December 4, 2020

Leadership Qualities: What employees want to see from their leaders


The strength or weakness of an organization can often be directly tied to the leadership. Employees take their cues from leadership and company culture, work ethic, as well as qualities (good and bad) can all trickle down from the top of the organization. We’ve all had work environments that suffered from poor leadership. And hopefully, we’ve all had inspirational leadership as well. One of the main reasons good employees leave a workplace is their dissatisfaction with leadership. So what can you do to be that inspirational leader we all want and deserve? We’ve compiled a list of positive traits that employees love to see in their leadership.  

  1. Transparent

Being open and clear about everything from compensation, day-to-day expectations, growth opportunities (or lack thereof), to the overall health of the company is key for good leadership. No one likes to be kept in the dark and misinformation always causes more harm than good. The truth will always come out.

  1. Communicative

This goes hand in hand with Transparency. Be straightforward with your employees, even if the news is difficult or challenging. If employees are forced to navigate their work environment and work relationships through assumptions, it is not only frustrating and stressful for them, but can be detrimental to the whole organization.

  1. Decisive

You don’t always need to have the right answer, no one is perfect. But having the courage to make a firm stand shows that you have faith in yourself as well as in your team. It can help your team have added confidence in you and in turn, can positively impact the confidence they have in the team as a whole.

  1. Empathetic

Chances are, you weren’t born into a leadership role, so you’ve likely been in your employees’ shoes, although it may have been some time ago. Remember what those particular challenges were like and express your ability to empathize with them. When people feel seen and respected, they are more apt to be open to feedback and can be more successful team players.

  1. Strong

Strength is in vulnerability. When you show the courage to take calculated risks and show up for your clients and co-workers (even if you can’t control the outcome) that is vulnerability. It also shows strength. When your employees see you convey that kind of strength, it not only breeds confidence in you as a leader, you then lead by example and allow your employees to follow suit.

  1. Factual

Whenever possible, give feedback to your employees along with real data. Saying someone is doing “well” or that they have something they need to work is subjective and all of us can be unconsciously swayed when it comes to subjective qualifiers. Your feedback goes a lot farther when there is actionable data included, it gives your employees something tangible to strive for and helps keep your own biases in check.

  1. Thankful

Leaders must remember that success is a result of teamwork. Show appreciation for the people who worked to get the job done. People who feel valued always put in more effort. No one only wants to hear from their boss when they’ve messed up. Positive reinforcement is much more effective than negative feedback.

  1. Positive

Speaking of positivity; it’s contagious! A positive attitude leads to a better work environment and higher productivity. Employees really do need positivity in a workplace culture. This doesn’t mean you should be fake or gloss over challenges and difficulties. But there are always appropriate ways to be positive, even if you are in a challenging situation.

  1. Confident

Employees look to leadership to navigate uncharted waters. They model behaviors they see, so if a leader is confident going in a situation the employee will likely exhibit the same attitude. We’ve said it before, lead by example. The more confidence your team has in themselves, the more successful they are likely to be.

  1. Trustworthy

Be a confidant for your employees. Sometimes the only thing a person needs is a trusted advisor to listen to them. Keep your word. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Your crew needs to know they count on you and they can trust you. 

  1. Accountable

Be someone your team can rely on. Deliver on your commitments. Take ownership of your actions, performance and decisions. Own up to mistakes when they happen and address them head on. Do not let issues get buried and fester.

  1. Resilient

It is crucial that leaders have the ability to bounce back after a setback. You don’t have to be impenetrable, and sometimes it’s ok to show that you’re struggling. But make sure you are doing what you need to do to rebound and get back on the court. Your team will see you get back up again. When the going gets tough employees look to their leaders and model their attitude.

  1. Humanity

Good leaders exhibit good character. When appropriate, talk to your employees about their lives, get to really know them. Have non-work related chats with them. Share aspects of your life with them as well. Employees will work hard for people they respect and for people they know to respect them in turn.

  1. Humility

Even though leaders are in a position of power they must remember that they were also entry-level at one time and it took years of experience to get where they are today. Your team is part of your success. You wouldn’t be a leader without them. And you are not without your own list of failures and mistakes. We have all failed and made mistakes; it’s how we learn.

  1. Adaptability

Accept changes as they come instead of getting hung up on ways of the past. Be innovative and creative. It is important for leaders to be flexible especially during this rapidly changing economic and social environment. Be understanding when employees are working from home and trying to maintain work/life balance. “Adapt or perish” may sound harsh, but it is literally how we evolve. 

The Takeaway

When you practice and refine all of these traits, it will instill confidence in your leadership abilities. Some of these traits seem to come naturally to some folks. Some people just inherently have them. But most are learned behaviors. Approach your role as a leader with the intention to be the best leader for your employees, not your stockholders. Good leadership trickles down from the top. So does bad leadership. Employees can flourish under good leadership and flourishing employees make amazing contributions to their organizations (and the bottom line.)


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