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If we lack compassion, our teams suffer. If we don’t listen, our teams suffer. And if we struggle with stress and emotional wellness, ours team struggle, too.
So, we have to start working on ourselves. We have to ask important questions, like, what’s the difference between a manager and a leader? A leader and a great leader? Poor leadership and servant leadership?
In this article, we’ll cover the research behind leadership behaviors and the top 7 leadership behaviors leaders must have.
In his groundbreaking book, Conscious Business, Fred Kofman writes, “Asking whether someone is a manager or a leader is like asking whether someone is a soccer player or a ball-kicker.”
By this token, leadership is the way that good managers earn the trust of their team.
Research has shown that there are a number of key leadership behaviors that managers can learn and develop.
These behaviors are grounded in managing our social-emotional reactions to our surroundings. And by cultivating them, leaders can build a team around them that is accountable, trusting, resilient, proactive, and passionate about their work and company mission.
If you want to be this type of leader (and cultivate this type of transformational leadership in your organization), here are the 7 leadership traits our research has shown can have the biggest impact on your team’s productivity and engagement, and ways to practice them on a daily basis.
"The real threat to business is from within, from poor ethical standards and lack of integrity.” -Azim Premji
Ethical leaders are deeply committed to doing the right thing, regardless of whether or not it’s the popular choice.
They stand by a strong code of ethics and principles that guide their mindset, choices, and behaviors. They expect their teams to do the same.
They don’t support ethical violations (even when doing so could benefit the business), and they’re not afraid to apologize when they make mistakes.
Ethical leadership highly contributes to emotional well-being, a positive company culture, and creates a diverse and inclusive workplace. It improves brand image, prevents scandals, reduces turnover, and inspires employee resilience.
Practice self-care, emotional intelligence, and keep an eye on your stress levels. Fill your cup up first, so you can fill up your team’s. Stressed leaders are less likely to set a high standard for moral and ethical behavior.
Just like the video store Blockbuster vanished due to lack of innovation, teams that lack innovation are eventually wiped up by teams who are willing to grow (i.e., Netflix).
A good leader is fueled by a growth mindset — a deep desire to encourage all team members to contribute their creative ideas.
Innovative leaders encourage ‘possibility thinking’ and resist the urge to dismiss new ideas.
This tactic is often successful, as innovators are 10% more profitable than non-innovators.
Make room for innovation. Allocate a certain number of hours each week for experimenting, solving problems, and brainstorming new ideas. Provide innovation training and accept failure as part of the learning process.
While many leadership experts will tell you that empathy is critical to being a successful leader, it’s actually compassion — an “objective form of empathy” — that’s key to being more in touch with your team.
Practicing compassion comes down to training yourself to see situations from another person’s perspective. Compassionate management involves taking the time to consider and understand people’s stresses so you can be better equipped to take action.
Unlike empathy, compassion creates emotional distance, giving leaders the ability to proactively assist another person. Being a compassionate leader can decrease team member stress levels and, in turn, increase productivity and effectiveness.
Compassionate management involves taking the time to consider and understand people’s stresses, so you can be better equipped to take action.
Compassionate leadership means showing genuine interest in team members’ success and well-being and a commitment to understanding, but not necessarily agreeing. As you practice this skill, you’ll find that you’ll be able to develop more loyalty and trust with team members.
While raises and promotions are valuable, research has shown that it’s the positive relationships we develop at work that have a greater impact on retention.
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Great leaders are able to quickly change course themselves and also help their team evolve with the organization’s needs.
Anne Dwane, CEO of Zinch, told First Round Review, “Adaptable people aim to do the right thing at the right time for what they want to accomplish.”
Adaptable people also tend to surround themselves with people of a similar mindset, establishing a culture of learning and risk-taking.
These types of leaders (much like elite athletes) tend to operate at their peak performance because they enjoy the process, continually push themselves and their teams forward, and aren’t afraid of occasionally losing.
They recognize that leadership is a lifelong learning process, and mistakes are optimal opportunities to better ourselves and our decision-making skills.
Mistakes are optimal opportunities to better ourselves and our decision-making skills.
Studies have shown that employee development results are best achieved when a manager is actively involved in the process.
Managers who are able to take a coaching approach to leadership develop a partnership with their teammates and establish a shared vision for what needs to be done and how these goals will be accomplished.
This sort of leadership style will give you a more personal and active role in each individual’s development, create a relationship of trust, and foster an environment of continual growth.
Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford, found that the most successful individuals tend to fall into the “improving” or “growth mindset” category. Consequently, leaders who focus on developing people can influence teammates to adopt a similar mindset of constant self-improvement.
Great leaders are able to tie people’s individual development to organizational objectives, ultimately increasing accountability, improving retention, and developing stronger leaders within their teams.
Effective communication skills are key to building trust with your teammates and getting them to buy into your vision.
Great leaders know that listening can be more empowering than speaking.. Effective listening is a combination of both verbal and nonverbal communication skills that can be learned and practiced over time.
In a study of over 8,000 individuals employed in a variety of industries, most respondents said that they believed that their communication skills were effective and, in some cases, even more effective than those of their coworkers.
Yet research has shown that “the average person listens at only about 25% efficiency.” There’s a huge correlation between effective leadership and effective listening. Effective listening “fosters cohesive bonds, commitment, and trust.”
Personalized development helps leaders and their teams thrive.
One of the joys of being a leader is the opportunity to motivate and inspire people to do their best work and pursue projects and goals that enable them to grow. While being inspiring might sound like a soft pursuit, motivation theory has actually shown that there are proven ways leaders can motivate and inspire their teams.
An effective leader prioritizes the creation of an inspiring work environment that propels their teams to see beyond their perceived limitations and step up to new challenges.
What’s their secret?
Motivational leaders have a keen understanding of how to create a strong sense of community and belonging within their organizations. They regularly celebrate and reward achievements, take initiatives, and model performance standards.
As a result, their teams tend to see lower turnover, increased productivity, and increased motivation.
What are some common behaviors of leaders that teammates would call “inspiring”?
They inspire others to act by creating a strong, shared sense of organizational purpose, hold their teams accountable for their own destiny, prioritize growth and problem-solving skills, and tend to be humble, compassionate, and transparent — not to mention, great communicators.
Leadership development experts Dr. Jack Zenger and Dr. Joseph Folkman identified 10 “companion behaviors that define an inspiring leader”:
Zenger and Folkman found that leaders don’t have to perfectly exemplify every leadership behavior associated with being inspiring, but if they could strengthen just two or three behaviors, they could become more inspiring.
Identify the problems you want to solve, then figure out the plan for solving them.
Some leaders are born with innate talents and a set of behaviors that make them particularly suited for greatness. But many leadership behaviors can be learned, developed, practiced over time, and used to nurture a new generation of leaders that are yet to rise to the challenge.
Want to grow your leadership abilities? We’re here to help. At BetterUp, we help organizations build happier, healthier, and more-fulfilled leaders. Request a demo to find out more.