4 exceptional leadership characteristics

By Sarah Stowe | 26 Mar 2019 View comments

Leadership is what ultimately drives business success. Exceptional leadership is where leaders appreciate the importance of each individual employee, putting in place systems and creating a culture that delivers a positive employee experience.

Unfortunately recent studies suggesting leaders’ performance in many organisations still has a long way to go:

  • Only 13 per cent strongly agree the leadership of the company communicates effectively with the rest of the organisation (Gallup, 2017)
  • Just 15 per cent of employees strongly agree the leadership in their company makes them enthusiastic about the future (Gallup, 2017)
  • Only 23 per cent say that their leaders, overall, are effective (Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor, 2016).

4 leadership characteristics

A Dale Carnegie survey of more than 3,300 full time employees from a cross section of industries, company size and positions from 14 countries identified key four leadership characteristics that motivate and inspire people:

Blind spot 1: Showing appreciation

Leaders understand the importance of human capital and most undoubtedly feel they appreciate their employees.

Yet fewer than half of the employees in the study said their own supervisor makes them feel sincerely appreciated most or all of the time. Often it is the frequency of praise or not being sincere where most leaders fall short.

Blind spot 2: Admitting when you are wrong

A willingness to “admit when they are wrong” was the leadership behaviour that generated the largest disparity between its importance and supervisors’ performance.

While 81 per cent of respondents said it was important to their motivation to give their best, only 41 per cent said their supervisors could be trusted do so consistently – a gap of 40 per cent.

Blind spot 3: Truly listening

Asking isn’t the same as listening, and employees know the difference.

Just 49 per cent of respondents said they could confidently expect that when they spoke with their leader, they’d truly listen most or all of the time.

Actively listening is critical, and part of that is showing respect for what the other person has to say.

Blind spot 4: Honesty with yourself and others

No one wants to think of themselves as dishonest, and yet 17 per cent stated that their own supervisor is rarely or never honest and trustworthy with others.

While the truth of this may be called into question, it’s the perceptions employees have that leaders must contend with in order to effectively lead.

Additionally, 16 per cent of respondents said their supervisor is rarely or never internally reliable, meaning these employees view their leader as behaving in ways that are inconsistent with their leader’s own principles and core beliefs.

Why does this matter?

A high level of job satisfaction equates to a high level of employee engagement. Franchisors will know it’s the same for franchisees.

The survey showed that globally about 17 per cent of respondents reported being very satisfied in their job. However the number of employees who report high satisfaction more than doubles to 36 per cent when a boss frequently exhibits these important leadership behaviours.

What leaders can do

Jordan Wang, managing director of Dale Carnegie NSW, says that “simply having an awareness of these blind spots may help all of us better see the gap between our actual behaviour and our desired behaviour, when it comes to getting the best from those who look to us for leadership”.

He continues, “Leaders who choose to actively work to identify blind spots in these four areas and learn to overcome them on a personal level have considerable potential to impact the employee experience of those who report to them and interact with them”.

5 leadership tips to follow

When it comes to evaluating the impact of our own behavior, the Dale Carnegie research encourages leaders to keep these tips in mind:

  • Assume that we are not objective when assessing our own capabilities. Utilise 360-degree feedback tools.
  • Learn adaptive techniques that help approach and accept feedback constructively.
  • Appreciate the intent. Getting feedback that reveals blind spots can be uncomfortable, remember that the constructive feedback intent is to help.
  • Disrupt your routines. It is easy to become blind to things around us when we become set in our own ways and routines.
  • Simply take action. Become aware of and work to improve one’s performance in these areas.