors determine if followers are motivated and inspired by their leaders, or merely follow because they have to. Leadership traits are an integral part of how a leader is perceived and how they operate. Because leadership behavior is so important, it is widely studied and discussed. There are entire seminars, trainings, and even degree programs dedicated to teaching leadership.
Leader behavior is the traits and characteristics that make some effective as a leader. Leaders utilize their behavior to help them guide, direct, and influence the work of their team. There are many innate characteristics that enhance leadership behavior, however there are strategies and actions that leaders can work to develop in order to improve their behavior and be more effective. Organizations thrive on leaders who use their behavior to share a vision, encourage teams, and ensure everyone is as effective as possible.
Leadership is extremely important for an organization. Great leaders help improve morale in an organization. Even during hard times, effective leaders can help their subordinates be confident and happy in their position. Great leaders also help retain employees. Turnover is expensive in an organization, and good leadership is key in employees sticking around or jumping ship. As you’ve probably heard, people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. So great leaders help the company save money and increase productivity by keeping retention rates high. Similarly, great leaders can help nurture future leaders. They mentor and work with team members to help them grow in their role and be prepared for new roles in the company. This is good for everyone. And lastly, great leaders are instrumental in helping the company make money. More productive teams lead to more things being done, higher creativity, and better overall success for the organization. There are many different leadership styles that a manager or boss can adopt, but overall the most successful leaders will develop key traits that help them to thrive.
In practice it’s easy to see the benefits of a good leader. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth, Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, Condoleezza Rice, and Barack Obama are all examples of great individuals who impacted the world around them in positive ways. Looking at their leadership behavior helps us understand the importance of the right traits and actions in a leader.
Great leaders are so important that there are many jobs that are focused on leadership. CEOs, managers, HR representatives, directors, and more are all jobs that are focused on leadership, responsibility, and other skills that involve the ability to help other individuals see the vision for a company. Leaders and managers are needed in absolutely every industry, from healthcare to IT, because they have a direct impact on the success of teams.
While there are many leadership traits, skills, and abilities that a person can and should have to be successful, there are a few that stand out as fundamentally important, including:
Research shows that only 20% of people trust business leaders to tell the truth, a shockingly low number for organizational trust. Now more than ever before, honesty is a crucial responsibility for success as a leader. A successful leader is honest, and will expect their employees to be honest too. If employees feel like their leader is honest with them, they are much more likely to be honest in return. A business leader who exhibits honesty will encourage their employees to trust them, so when they give them information or ask something of them, they will do the right thing with it. This is an important element for a great company culture and organizational success. In years past, honesty and integrity were the mark of organizational success—now as standards slacken being honest in business is more valuable than ever.
An effective leader will display confidence and lead by example. Confidence is a skill you can develop, and in turn encourage in your organization. When they walk into difficult projects or tight deadlines confident that they will be successful, the team will follow their lead. Employees want to feel that their leader is fearless and ready to take on anything—they want someone who is sure they will be successful in charge. So confidence is key for exceptional leaders. Particularly when it comes to making decisions, confidence is important for positive leadership. Good leaders are confident in their choices and move forward, leading their team right along with them.
Open communication means there are less misunderstandings and issues on a team. Good communication skills are key in leadership that is impactful. When leaders have open communication, the team knows exactly what is expected of them, when things need to be done, and the process. Bad communication can create problems that go unresolved, missed deadlines, improper strategy, and more. This often is an indication of poor leadership. Good leadership involves being specific about requests to ensure that team members know they can talk to their leader about anything. Communication channels need to go both ways so employees can connect with their leader if there is an issue and know they’ll be heard.
In any organization, issues are going to arise. This can be professional or personal issues—either way good leaders need to know how to address these issues. Problems should be dealt with immediately, not pushed back to a more convenient time. Good leaders know that they need to take issues seriously, not make employees feel like they should handle it on their own or not bother about it. They have the ability to make employees feel heard and respected—self-assurance is an important part of being a real leader. Leadership also involves being open-minded, and utilize positive leadership behavior to help everyone feel at ease. Leadership that addresses problems quickly, professionally, and fairly get more respect from their employees.
Good leaders aren’t afraid to make decisions, especially hard ones. They avoid delaying decisions or letting their personal views intervene. They look at things carefully, research well, try and see every angle, and make a decision and then stick to it. This will directly influence employee behavior. When a leader seems to be swayed after making a decision, it can be an issue. But if a leader isn’t willing to get feedback before making a decision, that can also be an issue. A good leader finds the balance of making sure they fully understand the choice, and then sticking to it when they make it. They don’t shy away from these choices, but rather take them head-on and show their employees that they are confident and sure.
Good leaders don’t let personal thoughts or feelings get involved with their team. Their feedback is objective and professional, helping the team know exactly what to expect and where they can improve. Good leaders understand that feedback is essential for growth, so they aren’t afraid to help their employees improve. But their feedback is always based on their work performance and how it impacts the team. Straightforward, honest, open communication helps team members receive this kind of feedback well, and be excited about opportunities for growth and development in the workplace.
There are many benefits to recognizing and rewarding employee achievement at work. Employees see that their behavior is appreciated and are more likely to repeat it, others see that they can get rewarded for good work, it increases productivity and morale, and helps employees see that you care about their contribution. Rewards can happen through verbal praise, a gift, or even a bonus or raise. Good leaders understand that positive reinforcement is a great tool for helping employees grow and continue good actions. They work to set up reward systems that are fair for the organization, and be sure to keep their eyes open for any opportunity to reward their students. Leadership traits that focus on helping employees thrive are important to develop, to enhance motivation and create a positive culture.
It’s obvious that good leadership traits are key for success in any industry and organization. Leaders need to be prepared for the skills they’ll need in their job with a degree, but they can also learn important ways to improve their leadership skills so they will be successful in their position.