Thursday, August 2, 2018

10 Traits of Great Leaders in This New World of Work

Guest post from Glenn Elliott and Debra Corey:

The world of work has and continues to change. Our workforce, which now consists of five generations working side by side, expects and demands different things from its organization, its job, and most certainly its leaders. 

We conducted a study to better understand these new expectations of leaders, asking 350 millennials the question: What do you want and expect from your leaders? We asked the respondents to name and prioritize the leadership traits that they most respected and valued. 

The results show that what employees are looking for in a leader has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. These are the 10 traits that employees expect -- and I strongly believe that companies need -- from their leaders:

1. Own and live the company values. Leaders need to be role models for their company’s values. They should take every opportunity to communicate and apply the values constantly, incorporating them to guide and help make better decisions.

2. Communicate openly and early. Leaders need to be open, honest and transparent with their employees. They should communicate news and information early, not shielding them from bad news.

“Be as open with your people as you can, as early as you can. Employees are much more likely to go to bat for something they understand.” --Helen Craik, Reward Gateway Co-founder

3. Inspire people to reach higher. Leaders need to create an environment where employees are able to do their jobs well, and a culture where they want to do their jobs well, inspiring them to be the best they can be each and every day.

4. Own their mistakes. Leaders are no longer expected to be perfect. They are expected to be human and positive role models, which includes owning mistakes when they happen. Leaders should also think of mistakes as learning or teaching moments, using them as opportunities and not obstacles.

5. Recognize big wins, small wins and hard work. Leaders build a culture of employee recognition by modeling continuous recognition and where saying thanks is an everyday occurrence.

6. Trust people. Leaders should always default to trust and accept that most people are good and trustworthy. They must lead in a way that’s respectful and honors other’s good intentions, and not presume that their employees’ have malicious intentions.

7. Make the right decision, not the popular decision. Leaders need to prioritize doing what’s right over what’s popular. They should be accountable to their people and act as servants, being prepared to be unpopular when necessary, and striving to do what’s right for the business, the customer and their people as a whole. 

8. Add value to their teams, helping them to succeed. Leaders who deliver visible value to their teams, helping them bring their creativity, ideas and judgment to work, overcome the challenges of the new world of work and of more complex jobs.

9. Have the courage to be genuine and visible. Leaders need to bring their whole selves to work, having the courage to be authentic and to show vulnerability.

10. Take care of people. Leaders need to lead with compassion and kindness, showing their employees that they truly care about them and have their best interests in mind.

Great leaders understand and embody all of these qualities, and don’t just pay them lip service. They understand that in this new world of work they need to eliminate the barriers that separate them from their people, using every tool they have at their disposal to cut through the hierarchy and bring themselves closer to their people. By doing this, they will significantly improve upward feedback and employee engagement. And, they’ll earn the loyalty of not only millennials, but every generation they have the privilege to lead.

Glenn Elliott is founder and Debra Corey is group reward director of Reward Gateway, a world leader in integrated employee engagement technology with more than 1,800 clients worldwide. Elliott and Corey's new book, Build it: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement (Wiley, Feb. 27, 2018) highlights practical improvements that organizations can make to build a highly engaged company culture.

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