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There are no shortage of books and articles on leadership styles and techniques, containing multiple different styles and techniques for leading people and groups. After reading a variety of articles and books on this topic, I noticed common themes that leadership experts such as Simon Sinek, John Kotter, John Maxwell and Daniel Pink, as well as prominent psychologists such as Sherry Turkle are aligned on.
While this is not an exhaustive list of leadership traits, some common themes experts have stressed are that:
- Good Leaders Know how to Listen
In the 2016 article, Listening is an Overlooked Leadership Tool by Melissa Daimler, Harvard Business Review shared the importance of listening. This article cites a variety of studies, as well as advice from prominent leaders and experts like psychologist and author, Sherry Turkle as well as the owner and co-chief visionary officer of Clif Bar & Company, Kit Crawford. The takeaway? Attentive listening can be hard, but good leaders need to become proficient and active listeners in order to understand and inspire their teams.
- Good Leaders Foster Communication
Sherry Turkle also talked about the importance of open communication in the workplace in an interview with HR Today. She explained that “Workers at companies that encourage conversations are more productive. They’re happier, too." But, she also noted that many organizations rely heavily on text-based tools such as texting and Slack. While these tools can be effective helpers for task completion, a good leader will understand that they are not a substitute for face-to-face interaction. It is up to the leader to engage their team and create a space for conversation.
- Good Leaders Create Space for Growth
In his 2014 TED Talk, Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe, Simon Sinek explains that in order for people to thrive, they need to feel safe before they can be creative. While organizations cannot always control external forces that might create stress for their staff, they can impact the working environment for their people. He explained that “When a leader makes the choice to put the safety and lives of the people inside the organization first, to sacrifice their comforts and sacrifice tangible results so that the people remain and feel safe and feel like they belong, remarkable things happen.”
Safe spaces create room for employee growth, thus resulting in teams that can master their craft, resulting in greater motivation and efficiency.
- Good Leaders Understand Motivation
The good leader who creates the safe space for their employees will also understand what drives people to succeed. In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates us, leadership expert and author, Daniel H. Pink, outlined how mastery, autonomy and purpose are key drivers for human motivation.
By taking the time to understand each of your employees and what motivates them, then adapting your leadership style for different people, it can help you to set up an environment that supports both the success of your people and the success of your organization.
- Good Leaders Adapt Their Style
There is a clear divide between management and leadership: management is process driven, while leadership is people driven. A good leader understands motivations and drivers, as well as how much direction people need to perform their job successfully.
Newer junior employees may require specific task-oriented coaching, mid-level staff with a few years’ experience may seek ongoing mentorship and occasional feedback, while long-term staff who have mastered their craft may simply need an open-door policy where they know they can come to you for advice or support if they need it.
Furthermore, adaptive leaders understand that while one of their roles is to help their people to grow and succeed, they too need to learn, develop and hone their leadership skills. This adaptive leadership style is supported by prominent management experts such as Daniel H. Pink, John Kotter, and John Maxwell.
For more information on leading motivated teams, listen to our Strategy and Leadership Podcast episode where we interview Jeremy Bailey, the Creative Director of FreshBooks.
Why does good leadership matter?
When leaders are in tune with their teams, actively listening, communicating, and understanding their people, the organization will have a better chance at success. Through utilizing these techniques, leaders increase the chance that their teams will buy-in to the organization's strategic plan, actively engage with their work, and successfully follow through on projects.
Are you leading your team through the Strategic Planning Process?