9 behaviours that leaders we admire have in common

I often ask people to describe the behaviour of great leaders. And I don’t mean famous leaders; I mean leaders that people have been close to in their life – at work or in any similar situation.

I’ve asked people about leadership behaviours for years and the answers I’ve received have been the same in every part of the world I’ve visited.

Bad leaders

Bad leaders are driven by anger, revenge or arrogance, or it might even be inertia dominating a bad leader’s personality. I have met leaders like this. You might have too. We know that they do not have a positive impact on any team or organisation.

Here are nine behaviours that the leaders we admire have in common; and all points have been made again and again by people I have met and worked with.

  1. The best leaders make you feel included in the work that is being doneand you know that your support and engagement is acknowledged. Great leaders give you feedback and also share positive feedback about you in public. Poor leaders do the opposite. They make you feel excluded, unsupported and share negative feedback in public.
  2. Leaders we love freely share their knowledge and do not withhold important information. If anyone has a question they recognise the question and give a respectful answer. When someone does not share knowledge or makes somebody else feel stupid because they do not understand, this is bullying behaviour, and it sucks.
  3. Quick responses to emails are appreciated and show that leaders are quick to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to requests and that they will not make you wait for a decision or advice. Quick and effective communication is a way of sharing power. Delaying an answer can be a way of misusing power.
  4. People often tell me that the best leaders they have worked with are pioneers; they are curious and explore innovative ways of working. It’s inspiring to be around people who explore new possibilities.
  5. Leaders that we love to work with know how to manage human energyand they let everyone be heard on a regular basis. To do this requires structure and listening skills, and people who are bad leaders are often bad listeners and are scared of structure.
  6. Leaders we admire are also great at managing people’s new ideas. They know that it takes time for new ideas to grow and develop and they help people to feel good about trying new things. In an organisation that is dominated by a blame culture you will feel like the most unsuccessful person on earth if your new idea doesn’t work out as planned. Leaders we love know that people with a different perspective might come up with the best solution to a problem being faced.
  7. We love to work with leaders who support us even when things feel a bit wobbly. Office politics can make us feel insecure – leaders we love to work with will stand behind us even on a stormy day.
  8. Being fair is a behaviour that many people mention as important.Inspiring leaders have a sense of what is fair and what will benefit the whole team. It takes great communication skills to be a fair leader, and you have to explain why you do what you do – it’s about being honest with your intentions and clearly explaining them to your team.
  9. Two words that support great leadership are ‘thank you’ – a phrase that bad leaders seldom use. Better to say ‘thank you’ too often than too seldom.
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Basic human needs

Feeling valued and included are two basic human needs that great leaders satisfy in us. When you feel as though nobody is listening to you and you are not part of something bigger, you stop engaging and contributing. For everyone it’s important to be engaged in something and to feel that you contribute and this will make you feel part of something bigger.

Follow other great leaders

Another thought I have about great leaders is that they in their turn have followed other great leaders. So, honour the skills you learn from the leaders you love working with and behave the same way towards the people you have around you as the leaders you admire behave towards you.

Pass on your leadership skills to others. Leadership in action can be powerful.

Always aim for better communication

In all organisations, cities, countries and families, in fact in any kind of situation that unites people, there will be communication issues. All human beings can improve their communication skills in different ways. Leaders who are aware of this are more humble and make sure that people really understand their message.

Unfortunately, there are many leaders who lead by aggression and rage. They are not healthy leaders and they will not help the people and organisation they lead to flourish.

Learn, share and influence

We must do our best to prevent bad leaders from stealing power from us. You can learn new leadership skills from the people you meet and work with – both what to do and what not to do – and remember that your leadership behaviour influences the network of people you have around you.

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Thank you for reading.

Sofie Sandell

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Sofie Sandell is a professional speaker and the author of the book Digital Leadership – you can download a free PDF on here or buy a hard copy or Kindle on Amazon.

Sofie Sandell portrait

Photographer Katja Rangstam