What Employees Want in a Leader: Exploring the Most In-Demand Leadership Skills

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By now, most of us are familiar with the bad leader trope. Shows and movies like The Office and Horrible Bosses parody the worst possible qualities a boss could have, some of which may ring true to life. These so-called leaders lack empathy, fail at communicating, speak rashly, micromanage, and unwittingly abuse their employees. As a result, their employees become bitter, resentful, indifferent, or too distracted to do a good job.

While we clearly see what makes for poor leadership, it’s a bit less clear to discern what employees truly want in their leaders. Interestingly enough, we can find these answers by looking at the inverse behavior of these awful fictional bosses. The best leaders exhibit qualities that actually encourage employees to work harder. Let’s examine why by looking at five of the most in-demand leadership skills.

Honesty

A good leader shouldn’t lie to or hide things from his/her employees. There are of course exceptions when it comes to confidential information. But in general, leaders must be as transparent as possible. This means giving honest feedback to staff, admitting mistakes when they occur, and letting everyone in on new goals, developments, and challenges. Any HR business consultant can tell you that a leader who exhibits honesty will encourage honesty in employees, creating an open atmosphere where problems aren’t bottled up to fester and burst.

Responsiveness

Like honesty, responsiveness involves maintaining a clear line of communication between leaders and employees. Leaders must be able and willing to hear concerns and criticism from employees and then act on them. Bad leaders always think they’re in the right and scoff at negative feedback while doling it out. Good leaders accept any and all feedback and take action to resolve problems, whether or not they’re responsible for them to begin with. When employees see that their leaders truly listen to them, they’ll want to listen to their leaders as well.

Clear Instructions and Feedback

When consulting a business advisor to improve your company’s operations, they’ll probably indicate the importance of clarity. Clear instructions and guidelines help everyone do their job better. There should always be some flexibility, of course. But overall, employees will work harder and do a better job if they know exactly what they’re doing and why. If things aren’t completely clear or someone makes a mistake, they should also receive descriptive and constructive criticism to prevent these errors in the future. The best leaders train their employees with precise, coherent instructions, giving them helpful tips, corrections, and methods along the way.

Trust and Independence

If a leader has displayed honesty and trained his/her people well, employees should be trusted to do their job with little interference. According to business consulting services and employees, micromanagement is one of the least helpful and most annoying methods of leadership to deal with. Whether employees work in teams or alone, they want to be left to their work and trusted to do it well. If they have questions, they should feel comfortable enough to approach their leaders. Leaders should trust their people enough to not have to check in every half hour and pull them away from their work.

Passion

Employees want to work for someone who cares, not only about them but about the work being done. Indifference and cynicism can become highly contagious and negatively affect the entire workplace. Likewise, positive energy, devotion, and excitement can spread even faster. Even if not all employees share the same level of passion as their leaders, they will naturally feel better about their work if they encounter this energy. Of course, effective leadership doesn’t mean ignoring bad things when they happen, but remaining positive and seeking solutions rather than dwelling on the negative.

You may notice that the fictional bosses mentioned earlier carry none of these qualities, at least not until the final act. And to be fair, some of these skills can be difficult to hone, which is why executive coaching programs can come in handy. These programs help leaders develop skills such as responsiveness and transparency. Things like passion can’t necessarily be taught, but they can be expressed in helpful ways. Employees will naturally work harder for leaders with these qualities and will develop leadership traits of their own. Leadership Resources provides tools for leaders as they grow to become even better. Contact us here to learn more.

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