If you’ve ever had a bad boss, you know what makes a person an ineffective leader. Bosses who undermine, criticize, and micromanage don’t inspire productive employees; in fact, quite the opposite. When a company’s management is toxic, demotivating, or just plain ineffective, that negativity trickles down to every corner of the business. The result? High turnover, low productivity, and vengeful employees.
While bad bosses are easy to spot, it’s harder to pin down the qualities that make someone a great leader. However, the effects are undeniable: Employees who report high levels of trust in leadership invest more into their work performance and are more likely to stick around.
For businesses, it’s clear that good leadership is worth the investment. But what, exactly, makes a good leader?
What Makes a Leader?
Donald McGannon, former head of Westinghouse Broadcasting Company points out that “Leadership is an action, not a position.”
While someone may be appointed to a leadership role, that doesn’t necessarily make that person a leader. A leader is more than the person in charge; a leader is someone who motivates employees to achieve goals and offers guidance to make it happen.
4 Qualities of Effective Business Leaders
Leadership comes naturally to some people. But for most, it’s a skill that’s cultivated through traits like these:
Integrity is the key to earning employees’ respect as a leader. For business leaders, exhibiting integrity means putting the business’s interests over your own, giving credit where credit is due, and approaching decisions with objectivity and fairness in mind.
A leader can’t afford to be a fence-sitter. When problems arise, good leaders deal with them swiftly and decisively. However, that doesn’t mean leaders should be impulsive. Rather, leaders should act quickly to gather information and make sound decisions that keep operations running smoothly.
In order to gather that information, make decisions, and explain their reasoning, leaders also need to be good communicators. Good communicators not only convey information clearly, but they also make employees feel heard when they share their own input.
Passionate leaders are able to get the best out of their employees and encourage them in ways that want to make them achieve, not only for the company, but also for themselves. Passion can be contagious and is a great way to get others moving in the same direction. When someone is passionate about their craft, it can be a highly influential attribute that wears off on others.
Why Investing in Leadership is Always Worthwhile
It’s clear that strong leadership benefits employers. In one survey, investing in leadership development netted a 114% increase in sales, a 71% increase in customer satisfaction and a 70% drop in employee turnover.
However, the benefits don’t stop at the organizational level. Workers who invest in their leadership skills have a lot to gain too.
77% of organizations report a leadership gap as they struggle to find employees who can manage effectively and 89% of executives consider developing their organization’s leadership to be a top priority. That means leadership skills are at a premium in the labor marketplace, and applicants who possess them can negotiate accordingly.
Learn More About Being a Leader in Business
Despite the demand for leadership skills, many businesses today are reluctant to invest in employee training. Around half of all employers consider the development of workforce skills to be the responsibility of employees, not their employers.
As a result, workers have to turn to independent professional development opportunities to cultivate leadership skills. Luckily, there’s no shortage of options for the motivated employee:
- Improve your public speaking and communication skills by joining your local Toastmasters International club.
- Register for leadership and management programs at Harvard.
- Pursue an advanced degree in organizational leadership.
- Search for other leadership training options.
Leaders come in all forms. However, there are some traits that all great leaders have in common. If you want to take on leadership roles in your career, look beyond the next promotion and think about the skills you need to succeed as a leader. While anyone can hold a leadership position, it takes more than a title to propel business forward.
Further Reading Material: The Startup Funding Stages You Should Know as a Business Owner