What makes a great leader in the workplace? Maybe you will be instinctively drawn to a leader because of their charisma, knowledge, and perseverance. But when you actually break it down, it is quite surprising to learn that great leaders are approachable, open, and great communicators. Here are 8 behaviours that we can all learn from those successful leaders.

1. Create an open and approachable environment

There are some managers and CEOs who place themselves on a pedestal and never really get to know their staff. They are living in a cloud of power and have little touch with reality in the workplace. They are obsessed with authority, prestige, and their position. They are rulers, rather than leaders.

But a real leader creates an open and approachable environment where staff are encouraged to say what they think of procedures, policies, and business objectives. There is a much better atmosphere and staff do not hesitate to approach the leader. The result is that there is a much greater sense of collaboration and a team spirit rather than a hierarchy based on fear, power, and privilege. Brian Tracy, Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International sums it up very neatly:

“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.”

2. Build confidence when the going gets tough

Leaders are expected to lead. In times of crisis, this can be the greatest test of a successful leader. They know how to mobilize the staff by staying calm and courageous. The open approach will pay handsome dividends here as staff will be fully aware of what the crisis is. They know what they will have to achieve in turning the company around and staying ahead of the game.

Steve Jobs as a business leader did not only turn Apple around after its stocks plummeted in 1996 but released new products such as the iPod and iPhone. It is an inspiring example of how a business leader was able to build confidence during a crisis.

3. Build employees’ self-esteem

Everyone craves praise when it is merited, of course! Leaders give praise and encouragement when it is due. They encourage people to let coworkers know about their achievements such as meeting a tough deadline or exceeding a sales target. Great leaders or managers know what people are striving to achieve and they will be the first to encourage and praise. Todd Mansfield who was vice president of Disney Development Company for 11 years realized that in time, as he explains here.

“When we’d sit down to evaluate associates, we’d spend 20% of our time talking about the things they did well and 80% on what needed to be improved. That is just not effective. We ought to spend and energy helping people determine what they are gifted at doing and then align their responsibilities with those capabilities.”- Todd Mansfield

4. Empower and enable workers

Great leaders work hard to encourage a culture of inclusion at every level. In practice this means that innovation and skills development are strongly encouraged. One great way to empower employees is to keep them in the loop as to what is really happening at every level of your operations. These might include strategies for every contingency, emergency procedures and on-going skills training. The great advantage here is that this sense of empowerment makes them feel that they are a vital part of the company.

Doug Conant, CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, had to rescue the company from falling sales. His recipe for success was to prioritize employee engagement which had been judged as among the worst by Fortune 500. During his ten year stint in which he managed to turn the company around, employee engagement was consistently rated as among the best.

5. Ask questions and listen

Many managers talk loftily about their company’s mission statement and ethics. They talk about staff development and training. They sometimes fail to set the example by actually doing these things such as encouraging communication by asking questions and letting staff ask them. In fact they often talk far too much and do not listen nearly enough. This is why they rarely relate to others and inspire them. John C.Maxwell, the founder of Maximum Impact and an annual speaker at Fortune 500 companies often mentions this very important aspect of leadership:

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”

6. Take risks

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, was recently interviewed on leadership. He said that one of the great ways to be an effective leader is to take risks. He gave an example of how he always goes for personality rather than formal qualifications, when hiring staff. Certainly there is a risk here. He also prefers to promote within the company rather than hiring outsiders. It sends a great message to staff and shows that hard work and dedication are actually rewarded. He is the author of The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership.

7. Be humble and learn from each other

Great leaders will always be on the lookout to learn from their staff and to share wisdom and experience. The leaders who lock themselves in their offices will never be exposed to new ideas. In addition, one of the four critical leadership qualities is humility, according to a Catalyst study which asked 1,500 workers from all around the globe. Humility is learning from criticism and being able to admit you were wrong. Lazlo Bock who is Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google explains what humility means in leadership:

“It is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute, it’s intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.”

8. Be passionate about change

Great leaders do not shirk their duty when it comes to making changes which will mean challenges but also great rewards in the long run. If you are passionate about change, you can achieve great success. Indra Nooyi, CEO PepsiCo, is absolutely committed to taking the company in a healthier direction while achieving financial success. She has managed that while implementing a five year plan to cut costs by $5 billion:

“Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.”

Featured photo credit: Sir Richard Branson/ Jarle Naustvik via flickr.com

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