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Published on May 7, 2020

9 Most Essential Leadership Attributes of a Great Leader

9 Most Essential Leadership Attributes of a Great Leader

Great leaders are like mirrors. What they want to see in their team they often exhibit in themselves, even if that means facing things they’d prefer not to.

Can a handful of leadership attributes define every great leader? Or could you have a combination of many skills and still be a great leader?

Could a leader really change the course of a company, team, or even an individual’s happiness and success? And what’s the big deal about leadership anyway if you don’t have a team to lead?

According to LinkedIn[1], there’s a 76% chance of an employee still being at a company after 12 months, however by year three that drops to 48%!

Worryingly, 89% of employers think employees leave because of money, when only 12% actually do[2]

Furthermore, reportedly over a third of employees are actively or casually looking for a new job right now. In the US alone, employers spend $2.9M per day looking for replacement workers. That’s $1.1B per year!

A leader can make or break so much, including:

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  • Productivity
  • Creativity
  • Profitability
  • Health
  • Happiness
  • Education

The list is long, and when you consider someone will actively look to search a company’s attitude toward staff happiness before they start working for them, you can see that leadership is something that can impact everyone.

Even if you aren’t currently a leader, these 9 attributes could improve your success, happiness, and health.

1. Respect

Anyone that has tried to demand respect from a teenager will know that it rarely works to force it. If you want respect, you must give it first.

Staff that feel respected work harder, and while it may be easy to know what this attribute looks like, it can be hard in a fast-paced environment to know how to give it. The following attributes all help you prove you have respect for others and learn to gain it.

2. Visionary

If you want to be a great leader, you need to share your vision and mission. The key is to not only share it but to be prepared to let your team rewrite it to help them feel like they have a say in the mission. This will create a deeper emotional connection to the outcome of their work.

Furthermore, sometimes another person can see a way of redefining your vision that speaks clearer to everyone from staff, customers, competitors, and communities.

A company I coached was asked, “What is your mission?” and while everyone had a vague idea of what they stood for, everyone used different words to describe it. By letting everyone be heard and have their say, the company became far more laser-focused on delivering a message that resonated with their perfect customers and helped the team to feel connected to all outcomes, even if their department wasn’t directly involved.

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3. Communication

There is so much to say around communication and leadership that I could have written the whole article around this! Many companies I work with tend to create communication policies, clearly defined ways of communicating and ensuring whatever anyone wishes to communicate is allowed in a non-judgmental, respected way.

If you have people you work with who lack confidence or fear for their job, it’s hard for them to come forward and say “I think we are getting this wrong” or “I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’m not enjoying my job.” Job satisfaction has become increasingly important with the advent of websites where you can rate employers on how they impact people’s career decisions.

Communication policies also enable leaders to achieve more because they don’t’ have to micro manage every decision, and people feel confident and comfortable to take the initiative.

4. Transparency

Great leaders, while they may fear being honest and transparent, find ways to overcome this. Interestingly, when I’ve seen CEOs admit they don’t know the answer or are struggling with their work load, instead of their team being horrified and running for the hills, it tends to lead to greater honesty from everyone. And if you can see what’s wrong, it’s easier to fix it, right?

If you know others are struggling with what you hate doing, you are more likely to reach out and ask for help. Transparency, honesty, and a great communication policy enable this.

5. Passion

Leaders should get excited and feel passionate about the outcomes they are searching for with their team.

Leaders can be honest and share their vulnerability when it is linked to strong passion. Leaders that are great communicators of what they believe in and showcase their faith in themselves, their teams, and their companies inspire and motivate teams to believe, too.

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Passion creates passion. As someone who creates a lot of Facebook Lives for people having a tough day and looking for motivation, I know that when we share our passion and faith in what is possible, others buy into that. It’s good for us all.

So if you look behind you and discover that there is a group of people following you, they probably bought into your passion and want to learn more, so look to let your passion shine through everything you do, have faith in the outcomes, and trust you can achieve it.

6. Ability to Fail

Failure is so important to leadership. It’s great to see leaders that inspire and motivate and talk a great game, but you can really spot a great leader when failure is imminent. They don’t fear failure[3]; they look to learn from it.

It is scary to do this, and sometimes companies end up creating a “them and us” and blame ethos if failings aren’t handled well. Therefore, seeing a leader that can put their hands up and say “I got this wrong” is a powerful thing. It lacks arrogance and ego, which rarely work well for great leaders.

Being open to failure also leads to new discoveries and opportunities. I worked with a company that were struggling to bond as a team, and by rewriting what the company stood for, they were able to move forward in a powerful way. The irony was that this was created by looking at the mission statement of the company.

Someone shouted out in our group coaching session, “It doesn’t even say we care!” This led to a great conversation where the team member (who rarely spoke up) explained how one of the things they loved about the company was that they genuinely cared, and yet no one ever talked about that. Because the leader was able to take that one on board and go in a new direction, it led to great things.

7. Encouraging

Encouraging leaders are like coaches in that they enable people to speak up, be honest, take ownership, be accountable, and feel honored and respected. People often think that just listening is encouraging, but it’s not. Encouraging in the style of a coach is a form of communication that enables a deep level of conversation that breaks down fears, insecurities, confidence issues, and barriers to change.

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If you want to be a great leader, become a great coach first. It is a style of communication that I can hand on heart say impacts every communication and relationship I have—all for the positive. Be respectful of the coaching process and learn the skills and key questions and strategies to make this work. Everyone can coach to some level with a bit of education, practice, and feedback.

8. Goal-Oriented

When you’ve listened to and encouraged your team, being able to share clear goals is imperative. Whether it’s being a leader of a basketball team, a parent, a CEO or Scout leader, it’s not enough to create goals that you expect everyone to get on board with.

When your team feels they are valued in their opinions, their engagement increases. Engagement leads to recognition, and this leads to accelerated success: value your team and they will value what you stand for and aim to achieve and help you achieve it, often without additional financial incentive.

I’ve seen companies where they honestly believed the only solution was more money, more staff, and more investment. In the end, the only investment they actually had was in coaching, which enabled the company, the team, and the individuals to all feel that they mattered to the end results, which led them to work hard to achieve it.

9. Adaptable

We all face hardship and tough times, and the leader that can bounce back and adapt to ever-changing environments, challenges, and obstacles is the leader that people want to be with. You don’t have to know all the answers; by tapping into the other 8 attributes, you have the skills as a leader to bounce back from anything.

I’ve been in many a packed room where I know I’m there as the sacrificial lamb to prove “We’ve tried everything,” only for the team to come together and discover the power in these attributes and find a more productive and successful way of operating that has secured the future of the organization.

Seeing a sea of angry faces offloading their frustrations on me instead of their leader is (I’m not going to lie) a little scary; however, using the above skills, they have been able to break down the barriers to change and create new ways of thinking and operating to make everyone’s job a lot easier and create some happiness along the way.

More Tips on Leadership Attributes

Featured photo credit: Fabio Rodrigues via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

9 Most Essential Leadership Attributes of a Great Leader What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours How to Make a Positive Change for a Fulfilling Life 13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride How to Access Your Personal Power to Create Success

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Last Updated on June 3, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

More on Constructive Feedback

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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