“There are no bad teams, only bad leaders,” explains former Navy SEAL and best-selling author Jocko Willink. Without the right preparation, experience, and leadership behaviors, executives and managers won’t understand what it takes to lead a team. This creates a cycle of failure, eventually causing a business to shut its doors.
Unfortunately, far too many struggle to learn how to guide their teams, motivate others, and drive the results that help their organizations. According to studies from McKinsey and Company, only 29 percent of U.S. leaders feel like their organizations adequately support people who rise to new leadership roles. This is reflected by the fact that 74 percent of U.S. leaders feel they aren’t prepared to take on their role as a leader. The distressing statistics point to significant problems down the line.
To put it bluntly, organizations need effective leaders to thrive, and those leaders need to deploy leadership attitudes that get results. All transformational companies like Apple, Google, and Netflix adopt and teach these leadership qualities to experience long-term success.
- What leadership behaviors are
- Which leadership skills you need to drive impact in your business
- How to inspire your team through great leadership
What Is Leadership Behavior?
Leadership behavior consists of a leader’s actions, values, and characteristics that dictate how effectively they work with those on their team. Leadership behaviors determine how they guide others to reach goals and improve themselves. Sometimes, the behaviors of a leader are innate, but most of the time, a leader must learn which behaviors get the best results through experience and training.
Leadership behaviors are different from management behaviors in that the goal is to motivate and inspire others toward an aspirational vision. How a leader behaves around others goes a long way in measuring their influence on team members. A leader who constantly bosses others around and tries to push their authority onto others will likely receive a negative reaction. The key difference that between a good leader vs. boss is that a leader who shows effective leadership skills will influence others positively. This produces increased job satisfaction, higher engagement rates, greater profitability, and more effective leaders at every level within the company.
The Top 8 Leadership Behaviors (With Examples)
The top leadership behaviors those who are given leadership responsibilities should practice and master are:
- Being a proactive strategic thinker
- Focusing on accomplishing a big vision
- Serving as a motivational force for others
- Leading the way by setting a strong example
- Practicing daily habits
- Creating a sense of belonging for group members
- Acting as a servant leader
- Purposefully increasing emotional intelligence
Learn more about how to implement each of these below.
1. Thinking Strategically
A strategic plan of action isn’t just for military leaders. Whether you’re laying out a battle plan, setting ambitious business goals, or even leading a country, good leaders always have a strategic mindset. The behaviors of a leader should revolve around a high level of strategy, always considering the long-term future. Those who practice strategic leadership keep the overall vision close to heart while planning out every step along the way.
Jeff Bezos of Amazon is just one example of a leader who has kept a strategic mindset. While Amazon may be known for its online shopping and delivery service, Bezos made sure to branch out from there, using the company’s considerable resources to fund other projects and ventures. Many of these projects required serious investments that ate into the company’s profits, but Bezos kept his long-term vision in mind. While not every investment paid off, several have shown impressive results, such as movie and television production with Amazon Prime, cloud services with Amazon Web Services, and even space flight with Blue Origin.
How to be a strategic thinker:
- Promote innovation: Don’t just assume that the way things are is the way things ought to be. Encourage innovative thinking from every member of your team. Ask for feedback, suggestions, and ideas. In this way, you’ll find new uses for technology, new services, and better ways to help your customers.
- Seek learning opportunities: Your strategies won’t appear out of thin air. They’ll come from the things you learn. Take the time every day to explore new subjects and learn more about what’s happening in the world.
- Develop new skills: At the same time, strategic thinkers should always look for new skills they can develop to round out their existing skillset.
- Analyze and refine progress: No strategy is perfect the first time out. Make sure you step back to analyze how your strategy is doing and make necessary changes.
- Set ambitious goals: Every strategy should have a goal in mind. Without goals, it becomes nearly impossible to measure progress. Always set ambitious goals that will make you stretch to achieve them.
2. Seeing the Big Picture
As Warren G. Bennis puts it, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” From Martin Luther King, Jr. to Walt Disney, great leaders are also great visionaries. They not only have a vibrant vision of a better future, but they’re also able to paint it so that others may understand and follow it. Their leadership behaviors reflect they know what’s important and what isn’t. As they look to their vision, that focus on the goals, actions, thoughts, and values that will help them and others achieve the big picture. These successful leaders live by a vision statement, which helps them strategically plan for the future.
Elon Musk is one such visionary leader who believed in a vision of electric cars filling roads worldwide. Through this vision, he has brought Tesla vehicles to millions of consumers and even developed the Tesla Gigafactory, which could revolutionize manufacturing in all sorts of industries. By following a vision, Musk has reached some impressive achievements.
How to create your own vision:
- Ask deep questions, such as what your future looks like.
- Focus on an issue or problem that fires you up.
- Think of solutions to that problem.
- Refine and expand your vision so you can communicate it with others.
- Spend time every day in prayer so that your vision aligns with God’s vision for you.
- Reverse-engineer your vision to create a plan.
- Stay flexible as your vision grows and evolves over time.
3. Inspiring and Motivating Others
With a vision in mind, successful leaders can then reach out to inspire others and motivate them to action. Some leaders may inspire their followers to be more like them or take on some of their leadership traits.
For example, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership attitude inspired millions of people. He remained positive and optimistic for a better future, all while seeking to right the wrongs so many experienced in daily life. Leaders who can motivate others with team leadership skills will quickly find large groups of followers willing to overcome the most difficult challenges to reach their goals.
How to inspire and motivate your team:
- Cast an inspiring vision: When team members know what they’re working toward, they’ll have extra motivation to put in the effort. Make sure to practice inspiring leadership to keep your team morale and productivity levels high.
- Give them challenges: Easy work doesn’t always translate into an engaged team. Keep challenging them to do better, and they’ll respond with their best work.
- Create a safe environment: Make sure that you create an environment where team members feel comfortable taking risks. You can do this by making the cost of success high while keeping the cost of failure low.
- Speak to their greatness: See the potential of your team members and keep telling them what they can become. If employees know they’re destined for great things, they’ll feel more driven to elevate their accomplishments.
- Move past shortcomings: It can be easy to dwell on failure and weaknesses. Encourage others to learn from them and quickly move past them when they inevitably happen.
4. Leading by Example
Anyone can talk about doing great things. However, an effective leader is someone who actually goes out and does it. As John Maxwell says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Effective leaders set an example for others to follow. If all a leader does is talk without following through on what they say, people will quickly notice and correctly point out that the leader is hypocritical.
Indeed, the old saying of actions speaking louder than words holds true in every situation. It’s not enough for leaders to point their team in the right direction. They need to blaze the trail and clear the path for others. That is, after all, what leading means. And setting a good example doesn’t require grand gestures or enormous displays. Often, it’s the little actions and behaviors that employees notice.
One famous example is Walt Disney picking up trash on his way to a board meeting in full view of other executive leaders. Upon seeing this, the executives began doing the same, to the point where even today, all Disney employees, from the top on down, are expected to keep Disney parks clean.
Another example of a leader ensuring their actions reflect upon their organization’s core values is Melissa Reiff, the CEO of The Container Store. Her organization promotes servant leadership, communication, and transparency. Reiff sets the example by making sure every employee knows everything happening within the company. Workers can access meeting notes for every meeting, and leadership is diligent in communicating with employees about the latest updates. It’s an example every employee can follow since leadership shows that way.
5. Following Strong Habits
In the words of Sean Covey, “We become what we repeatedly do.” No leader wakes up one morning suddenly deciding to become a good leader. It takes years of following strong habits for leaders to gain the skills and behaviors needed to lead others.
Think of great leaders as investors. They invest their time and efforts into developing the habits that lead them to success.
Many successful leaders have gained reputations of being creatures of habit. Warren Buffett takes the time to read the newspaper every morning, front to back. Elon Musk takes a long shower every day as a way to clear his mind and think of innovative ideas. For them, they’ve found habits that work and have stuck to them.
If you want to reach your goals as a leader, you need to adopt the right habits that lead to action. John Maxwell explains the process, saying, “A dream becomes a reality as a result of your actions, and your actions are controlled, to a large extent, by your habits.” Without the right habits in place, your chances of success diminish significantly.
How to develop good habits:
- Practice habit stacking: This strategy comes from James Clear in Atomic Habits. The idea is to stack one good habit on top of another one. Connect a habit you want to adopt with one you already have. For example, reading up on the latest news with your usual cup of coffee in the morning.
- Create a system: While many may want to focus on goals, your focus should be on the system that will help you achieve the goal. Refine that system as you progress.
- Connect rewards with habits: Reward yourself as you develop new beneficial habits. This can give you added incentive to create the habit in the first place.
- Know who you are: Once you have a clear view of your identity, you can determine not only what habits you want to adopt but what might keep you from adopting them. This allows you to address obstacles and weaknesses right from the start.
6. Cultivating Community
Company culture must be something that you address directly in order to develop good leadership traits. Be intentional about how you address it. Culture affects every part of an organization, so don’t ignore its importance. Simon Sinek explains that “Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything for better or for worse.” If employees feel like leaders support them, they’ll do their best work and stick around.
As the CEO of TDIndustries, Harold MacDowell works to sustain an environment that supports everyone. The business strives to keep everyone employed and reflect company values, including producing excellent work and protecting the safety of workers. The importance of the company’s culture has even led MacDowell to reject buy-out offers out of concern that a larger corporation would ruin what TDIndustries has built.
How to cultivate a positive culture:
- Make good hires that fit the culture you’re promoting.
- Set up leadership programs and initiatives. This will help in multiplying leaders.
- Provide mentorship and feedback opportunities.
- Break down silos between teams.
- Acknowledge and recognize strong employee performance.
- Foster an employee environment where everyone feels welcomed and included.
- Ensure the organization reflects the company’s core values.
7. Being Less Interested in Authority and More Interested in Serving
Someone who wants to rise to a position of leadership so they can tell others what to do will not be a good leader. Such people will only get their team to act out of fear, not out of belief in a vision. True leadership comes from being a servant to those you are to lead. Servant leaders look to influence others positively, helping them achieve their goals while becoming leaders themselves. Those who want to serve rather than dominate will find more followers and more fulfillment in their jobs.
Cheryl Bachelder, the CEO of Popeyes, has openly talked about how her servant leadership style helped turn around the company. Part of her strategy included going on a listening tour. This involved listening to stakeholders, customers, restaurant owners, managers, and employees to find out what the company needed to change. Bachelder even spent time mentoring employees so they would be prepared for leadership roles in the future. This approach helped bring Popeyes back from the brink of bankruptcy.
How to be a servant leader:
- Reflect a servant mentality in your company’s mission statement.
- Hire those who believe in that mission.
- Look for ways to help others in your community.
- Create an environment where team members are encouraged to learn and grow.
- Introduce classes and opportunities for people to learn how to be leaders.
8. Increasing Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence (EI) is an often overlooked but crucial aspect of being a good leader. An emotionally intelligent leader is someone who can understand emotions in themselves and others. They’re also able to regulate their emotions and use them to achieve great things.
When leaders focus on improving emotional intelligence, good results happen. For example, when Motorola put employees through EI training, the company found that 93 percent of employees were more productive. Another study by Cherniss and Goleman found that EI training resulted in eight times the return on investment.
Shortly after Kristen Hadeed founded Student Maid, 45 of the 60 people who worked for her walked out at the same time. This proved to be a lesson to her about becoming a more emotionally intelligent leader. Her leadership attitude needed work in order to properly support her team. She learned about the importance of understanding how others feel about their jobs and responding in caring ways. Hadeed also learned that she needed to create a nurturing work environment where employees had the freedom to grow. From these lessons, Hadeed created a profitable organization that continues to see success.
How to gain emotional intelligence:
- Develop mindfulness practices.
- Meditate at least ten minutes every day.
- Evaluate yourself at the end of the day on how well you regulated your emotions.
- Ask others for feedback on traits where you need to improve.
- Practice clear communication with everybody.
- Get rid of toxic behaviors.
- Form strong relationships with coworkers.
- Create a diverse and inclusive team.
Practice Improving Leadership Behaviors Every Day
One of the leadership behaviors you should not overlook is the dedication to your craft as a leader.
There are many leadership qualities and traits you should practice every day as you grow your skills into becoming a formidable leader. You don’t have to wait to get started.
Here are five things you can do right now to go beyond focusing on management behaviors and adopting leadership behaviors that make a difference.
- Read to learn something new every day.
- Practice active listening.
- Hold yourself accountable for all your actions and outcomes.
- Craft a vision for the future that you can aspire to.
- Keep a close eye on your emotions and learn to read employee emotions effectively.
That’s just scratching the surface of what it means to become a good leader. The following articles can also help you.
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- Keller, S. (2021, July 7). Successfully transitioning to new leadership roles. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/successfully-transitioning-to-new-leadership-roles
- Schwantes, M. (2021, March 22). The World’s 10 Top CEOs (They Lead in a Totally Unique Way). Inc.com. Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/heres-a-top-10-list-of-the-worlds-best-ceos-but-they-lead-in-a-totally-unique-wa.html
- Brin, D. W. (2019, August 16). What Is Emotional Intelligence? SHRM. Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/behavioral-competencies/leadership-and-navigation/pages/what-is-emotional-intelligence.aspx
- Business ROI of EQ Training. (2015, July 7). HappyCamper. Retrieved September 7, 2022, from http://happycamper.world/2015/04/business-roi-of-eq-training/
- Neves, A. (2021, January 5). What One CEO Did When 45 of Her Employees Quit. Inc.com. Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://www.inc.com/antonio-neves/what-one-ceo-did-when-45-of-her-employees-quit.html