Behind any successful business is a strong leadership team. Great leaders can improve company retention and profitability, and companies with highly engaged employees are almost twice as likely to perceive their leaders as effective compared to those with low engagement.
However, being a great leader doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Like any expertise, leadership skills must be learned and honed. And, while there are plenty of qualities of a strong leader, some leadership traits are more important than others.
If you’re looking to improve as a leader and coach, here are six core leadership traits to help you engage your team and guide them to success.
Great leaders win their team’s trust
It’s impossible to be an effective leader without having the trust of your team. Successful leaders empower their team, which in turn strengthens the entire organisation. According to a recent study, trust was ranked as the most important element for team members, and working in a high-trust environment means employees work together and take risks more effectively.
As a leader, it’s essential to support the success of your team by fostering an atmosphere of collaboration and encouragement. Focus on giving constructive criticism and feedback, and encourage team members to share ideas without judgment during brainstorming sessions. It’s also vital to reward and recognise the accomplishments of your team, whether through financial incentives or bonuses, and set aside time to celebrate success together as a team.
Great leaders have a clear vision and are decisive
One of the most important qualities of a leader is to show confidence through effective decision-making. Successful leaders commit to their vision and strategy, and don’t change their mind unless it is absolutely necessary. Strong leaders also have a clear, concise, and well-articulated message that funnels down to every member in the team.
While many leaders have a clear vision in place, it all comes down to communication and collaboration. Share your vision early and often, and set clear team goals that support this. If team members approach you for advice, give your input and don’t be afraid to make the hard decisions. The more decisive and clear you are, the easier it is for employees to contribute to your vision.
Great leaders invest in their team’s future
Having a clear career progression plan is important to employees, which is why it’s important for leaders to invest in their team by rewarding good work with appreciation, respect and opportunities for growth.
In a survey of over 20,000 employees around the world, respect came out on top as the most important leadership behaviour for teams. If team members feel their skills are respected and valued, they’re more likely to be engaged and contribute to the company in future.
In a strong team, respect has to start from the top. Great leaders get the best from their team because their team works to earn their admiration, and they believe their leaders will invest in them in return. Support your team and show your respect for individual career ambitions by listening to them and working on a tailored development plan, and regularly encourage them to pursue promotions or take part in training opportunities. This shows you respect their career, and that you care about their future.
Great leaders embrace failure and learn from their mistakes
Failure is an inevitable part of a success, and any good leader is prepared for it. Successful leaders don’t shy away from failure – they use it as an opportunity for growth. As Robert Kiyasaki once said: “Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
Whether it’s a personal setback or a challenge within your team, understanding moments of failure can be helpful will encourage your team to challenge the status quo and innovate. In this case, it’s essential to lead by example – so encourage your teams to embrace failure by publicly acknowledging your own setbacks, and share how you grew from each missed opportunity.
Great leaders listen
Good leaders give orders, great leaders actively listen. For any successful leader, listening is how they make informed decisions and stay attuned to what is going on with their team and their company. The best leaders are proactive, strategic, and intuitive listeners. In order to be a great leader you need to be a great communicator, and great communicators listen. Employees want to feel listened to; not patronised.
After famously resigning in 1985, Steve Jobs said he returned to Apple as a humbled and better leader – and former Apple CEO John Scully credited a lot of this to his newfound ability to listen. As a leader, it’s important to be an obvious active listener: don’t interject, maintain eye contact and use nods or other clear ways to show you are genuinely listening without interrupting.
Great leaders lead by example
Great leaders prove their commitment by setting the example and inspiring their teams to reach a common goal. As a leader, you need to demonstrate how to succeed, then use your success as a benchmark for your team. This way, you not only earn the respect of your team, but also build their confidence in your expertise.
One of the best ways to go about this is to be transparent about your expectations and objectives, and demonstrate how to get there. Let your team know what you are doing, and how you are doing it – this way, your team has tangible learning opportunities and something to aspire to.