Good leadership profoundly affects our lives every day, particularly the workplace.
In fact, data from global firm DDI showed 57% of employees have left a job because of a manager, and an additional 32% of employees have seriously considered leaving a job because of a manager.
On the flip side, human resource and workplace experts tout good leadership as a way to increase retention, and improve employee engagement and satisfaction in a company.
But what are some of the must-have skills of good leaders? Here are five that every good leader cultivates personally and professionally.
1. Fairness and consistency
When good leaders are working with a team, they make sure to implement policies or procedures on an equitable basis. And they’re consistent!
That’s because it’s extremely demoralizing for an employee to be held to standards that their coworkers – or their leader, for that matter – are not held to.
For example, imagine you’re a salaried employee, and you’re told that you must arrive at a certain time every morning. One day you run 10 minutes late, and your supervisor pulls you aside and, more or less, scolds you for missing the first part of a team meeting.
At the same time, though, you know this supervisor takes hours-long, non-business lunches, and they regularly come in late at least two or three times a month. The owner of the company does the same.
How would you feel in that situation?
Good leaders avoid demoralizing employees in this way by only implementing standards that they follow, and that every other leader and employee follows; they don’t allow the rules to change based on the position of the person.
No one can read your mind.
Good leaders understand this fact, and recognize that associates and employees need to understand the expectations of their roles, as well as if they’re meeting them, exceeding them, or need to improve in certain areas.
A leader provides this by having timely discussions with each employee. This might look like informal monthly meetings or more formal performance reviews. However, if a company only does performance reviews once a year, it’s important the leader also provides positive (and constructive) feedback on a regular basis.
Another way good leaders communicate in the workplace is by helping employees understand the state of the company or organization.
This means exercising transparency, even in difficult times such as a worldwide pandemic. In our work, particularly with Ethics In Business, we’ve seen clients practice transparency by providing employees with quarterly reports or having a company-wide yearly presentation that offers details about the company’s financials, current projects, and other relevant details that can all too easily fall through the cracks.
A good leader remembers that it’s important to be positive in their approach to the people on their team. This means regularly encouraging associates to do their best and to improve their skills — not just providing feedback when things go wrong.
Not only does this add value to their lives and improve the leader’s relationship with employees, it also benefits the organization as a whole by improving retention and productivity.
That’s because over the course of a career, 79% of employees will quit due to a lack of appreciation. And 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized.
But the recognition doesn’t have to be a huge party or a custom banner congratulating an employee. In fact, it can be as simple as a specific thank you for work done on a project, or a shout-out to an employee during the next company meeting. Frequent small gestures go a long way — more than many people realize.
4. A learning and personal growth mindset
A good leader invests time in a regular evaluation of their skills. This includes giving themselves credit for the areas they do well but also being willing to seek assistance when they need to improve or address certain leadership skills.
In our work, one of the best ways we’ve found to gauge areas for improvement is through an anonymous, 360-degree survey.
These assessments gather feedback from different sources such as peers, employees, project team members, employees in other departments, supervisors, subordinates, and occasionally even clients or vendors. Each person taking the survey has an opportunity to respond anonymously to questions about the leader’s character and personal attributes, team skills, management skills and, of course, leadership.
The result is a comprehensive report that provides developmental insights and unvarnished feedback to help a leader grow.
5. Handling conflict well.
Even the best leaders experience conflict. But they know how to address tough issues, resolve the conflict and maintain positive working relationships without antagonizing employees.
On the flip side, non-confrontational, passive or passive-aggressive leadership creates a toxic and demoralizing organization.
Because if a leader’s employees don’t trust the leader to handle an internal or external conflict situation well, their relationship with the leader — and their work — will suffer.
Take, for example, a company experiencing internal disagreements between the marketing and customer service teams.
If the leader ignores the problem rather than assisting in a healthy resolution, the issue will likely continue to escalate.
The departments will grow farther apart, and hostile relationships may even develop. And if the leader routinely sides with one team, the other team may eventually shut down, withdraw or give up, leading to a further loss in productivity and employee satisfaction. And all of this could have been avoided if the leader stepped in to assist in healthy conflict resolution rather than sidestepping the issue.
A skill to learn
Leadership skills are key to creating healthy and productive workplaces. A good leader’s work can set the tone for an organization, increase productivity, and improve employee engagement and retention.
It may not be easy, but it is possible for every manager, supervisor, boss, and business owner to pursue and cultivate the skills of a good leader. It’s never too late to start, and it can make all the difference in your company’s environment.