Gallup is an organization I refer to often when looking at issues tied to leadership and employee engagement. Effective leaders are critical to organizational success, and on the flip side, according to research from Gallup, 24 percent of employees are actively disengaged as a result of poor management. The consequences of poor leadership include teams that are less productive, less profitable, and have a higher likelihood of turnover. The cost of turnover alone is nearly two times the annual salary of every employee who quits. Consider that!
This is my perspective on the traits the most effective leaders today possess.
WOO and influence
A big part of being a good leader is the ability to win others over (WOO) and influence outcomes. We all have natural leaders in our life. They are the people who can rally a team behind a new project or concept and quickly sell ideas to clients through a combination of persuasion and reading the room. When interviewing candidates with leadership potential or for leadership roles, it’s important to look for these qualities. An effective way to do it in an interview setting is to ask candidates for a pitch and see if it lands with you.
The ability to read the room
A second part of this skill is being able to read the room based on life stages and backgrounds and adjust your approach accordingly. It takes most people time and coaching to learn how to do this effectively.
The right level of transparency and candour
Human beings do not like to be misled or key messaged, but at the same time, when you are at the helm of an organization, you have the weight of responsibility for all challenging outcomes on your shoulders. You need to understand the right level of information to share with the team when the time comes. Issues tied to employee termination or client loss are a few examples. Employees need to understand the facts and what they personally and the organization can learn from challenging scenarios, but the outcomes themselves are not an employee’s burden to bear. Learning how to share the right level of information in the right tone is an essential trait of effective leaders. It builds both trust and respect.
Doing what you say you will do when you say you will do it is essential. Business leaders wear many hats and often work around the clock, but even so, lack of follow-through quickly erodes trust. Though exceptions do occur, it’s important to keep scheduled meetings and deadlines to build a consistent level of trust and set expectations. If a leader is not able to meet their own deadlines, their team has no reason to. One of the biggest challenges of leadership is having to lead by example and recognize the amplification effects of every move you make. Your team is watching.
Inspiring creative ideas and new thinking
Being a good leader in any line of business does not mean you are good at everything. It generally means you have a few areas of expertise and know how to mobilize diverse groups of people toward a common goal. A big part of this is being able to inspire new thinking and the sharing of creative ideas amongst the team. That doesn’t mean every idea an employee presents will move forward, but it does mean people feel comfortable sharing new thinking with you, that includes the shyest person in the room. A great way to do this is to ask questions. If you’re not doing this already, when you start, it will surprise people in a good way. Questions like “what would you do?” or “how do you think we could have done better?” will encourage people to contribute to solutions and challenge them to think broadly. Great ideas come from all levels of the organization, and the strongest leaders know this.
There are so many qualities and traits of effective leaders, but these are a few that I think are especially necessary in today’s business climate.