5 min read
Leaders come in many types and teams come in many shapes and sizes. Nonetheless, whether it’s a CEO in charge of 200 employees or a team lead in charge of five, the core dynamic remains the same.
We’ve all seen what poor leadership can do to an organization. It’s easy to recognize when team dynamics are off: progress is slow or stagnant, frustration creeps in, and deadlines approach with somehow still no end in sight. It’s also clear when a leader is damaging an organization: their numbers just don’t hit the target, and nobody wants to be on their team. In fact, poor leadership and the culture it promotes are some of the leading reasons that employees quit. Yikes!
Strong leadership has been the subject of many studies across industries like technology, healthcare, education, and others. I’m sure you could come up with a few adjectives to describe the best leaders you’ve worked with in your career, like supportive, patient, transparent, or empathetic. Since every person is unique and there are many ways to lead a team, it can be hard to know how to hire or develop the type of leadership that will not only fit your organization but also improve it.
In my experience, the seven leadership characteristics below have direct, measurable effects on the effectiveness and sustainability of an organization.
1. Ambition drives innovation.
Leaders are ambitious by nature. If they weren’t, it’s unlikely they’d have reached the position they’re in. Unfortunately, ambition gets a bad rap, often because it’s mistakenly restricted to personal ambition. However, when those at the top frame this drive properly by funneling it into organizational initiatives, they deliver new ideas, change, and success. Ambition equates to continuously rising above the status quo.
On the other hand, a lack of innovation may be due to a leader placing their own advancement above company progress. In addition to stalling forward motion, this behavior can interrupt team dynamics and encourage disagreement, pushing collaborative ideation out the window. Effective leaders prioritize company success, and the numbers don’t lie: Strong leaders innovate—and so do their teams.
2. Courage delivers results.
Capable leaders shine most during difficult circumstances. When faced with a challenge, they’re willing to put in whatever effort is required to define a strategy that works, even if that means delivering bad news, wiping the slate clean, and starting from scratch. This attitude—the willingness to face every circumstance head-on—enables the leader’s team members to feel comfortable pushing themselves, too. When leaders are willing to handle whatever happens, their people aren’t afraid to fail, and the right answers get found faster.
3. Flexibility prevents you from falling behind.
Flexibility is important no matter what you’re working on, no matter the scale. Leaders, teams, and organizations all know that sometimes things just don’t go according to plan, and it’s best to expect the unexpected. While it may seem logical in the moment to avoid disruption and continue with your original plan, this rigidity slows you down. The longer you hold onto an old set of facts, the farther behind you fall. Flexibility, on the other hand, allows leaders to transform unexpected interruptions, bumps, or challenges into opportunities. Whether this is reallocating resources, integrating new technology, or simply switching gears, flexibility keeps you on track.
4.Humility keeps you ahead.
Staying ahead in business can be tough when technologies and capabilities seem to change every day. When leaders stay humble, two things happen: they stay open to new ideas, and they stay willing to learn from their team members. The best way to stay ahead in a changing business landscape is to learn whenever you can, and humble leaders not only know that learning opportunities happen in every arena and from every angle, but they’re also amenable to being taught. Employees feel empowered when they’re allowed to teach and promoting humble people creates a learning environment where companies can utilize everyone’s expertise.
5. Inclusivity brings you the best talent.
Companies nowadays are hyper-focused on culture. Modern tools like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and even Facebook have changed the talent acquisition process by publicizing reviews, events, and employee stories. The identity of an organization is no longer just an internal culture and an external brand; internal culture is now broadcast in a new way. This helps applicants gauge their cultural fit, and companies are having to adapt. Inclusive culture and leadership attract talent and develop a sustainable community in your organization.
When the standard work style in your company allows team members to contribute their unique identity and personal voice, employees are likely to settle in for the long haul. People want to feel comfortable and at home in their workplace! Strong leaders trust employees to achieve not despite personal flavor, but because of it. Who wouldn’t want to work for a leader like that?
6. Receptiveness enables visibility.
This may be the most nuanced element of the seven traits I’ve listed, but for good reason. Receptiveness encompasses willingness to listen, tact, and availability. Often leaders feel a responsibility to hear concerns or complaints from their employees, but that’s where their attention stops. Whether it’s due to time constraints, misplaced focus, or lack of interest, they’re not really listening, just serving as a temporary sounding board. Strong leaders do more than just hear; they listen and act. So how does this benefit the company?
Employees want to be heard. When they see a receptive leader, they’re inclined to share. This communication pipeline can be tapped to gain visibility into the strengths and weaknesses of both projects and teams. With this knowledge in hand, leaders can act as necessary, oftentimes much earlier than would have otherwise been possible.
7. Transparency creates a culture of trust and momentum.
There’s nothing more vital to the employer/employee dynamic than transparency. When leaders communicate openly and consistently, employees learn that they can trust those in power. With a relationship built on trust and visibility established, team members feel at ease and willing to contribute. These contributions then create momentum across the board, whether directly on projects or on social initiatives. All in all, transparency allows leaders and team members to rely on each other and to feel excited about what they do and where they do it. This excitement energizes workers, building momentum for your organization.
Transparency is also a powerful tool to strengthen public perception of your organization. The trust and momentum created internally can also happen externally, especially as you build your brand. Customers want to do business with companies that are honest, who own up to mistakes, and who are proactive. Transparency is the key to displaying all of these sought-after traits, and it can even be the tool that keeps you afloat during hard times.
Although leadership styles can run the gamut, there’s no substitute for a strong, capable leader. Define what that looks like to your organization, and you’ll be one step closer to continued growth and progress.
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