Over the years, I've witnessed some atrocious examples of leadership both as a member of executive teams in former companies as well as coaching executives to be more effective since going out on my own.
A few that typically float to the top may send good people packing for greener pastures. Case in point:
- Politically-charged executive teams with each person pulling in a different direction with an opposing agenda. Who end up suffering? The employees.
- Managers who display overconfidence...wait, let me rephrase that...unfettered arrogance that rub people off the wrong way.
- Managers who appear checked out physically, mentally, or both. They hide behind closed doors to avoid personal interaction and are conveniently "busy" at crucial times.
These unhealthy characteristics (and so many more) are far off the path of the type of leader employees will enthusiastically follow.
However, the good far outweighs the bad and the ugly. Let me highlight five positive behaviors of the most respected and likable leaders. If you work for such a leader, it may be that one saving grace that you should not quit your job.
1. Not afraid of being wrong.
Great leaders take a stand not because they think they're always right, and use that to push their weight around, but because they aren't afraid of being wrong!
This takes a level of rarefied authenticity. The cocky and conceited leader that proclaims his position, and disregards differing opinions or points of view, is a leader that will have few followers, mostly out of intimidation.
Typically they know they're right -- and they need you to know it too. This type of behavior does not signify confidence; it's the sign of an intellectual bully.
On the flip side, great leaders with loyal followers are secure enough to back down graciously when being proven wrong. To them, it's more important to find out what is right than being right.
They will often admit when they're wrong, when they make a mistake, or when they don't have all the answers. Intellectual bullies? Rarely the case.
2. Listening more than speaking.
Want to hear an insecure leader at work? Easy, just listen to their bragging--a mask for their insecurity. Confident leaders are unassuming and know what they think; they want to know what you think.
Practically speaking, great leaders allow their followers the freedom to think and be part of the conversation; they ask curious questions, lots of questions: how something is done, what you (the employee) like about it, what you learned from it... and what you need in order to be better, more productive, more efficient, etc.
Great leaders with loyal followers realize they know a lot, and seek to know even more. And they know the way to do that is to listen more.
3. Fostering a culture of respect.
If there's one toxic organizational pattern I've seen that will ultimately derail a team, it's unrestrained gossip. Its damaging effects in the workplace include lost productivity and wasted time; divisiveness among employees; and morale and trust that are eroded over time.
This is where a leader with a backbone of integrity will step in and say, "This stops here and now." It's a leader with a vision for fostering a positive work culture where respect, collaboration, and teamwork protect against toxic behaviors such as gossip, backstabbing, and bullying.
On a personal and peer level, this leader practices what he preaches by steering clear of gossip, or the need to speak badly of others in order to make themselves appear better by comparison. His only concern is to be a better person tomorrow than he was yesterday.
4. Giving people the credit they deserve.
Here's a scenario that may look familiar.The development team designs a wonderful new technology. The client is positively geeked with joy about how much money and time this new system will save them.
And then it happens: The manager or executive steals the spotlight and takes all the credit for the work. No praise for the team, no celebration of everyone's success, no recognition of team members for their contributions. When that happens, you can be almost certain that team morale will plummet to new depths.
Great leaders with loyal followers don't need the glory or seek validation; they understand what they've achieved. They shine the spotlight on others, then stand back and celebrate their accomplishments, which helps boost the confidence and trust of others.
5. Displaying a confident humility.
Confident and humble leaders have a loyal following because they're not afraid to seek advice or input that will keep them on track and move them in the right direction.
These leaders have positional authority but don't wield it through power and control over people and decisions; instead, their humility allows for team members to take ownership and feel like they're invested in the business in an entrepreneurial way.
This confidently humble leader breeds honesty, will always admit their mistakes, and won't mind occasionally "looking bad."
In fact, their humble confidence may even allow themselves to be the source of other people's jokes at their expense, because they know that when you're real and unpretentious, and occasionally let your guard down to connect with others, people don't laugh at you; they laugh with you.