How to Be a Great Leader — 5 Insights From Research

3 minute read
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

  • Studies have shown the traits that correlated most powerfully with CEO success as well as the most common failures of bad leaders. Avoid extremes of assertiveness or passivity. The best leaders are supportive, not controlling, even in the military. Find a balance between tough and nice. Your leadership style must adapt to the environment around you.
  • Understand what things really motivate people. (No, not money.) What’s the #1 motivator? Progress. Definitely progress. Want your employees to perform better? It can be as easy as believing they are smarter than average and having high expectations. (Expecting people to be selfish can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.) Money and feedback work best as incentives when combined with acknowledgement of an employee’s accomplishments. You can give a quick boost to employee motvation by reminding people why their job is important. When all else fails, yes, nagging works.
  • Teams are smart because of social skills, not IQ. The best predictor of team success in the workplace is how the team members feel about each other. The words your employees choose can tell you how they feel about the group. When it comes to team trust, it’s true that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. (The reason most people leave their jobs is because of a lack of trust.) A historical narrative inspires team morale. Don’t be afraid to touch each other. Might want to learn some tricks to creating a place where people are kind to each other. A difficult initiation might not be a bad idea. Dave Packard (of Hewlett Packard) has some great tips on building a solid work environment.
  • You have a vested interest in whether your employees are happy. Happy employees are more productive. (Happier employees bring companies better returns.) And your employees will be happier if you let them know their job has meaning. You can reduce employee stress by making clear what is expected of them.
  • To be perceived as a leader, speak first and speak often. You can learn to be more charismatic. When you have to communicate bad news, monitor your body language. Face to face contact is important; communicating via email can turn you into a jerk. Saying “thank you” is vital. Don’t reprimand in public. You can learn a lot from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. You need to be positive for employees to be at their best.
  • This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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