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What people want in a leader?

Leader sharing a vision

If you are interested in leadership, you may wonder what qualities/capabilities stand out when it comes to being a great leader. What major characteristics and skills do people find most desirable in a great leader?

There are many surveys done with thousands of people around the globe, aiming to find out the answers1, 2, 3. Depending on the composition of the surveyed group, there are substantive differences in people’s responses, but with some key similarities that are listed below in an order of importance.

Integrity, values and ethics

People want their leaders to demonstrate strong values and uphold high ethical standards, so they can count on their leaders to do the right thing no matter what. Be selfless and put the team’s interests first. Take responsibility for their decisions and the team’s actions.

Direction and strategy

People love to work for visionary leaders who set audacious but attainable goals while acting strategically. Explain the goals and the reasons behind your goals to the team to ensure that they understand them clearly. Seek honest feedbacks from the team- keep an open-door policy for comments and observations. Validate and fine tune your goals along the way. Pivot when needed.

Fairness and credibility

Team members may have different growth trajectories, with some being steeper than others. Do not systematically undervalue the people with a slower growth trajectory who actually contribute significantly. People admire their leaders with a high degree of competence, expertise and experience. Nobody knows everything. Leaders need to be avid learners and willing to work as hard or harder than anyone else. In the meantime, they pass on their knowledge and experience to the team to invest in their ongoing personal development.

Inspiring and empowering others

It’s better to encourage people to debate than direct, to push people to decide than being the decider, to persuade than give orders. To foster a work environment that values inclusivity and acceptance of the ideas of others, is critical to the team’s growth. Inspire your team to think out of the box and empower them to go beyond their limits.  

At the end of the day, set the right example for your team to follow.It goes a long way toward gaining your team’s trust and loyalty.

1. The State of Leadership Development Report
2. The Robert Half Survey
3. The Training Industry Surveys

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