What makes a good leader?

I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles, but today it means getting along with people.—Gandhi

There is a lot of literature out there defining the term ‘what makes a good leader’. What can we learn from the wealth of research and articles?

Here are some qualities we should be looking for in a good leader –

  • Listen to others Rather than simply directing or delegating, it is extremely important to listen to the voice of others. This is crucial in order to allow a team to be nurtured and to enable them to grow. Fundamental needs must be met to allow team members to be effective while being led. Being listened to is fundamental to this process.
  • Effective communication. Being constant, clear and concise in messages is important. This is required in order to impart advise and guidance. It is crucial that communication is maintained within a two way relationship between leaders and team members. This will also allow for improved productivity and will eliminate confusion.
  • Integrity. Influential and effective leaders treat others how they would like to be treated. Simple. This is based on a foundations of trust and respect. If this does not co-exist within the leader/ team member relationship, this is likely to lead to poor team performance and low morale.
  • Humility. Any accomplishments that are made within a team should be commended. Being proud and supporting achievements is a an awesome leadership style and is often overlooked or underrated. Others should be informed in a positive way that reflects the success of the achievement.
  • Empathy. A leader who has the ability to understand and share the feelings of another is one who will shine above others. In addition, having the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes will help establish and build lasting relationships and will help resolve any potential conflicts within a team.
  • Inspire Others. Passion and confidence are crucial mindsets for effective leaders to work with. To inspire others to progress and to develop and to motivate are all essential to being a good leader. Being mindful of developing positive traits and passions within team members is also important for a leader to be effective and to inspire those around them.
  • Lead By Example. A true leader doesn’t just tell you how to do something and expect you to do it. They “walks the walk” and actually show you how to do it. They put as a high expectation in themselves as they do their team. This types of leaders are much more likely to get the best out of their team. They will be respected by their team and would be more willing to take direction.

All these traits of good leaders have something in common – getting the best out of their team members.

Leader and organisations are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of their employees. A happy team is one whose wellbeing is looked after. This is also more productive. There is increasing sound scientific evidence which shows that managers and leaders of teams play an important role in ensuring and promoting the wellbeing of their team. This then leads to dramatic improvements in performance amongst other key attributes.

To harness this further, good leaders should seek to do the following –

  • Encourage team members to think outside the box
  • Stimulate their teams
  • Be a role model by modelling desired traits
  • Incorporate an understanding of teams differences and a mix of learning styles
  • Show care and consideration to those in their team
  • Ensure a positive surrounding environment
More leaders are understanding the importance of wellbeing amongst their teams.

Many would acknowledge within organisations that employee wellbeing is important in keeping employees engaged and motivated. However research from Right Management (Employee Assistance and Wellbeing Service) also suggests that it is still misunderstood, with 41% of organisations regarding employee wellness as a perk rather than a necessary investment.

Organisations cannot afford unfit, unwell and unproductive people. While HR departments are responsible for playing a major role, leaders play the primary role in motivating, driving and keeping employees engaged.

The spirit of an organisation starts at the top.

A good leader can make a world of difference to an organisation by engaging, inspiring and developing employees. Conversely, bad leaders can disengage, derail and demotivate staff, which can have a negative impact on business productivity, which in turn affects turnover.

Research has shown that emotionally engaged employees tend to perform their tasks to a higher standard and are less likely to indulge in behaviours that might damage the organisation.

An important meta analysis literature review was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Jaana Kuoppala, Lamminpää, Liira, and Vaino, 2008). This is still just as relevant today. One of the findings of this study when taking into account a number of positive leadership styles was that the impact of a ‘good’ leadership style on employee wellbeing (traits that were taken into account included supportive and considerate leaders). Positive relationships were found, demonstrating the importance of impactful leadership styles on wellbeing.

So, what can we glean from this article? – Effective leaders take the time to support their team in a number of ways. This will not only lead to happier and more effective team members, but will make for a more productive and manageable work environment. An all round no-brainer.

Janine delivers resilience and stress management training to manger, workforces, and organisations in supporting and improving wellbeing. If you would like any further information, please contact Janine.