Skills and behaviours of great leaders

Penelope Cottrill, principal practice lead, leadership & learning at Nous Group, outlines the key attributes leaders must have in 2017

Skills and behaviours of great leaders

Penelope Cottrill, principal practice lead, leadership & learning at Nous Group, outlines the key attributes leaders must have in 2017

  • What are the key attributes a leader must develop in 2017?

Despite opinions varying slightly, leadership specialists generally agree that today’s key attributes are emotional intelligence, effective communication skills, confidence, a positive attitude, intuition, delegation skills, being approachable, and being authentic. It’s interesting that these attributes tend to be behavioural traits rather than formal skills.

I believe that leaders must understand what people expect from a leader, why people behave the way they do, that not everyone has the same motivators, and why different people have different reactions.

While there are many aspects to being a great leader, every leadership attribute can be defined within just two categories – skills or behavioural.

By skills, I refer to things like time management, running effective meetings, managing P&Ls, etc. By behavioural, I refer to things as they are perceived by others, that we might call qualities, such as persona, confidence, consistency of behaviour, positive manner, etc.

Typically, leaders today have the required skills; however, many lack the required behaviours. I have often asked people, “Who are some leaders you admire?” I then ask, “What is it you admire about these leaders?”

The response always includes words like integrity, trustworthy, honest, reasonable, confidence, attitude, resilience, consistency, perseverance and approachable. Note that all the responses are behavioural traits. There is a great lesson here. If you want to be an influencer at any level, people will respond to the way you behave, not how clever you are! The key attributes, therefore, that a leader must have in 2017 are the correct behaviours.

  • Are there any common mistakes leaders make in their goal to become effective leaders?

Common mistakes include not being ‘hands on’, misunderstanding motivation (of others), not ‘walking the walk’, poor communication, and lack of focus on training for others and their own personal development.

The biggest mistake is underestimating the high cost of low employee engagement. Research results clearly demonstrate the very high cost to business of disengaged employees.

A Right Management Consultants survey found that two thirds of employees are not engaged in their jobs.

Research by the Gallup Organisation found that 75% of workers are disengaged at work. Another national survey of employees found that 85% of people said they could work harder in their jobs. More than half claimed they could double their effectiveness “if they wanted to”. This research begs a final question: when will leaders get the message? A question for another time…

Penelope Cottrill
Principal, practice lead – leadership and learning


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