The 7 Expectations of Great Leadership
Doing these seven things well can be the difference between being an average leader and an exceptional leader.
Great leaders above all need a keen sense of awareness. Awareness of their strengths and the strengths of their team members and how to leverage those strengths to get where they want to go.
To produce long-lasting results, all leaders need a fresh look at the behaviors that actually contribute to performance, development, and success. Among these are being able to do seven things really well: build relationships, develop people, lead change, inspire others, think critically, communicate clearly, and create accountability.(1)
Building mutually-beneficial relationships
The stereo-typical idea of a leader is someone who can do it all on their own. But this couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to exceptional leadership. Great leaders accomplish goals by enabling their teams to be great. Leaders cannot exist without a group of people who are being led, which is why building relationships is the number one hallmark of a great leader. Connecting to people rather than with people is essential. Great leaders seek to really know their people for who they are rather than what’s in it for them. When that basic level of trust is established then the relationships are mutually-beneficial.
Developing the people you lead
As a leader, you are most certainly responsible for helping the people you lead become a little better every day. This is not in most common conversations about leadership but, if your people don’t feel like they’re given the opportunity to grow, they’ll leave. Leaders need to put this near the top of their priorities because an organization cannot grow if its people aren’t growing. Development can, and should, be constant for great leadership.
Leading through change
Most human beings don’t like change but exceptional leaders can get around this because much of the job as a leader is about pushing people through things they don’t like. The key is to empower people to take ownership—this way people feel invested and like they are growing (see above). And, no matter what is happening in the world outside of the organization, great leaders keep moving forward, and ensuring that the purpose, mission and vision remain the same.
Inspiring the organization
While inspiring people may seem like a “soft skill” it’s actually a critical part of great leadership. Leaders should provide inspiration so that others can find greater meaning in a vision or purpose. Without meaning, and without connecting inspiration to the individuals who follow you, you’ll find that those who follow will have a difficult time committing themselves to the greater purpose. This helps people see that every little thing they do matters.
Making no decision is actually a decision and is the worst type of decision a leader can make. Leaders must make decisions and executive those decisions. Even an incorrect decision is better than no decision at all. Critical decision-making is a top skill of exceptional leaders. Evaluating plans, understanding risk, organizing thoughts and creating action steps requires leaders to bring their whole selves and think critically. Success requires establishing an aim and devising a comprehensive, multifaceted approach to achieving it. Confidence in decision-making is another way great leaders establish trust among their people. Once a decision is made a great leader commits themselves and is ready to execute that decision.
Communicating clearly and concisely
Exceptional leadership is not just about communicating in the way that’s best for you, it’s also about learning how others communicate and meeting them at their level. Share information and ideas that matter—you’ll need to convey compelling information that leads to more informed actions and decision-making. And don’t think of communication just as telling your followers things. Clear communication also involves sharing information, asking questions, listening, and brainstorming.
Creating an environment of accountability
People expect their leaders to be accountable. . But as a leader, you also expect your people to be just as accountable. A culture of accountability however starts with you. In practice, this may look like openly committing to initiatives, plans or ideas so that everyone knows what you’re responsible for. It may also include you apologizing to those you lead when you drop the ball in a significant way. Accountability creates a better environment for your followers and allows them opportunities to become more efficient and creative through their own responsibilities.
Do you agree with these seven expectations people have of great leaders?
- Effective Leadership: How to Be a Better Leader, Gallup Leadership Report, January 2022.