How do certain behavioural qualities set top leaders apart? Charlotte Dennis and Sarah Wall, of leadership development training company, LeadEQ, explore...
Technical excellence is a given for all senior leaders, yet when it comes to soft skills many reach a tipping point in their career when they find that they do not have the capabilities needed to manage large and diverse teams, working across multiple geographies.
Highly successful leaders have certain behavioural traits that enable them to connect with all kinds of people and get the best out of them.
These traits, which range from the ability to listen and seek other people’s views to having an appetite for continuous learning and development, can be defined as ‘behavioural excellence’. These go hand in hand with high levels of emotional intelligence.
Leaders who demonstrate behavioural excellence have gravitas and command respect from their colleagues. They are also highly flexible in their approach and can quickly adapt to different people and different situations.
This helps them to connect with all kinds of people, build relationships and achieve the results they need, ethically and with integrity.
To be able to make these connections, great leaders demonstrate high levels of self-awareness, helping them to understand how their behaviour impacts on those around them (positively or negatively) and modify it accordingly.
A listening ear
Another key exemplary behaviour is the ability to listen – really listen – to what other people have to say.
Inspirational leaders do this because they are genuinely interested in other people and their views, and are keen to understand how an individual can best contribute to the performance of an entire team.
This approach not only makes employees feel valued and empowered, it also means that leaders are open to new ideas, opportunities and ways of working that could potentially enable them to achieve better results and thereby enhance business performance.
In line with this, leaders who demonstrate behavioural excellence know that knowledge is power when it comes to spotting opportunities and being ready to tackle new challenges. They want to keep growing and become even better.
As a result, they have an appetite for continuous learning and development.
The positive impact that behavioural excellence can have on a business cannot be underestimated, particularly when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best staff.
Great leaders communicate with clarity and authenticity, but they also demonstrate humility. They recognise, for example, that other people may have more expertise in certain areas.
Consequently, they are willing to empower those people to take the lead in the right circumstances to ensure the best results for the team.
Effective leaders are also consistent in the way that they behave in the workplace and how they interact with other people. They are not supportive and encouraging one day and then impatient and dismissive the next, because they know that consistency is key to building trust with colleagues and boosting their confidence.
Giving honest and fair feedback to employees is vital to enhance their individual performance and for the wider success of the business. However, sharing negative feedback can be tough for leaders, particularly if they fear that it will be badly received by employees and may result in an emotional confrontation.
Top leaders are able to successfully manage these difficult situations because they have learned how to convey emotions, such as anger, frustration and disappointment, in an appropriate way that enables the person to understand the problem and what needs to be done to fix it.
The positive impact that behavioural excellence can have on a business cannot be underestimated, particularly when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best staff. People not only go the extra mile for good leaders. They proactively choose to work for people who demonstrate behavioural excellence.
Great leaders are made, not born.
Furthermore, when great leaders change jobs, other people often move with them because they want to be part of whatever that leader is involved in. They also know they will be surrounded by other great people who will help them to achieve their potential. That level of loyalty is a real measure of leadership success.
Making a start on improving behavioural skills
Finding leaders with the right balance of behavioural excellence and technical brilliance is tough. Many people have the technical skills, but they may not have been given the opportunity to develop the soft skills needed to ascend the management ladder and become effective leaders.
However, great leaders are made, not born. Consequently, all of these skills can be taught, if people are open to change and willing to learn.
To effect change, leaders need to start by developing self-awareness skills and the ability to see themselves through other people’s eyes.
This self-knowledge will provide the building blocks for developing the behavioural excellence qualities that enable individuals to inspire others to achieve greatness, while establishing and maintaining their own reputation as the face of the business.