There are certain behaviors a leader can do that makes them more effective.
Leadership behaviors are actions that leaders take during their everyday duties.
One reason we have many toxic cultures and workplaces, one reason we have such a low engagement from employees, is that many leaders’ behaviors are negative.
Instead of building up, instead of helping their team to progress and move forward, it tears them down.
What leadership behaviors should a leader exhibit?
In this article, we discuss 21 leadership behaviors effective leaders do.
Table of Contents
1. Listen well
Every leader should be a great listener.
Sometimes when leaders get degrees or they gain their position, they get arrogant. They think they know better because of their position or degree. They don’t listen well to those around and under them.
This is a problem.
No one knows everything. No individual is as smart as a group of thinkers. When you don’t listen, you miss out on ideas, potential holes and pitfalls in your plan, and valuable input that could help propel your mission forward.
Listening is a vital behavior when it comes to leadership.
It also shows your employees that you care. One major complaint of many employees is that they feel like their suggestions and voice is not heard. No one listens or cares.
When you take the time to listen to your employees and act on what you can, it helps build a culture of trust and loyalty (and you get some great ideas you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise).Listening is a vital behavior when it comes to leadership. ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet
2. Empower others
As a leader, you should empower your team to do their job. Give them autonomy. Give them support. Give them a sense of control and purpose.
Listen to them and their ideas and implement those that could work. Listen to feedback and disagreement.
Give them decision-making power to fix the issues they face.
When you empower your team, you help create an environment of engaged and motivated workers who are loyal, supportive, and who work hard to make things happen.
3. Develop others
Leaders should be developing their teams and future leaders.
In fact, Simon Sinek in his book The Infinite Game states that one of the primary roles of a leader is to develop new leaders.
As a leader, you should be helping your team grow and reach their full potential. You should be doing this for a couple of reasons:
First, it’s the right thing to do. As a leader, you should care about your team and their success. You should have that desire to help your team be their best.
Second, it benefits the organization in the long run. When you develop your people to be their best, they perform better at their jobs, which increases employee productivity and output. It can also increase their morale and motivation toward you as the leader and the organization.
You also should be developing new leaders. Succession is incredibly important.
If, when you leave, everything falls apart because of a leadership gap, can you really say you were successful as a leader?
Good leaders develop future leaders. Their goal is for the organization to keep going well when they are long gone.
It’s also good for the organization as a whole. The more good leaders you have, the better the organization will run.
Take time to coach, mentor, and develop your team and future leaders.Good leaders develop future leaders. ~ Thomas R. Thomas Click To Tweet
4. Communicate clearly
Communication is vital as a leader.
If you feel you’ve communicated something enough, you probably need to do it a few more times.
Too often, leaders hold back information, for whatever reason. This can create a lack of trust, uncertainty, and confusion in your team.
Sometimes, when events happen and you don’t communicate about them, people will communicate, but it will be their version (which usually isn’t pretty).
Good communication also saves the company a lot of money and employees a lot of time and frustration.
When expectations aren’t communicated clearly, people end up wasting time redoing tasks that could have been done well the first time if they just had been communicated well.
Communicate consistently, clearly, and concisely. Don’t try to look smart with big words or the way you say them.
State it plainly. Be open about what’s going on and be clear about expectations.
5. Cast vision
Leaders cast vision.
They set a direction, a purpose, and a goal for their team, and then they lead their team to the goal.
Without a vision, there is no direction.
In fact, John Maxwell says:
“Vision is critical to good leadership. I have yet to meet a great leader who lacks vision.” (Good Leaders Ask Great Questions)
Vision, purpose, unifies. It destroys silos. It helps keep everyone on the same page.
As a leader, you need to give your people direction by setting goals and casting a vision.A good vision helps people see a purpose in their work. ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet
6. Direct and Guide
Leaders guide their team/employees toward a goal.
Leaders give direction and lead their teams in that direction.
Without direction, people wander. One thinks this is important, another something else, and the team goes in different directions.
Silos and conflict happen because of a lack of clear purpose or direction.
As a leader, you need to be clear about your goal or purpose and guide your team to it. Help your team see the big picture and how their work impacts the big picture. Help them set goals toward the ultimate goal.
Prioritize and help them prioritize what’s important. Help them see they are all one team moving toward the same goal, working together to accomplish it.
7. Model behaviors
Leaders model the behaviors they want to see.
Sometimes, some leaders do the “do as I say, not as I do” routine. Just like with kids, this doesn’t work.
As a leader, you need to model what you want to see from your employees. If you want them to passionately chase after your purpose and live your company’s values, you need to do that yourself first.
If you want your people to act with urgency, you need to act with urgency.
If you want people to communicate openly, give feedback, disagree, and so on, you need to model doing it and receiving it as well.
Whatever behaviors you want from your team, you need to model them first.
If you just say “Do this” but you don’t, the chances of them doing it or doing it well is not high.
8. Make timely decisions
Leaders should be decisive.
When it’s time to make a decision as a leader, you need to make a decision.
There are times to research, listen to input from others, and analyze – and there is also time to decide.
You need to ask yourself, “What is the cost of NOT deciding? What is the cost of waiting to decide?”
Sometimes leaders delay decision-making because they want to be 100% sure or because they fear making a mistake or being wrong.
The fact is, you rarely if ever will know 100% the result of a decision – it’s all probabilities. You are going to be wrong sometimes. That’s okay. It’s just part of reality and of the learning process.
Yes, gather whatever information you need to make a good decision, and then make the decision.
Be decisive.A great leader makes timely decisions. ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet
Good leaders collaborate well.
And it’s not just with their team. They collaborate well with other teams and other leaders.
Good leaders aren’t about themselves. They are about the goal, their purpose, their team, and their organization.
They aren’t about making themselves look good. They are about reaching the goal, and they see others as teammates to help them get there.
Other department leaders and departments are part of the team trying to get to that goal.
They share information, help with resources, communicate, and whatever to help each other so they can all effectively reach the goal.Good leaders aren’t about themselves. They are about the goal, their purpose, their team, and their organization. ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet
10. Take ownership
Good leaders take ownership. They take responsibility.
When they mess up, they own it.
When their team doesn’t reach a goal or something happens, they take ultimate responsibility. They know every decision and every action their team takes is ultimately their responsibility.
Some cast blame or make excuses because they don’t want to look bad – but, ironically, it’s the opposite that makes you look bad.
You look weak and pathetic when you blame your team or make excuses for your own failures. You look strong when you own it.
If you want to be an effective leader, be one who takes ownership.
11. Learn constantly
They are always looking to grow and get better.
They know they don’t know everything and are always looking for how to do things better and how to be better themselves.
Good leaders listen to feedback from others, and, in fact, welcome it. They like disagreement because it helps make better ideas and lets them see different viewpoints.
They take the time to learn through books or podcasts or articles or courses or whatever works well for them to learn.
They know if they stop learning, they fall behind.
If you want to be an effective leader, always be learning. Be open to feedback. And grow.
12. Build Influence
Leaders build influence with their team and those around them.
They know that leadership isn’t built on position but on influence.
In fact, John Maxwell stated that “leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”
If you want to be an effective leader, you need to build influence. Leading by position will only get you so far, but if you gain your team’s loyalty and respect, they will follow you anywhere.
Influence is built by caring for your people, developing relationships, caring for them, listening to them, and so on. It’s also partly built through competence.
If you don’t care about your team, it doesn’t matter how much competence you have. If you have absolutely no competence, you won’t do well as a leader either.
It’s better, though, to have high influence and trust and medium/low-medium competence than low trust in anything any day.
13. Act with integrity
Good leaders act with integrity.
They speak the truth and do what is right, even when it is hard. Being unethical and dishonest is just not worth it.
You want people to follow you and trust you. You want to build an environment of trust.
You can’t do that if you aren’t trustworthy yourself.
If people can’t trust what you say or what you do or that you will have their back when you say you will or trust that you will support them, why will they follow you?
And, if you are unethical and lack integrity at work, what kind of people overtime will be working with you? Other unethical and untrustworthy people.
Integrity is important, not only as a leader but in all areas of life.
14. Step back (and see the big picture)
It’s the leader’s job to see the big picture and lead everyone toward it.
As the leader, if you get stuck in the day to day of everyday craziness, then you and your team often will end up doing what is urgent or easy, but not important.
As a leader, you need to take a step back and look at the big picture. What is important and what is not? What should you and your team be focusing on? What is the next step?
When you step back and look, it can give you clarity on what to do next. If you don’t step back, it’s hard to see and lead while in the middle of everything.
15. Prioritize and take action
Leaders look at the big picture, prioritize what is important, and then take action.
It can sometimes be easy to get overwhelmed by everything you must do. Sometimes you have a lot pulling on you from every direction.
And if you aren’t careful, you can get lost in analysis paralysis or focus on the “easy” instead of the “necessary”.
As a leader, you need to step back, see the big picture, and look at what is the most important task or activity that needs to be done first, then act on it.
Prioritize. Take action. Rinse. Repeat.
If you don’t prioritize and try to do everything instead, generally, nothing gets finished or it doesn’t get done well, and it can create a lot more stress.
16. Let go
Leaders have to let go.
They let go of their pride and ego. They are about the team, their mission, and their organization, not themselves.
They let go of their insecurities. They don’t try to do things to prop themselves up or take credit from their team to look good.
They let go of always being right. As a leader, you will never be 100% right. They let go of the desire to do it all themselves. Your job is to lead people to get results, not get results by yourself.
They let go of the unimportant they may love. You may love certain tasks, but if it doesn’t help you move forward, you will likely need to let them go.
They let go of “their way”. Your team will likely do things differently than you. That’s okay. It’s about the end result, not the “way” they do it.
They let go of minor offenses. People may come across you poorly or you might not like the way someone disagrees with you.
Often in these cases, you need to look at the heart of it, what you can learn from it, and, if needed, help coach the team member on how to come across better in the future.
17. Hire well
Leaders hire well.
Some leaders rush to get spots filled – and then they suffer for it.
They end up with a higher turnover, people who are incompetent, people who aren’t trustworthy, and people who don’t fit into the culture well at all.
Then they complain about their team not performing well or they create a bunch of rules to “manage” their team because they hired poorly.
As a leader, you need to take the time to hire well. Choose attitude and culture fit over skills (they can be learned).
Take your time. Do multiple interviews with different people. Check references well.
You never can be 100% sure they are the best fit, but you want to do your best to get as close as you can.
If you rush your hiring process, don’t blame them when you don’t get the results you want. Look in the mirror instead.
18. Take risks and make mistakes
Leaders take calculated risks and don’t fear mistakes.
When you and your team come up with innovative ideas, some will work, and some won’t. That’s just part of it.
When you make decisions, not every decision is going to be right.
Good leaders don’t fear risk. They understand that to move forward, there is always some risk involved and that mistakes are part of it as well.
They don’t let fear of mistakes or insecurity hold them back.
They take risks, make mistakes, learn from them, and keep moving forward.
19. Encourage innovative thinking
Good leaders encourage innovative thinking in their teams.
They encourage them to take risks, try new ideas, and yes, even make mistakes.
Good leaders never make their team fearful of mistakes – they encourage them to push the envelope, try new things, make mistakes, learn from them, then keep moving forward.
When your team fears making mistakes, they stop innovating. When they fear being reprimanded or possibly fired, they will do what is easy instead of what is right, and definitely won’t try anything new that could create a mistake.
An environment like that lacks innovation (and motivation).
Encourage new ideas, encourage risk-taking, encourage people to speak up and disagree, and share feedback.Good leaders are about innovative thinking. ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet
20. Make employees feel safe
Good leaders make their employees feel safe.
Their employees don’t feel they have to walk on eggshells or fear being fired for bringing up negative news.
As a leader, you need to make it safe for your employees to speak up when things aren’t going well. They need to know you support them and have their back and that you care about them and their success.
They need to know you will listen to them and consider their ideas and suggestions.
They need to know that when they make a mistake, you aren’t about finding and punishing them for doing wrong, you are about supporting them and helping them get better.
As Simon Sinek says in his book Leaders Eat Last, when employees feel safe, they then can face outward and face the problems external to the business.
When they don’t feel safe, they are facing inward to protect themselves.
And that’s not good for them, you, or your organization as a whole.
21. Measure what’s important
Leaders measure what’s important.
It doesn’t mean you are measuring everything to make sure that your employees are “doing their job”.
Often, there are general metrics in your organization to show how well it is doing. But you should also be measuring areas related to your goals and purpose.
You may measure the progress of the overall goal, and you may measure the key drivers to get there. You may help your employees measure their progress toward their goals as well.
When something is important, you want to measure it so that you can keep an eye on it and work to make it better when it is failing and push the good when it is doing well.
If something isn’t working, you can recognize it and then adjust.
It can also be a motivation for your employees – a target to hit that they push toward as they press toward their goals.
Final Thoughts on 21 Leadership Behaviors Every Great Leader Do
A leader’s behavior can make or break them.
Negative behaviors destroy morale, cause turnover, and hurt employee productivity.
Positive behaviors increase engagement, commitment, and loyalty. Productivity rises and new ideas grow.
What behaviors do you do well at? What behaviors do you struggle with?
Take time to examine yourself and then take action in the areas you need to grow.
Now to you: Which leadership behavior stuck out to you the most? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below!