Whenever I conduct workshops for leadership teams, I break them into groups of three and ask the question, "Think of a time when you worked for the best boss you ever had. What made him or her so great?"
After processing and discussion in their small groups, I instruct them to reconvene and share their findings with the whole group. It's now gotten to the point where I can almost bank on these answers 99 percent of the time. I often hear things like:
- "My boss valued me as a human being."
- "He communicated openly, and let us do the same. We were real with each other."
- "She let us take ownership of our work, and shared the decision-making with us."
- "She was interested in my development."
- "He was interested in our ideas and input. We had a voice."
- "She cared for the whole team. We felt like a true community."
And so it goes. What I have witnessed over the course of fifteen years developing leaders is that the best of them shine the spotlight on their people. They don't want the attention, and they share their power and status to benefit the people under their care.
Let's dive into four of the most prevalent leadership behaviors I have seen in such leaders.
They respect others.
Cheryl Bachelder, former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, writes in her now-classic servant leadership book, Dare to Serve, that one of the keys to her leadership culture of success was a conscious decision to create a new workplace (with rigorous measures in place) where people were treated with respect and dignity, yet challenged to perform at the highest level. As a result, silos were broken, managers began to listen, and collaboration increased because workers were valued.
They listen more and talk less.
Want to hear an insecure leader at work? Easy, just listen to their bragging--a mask for their insecurity. Smart and respected leaders are unassuming and know what they think; they want to know what YOU think by listening intently. Practically speaking, this forgotten skill of active listening allows followers the freedom to be part of the conversation. Such leaders will ask curious questions, lots of questions: how something is done, what you like about it, what you learned from it, and what you need in order to be better. Leaders with loyal followers realize they know a lot, and seek to know even more by listening.
They get feedback about their leadership.
You want to know the definition of a fool? It's someone who refuses to accept or look at feedback. A great leader doesn't just put a team together, rolls out a program and leaves the scene. She constantly asks her employees for feedback about what's working, and what's not. She understands that to maintain a healthy work culture, she has to keep her finger on the pulse. Try asking yourself these powerful 15 questions to self-assess how you're doing as a leader.
They build trust that leads to business outcomes.
Let's face it, if you are considering developing leaders, trust is a pillar your company's leadership should stand on. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey highlights leadership trusting behaviors that are culturally ingrained in the structures of companies known for high employee engagement, including Whole Foods, Campbell Soup, and Semco.
Among those trusted behaviors are:
- Practicing accountability
- Creating transparency
- Confronting reality
- Clarifying expectations
- Listening first
This is how true leaders interact day-to-day. Imagine the possibilities of leveraging such behaviors to get the best out of your employees. Employee engagement and satisfaction ratings go up, and as a result, your customers will notice a difference.