Having coached managers at all levels over the years has given me a perspective about the dark side of leadership. I have seen:

  • Politically-charged executive teams, each pulling in different directions with opposing and self-serving agendas.
  • Overconfident leaders-turned-narcissists who destroy human morale. 
  • Unsustainable bravado, swagger, and positional authority in leaders who fail to influence others for the long-term.

I have found that the reason we see these leaders in place, plain and simple, is due to decision-makers continuing to identify and promote the wrong people into leadership roles.

To stop rewarding behaviors that don't advance the principles of positive leadership and emotional intelligence, a contrarian shift must occur.

We have to elevate and celebrate leaders who exemplify the competencies that advance profitable companies, but not at the expense of individual contributors (the people) who help produce a profit. This shift may take years to evolve throughout the generations, but it's what will break the strongholds that keep the pillars of toxic hierarchies standing.

Individual contributors are an integral part of this shift to help reject the status quo. The celebrated leader we should be championing may be right under your roof and, perhaps, someone whom you report to now.

But human nature is unpredictable and people tend to make unwise choices as they navigate their career trajectory.

Before you make a move to another company, think about this.

If you're part of a team or company where people are respected and cared for, bureaucracy is low and agility is high, and teammates are performing and collaborating better than at any other time in your career, but you're considering a move for reasons like more money, status, or responsibilities, I urge you to reconsider.

The reasons for high performing teams and why great work cultures exist have everything to do human-centered leaders that value people first. And these leaders will take their people far beyond where they think they can take themselves, should they choose a more "attractive" route (in their eyes).

I have witnessed many workers leaving a really good career situation only to be lured by a company with promises of "greener grass." Many of them return or ask to have their jobs back once they realize they were once standing on the greener grass in the first place.   

Billionaire Warren Buffett once gave career advice that runs counter to climbing the elusive corporate ladder. He said we should find a company or individual that we truly admire, rather than take other job offers because they look good on your résumé​, or because you get a little higher starting pay.

To Buffett, considering other options to put you in an ideal career position isn't as important as finding an "admirable" leader now--one who can open up doors to opportunities you have yet to imagine. 

Buffett added, "Go to work for whomever you admire the most," because, he says, not only will you be jumping out of bed in the morning and having fun, but also "you can't get a bad result." 

5 signs of a great leader (and why you should not leave your job).

So who are these leaders? Who is admirable and worthy enough of individual contributors re-considering the course of their career paths? 

1. Leaders who are humble.

Humble leaders are a rare breed indeed. They take a stand against a hotly debated issue, 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.

The overconfident leader who proclaims his position and disregards differing opinions or points of view has few followers. Typically they know they're right -- and they need you to know it too. But humble leaders 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 admit mistakes and tell you that they don't have all the answers. 

2. Leaders who shine the spotlight on others.

Leaders worthy of making you reconsider a job change are humble. They don't need the glory or seek validation; they understand what they've achieved. They shine the spotlight on others and give them the credit they deserve. Then they stand back and celebrate their accomplishments, which helps boost the confidence and trust of others.

3. Leaders who operate with integrity at all times.

When leaders work in integrity, you're seeing their character in full view. You don't question who they are or whether they have your best interest in mind (because they always do).

Because their actions are open for everyone to see, you don't worry about whether they're hiding anything from you. Hall of Fame football coach, Tony Dungy, writes in his book, Uncommon: "Integrity, the choice between what's convenient, and what's right." 

4. Leaders who make their employees feel like business partners.

Once you've invested in close relationships and built trust over time, these leaders will let their team members feel like they're invested in the business. They give them ownership and engage their workforce in an entrepreneurial way.

When people take ownership of their work--as if they're business partners--employee satisfaction soars and they become loyal followers.

5. Leaders who reward and recognize those in the trenches with them.

A leader you want to learn from and grow with never flies solo or plays for the name on the back of the jersey. He or she will always acknowledge successes as a team effort.

This leader understands human nature and will make it a priority to recognize people for their hard work, both in public and private, through whatever means necessary.

Individual contributors see such a leader in action not seeking self-glory, but building them up. In turn, they are much more willing to follow this leader.

My question to the individual contributor considering making a change under the guidance of such a leader is an obvious one: is it worth it in the long run?