Leaders need to get REAL

August 2015

Leaders need to get REAL, be REAL and stay REAL.

REAL is an acronym for Relationships, Exemplar, Ambition and Light. We believe these are the four most important traits of being a great leader based on our research.

'R' is for relationships

Great leaders achieve through others. They know how to park their ego and relate to others by building great relationships. In return their colleagues become loyal and motivated. Incredible leaders demonstrate genuine care for their people. Insync's research shows that only 33% of employees say that their organisation genuinely cares for them, 28% actively say "no, my organisation doesn't care" and the rest are ambivalent. This paints a grave picture of leadership but it can be turned around.

Inspiring leaders build wonderful heartfelt relationships by engaging with their people and treating them as human beings. Too many employees of Insync's clients say that they are "treated as cogs in a wheel", "treated as robots" or "treated as battery hens". Not treating employees as people with their own families, their own passions, beliefs, joys and struggles is one of the biggest failings of the modern day leader and CEO.

If you're on a pedestal, get off. Instead, go out of your way to thank your people and recognise employees' contributions, understand and develop them to reach their full potential. In return, your organisation will achieve higher employee engagement where people go above and beyond to achieve greatness.
 

'E' is for exemplar

Leaders need to be a great example of their organisation's values and behaviours. They need to walk the talk. The best leaders are authentic - not fake. A strong character involves being consistent, trustworthy and beyond reproach - in all of life.

Everyone is the watching the leader, particularly in this very transparent, digital age. Accordingly, leaders need to set high standards, uphold them and shine a bright light on both good and bad ethics and behaviours.

Many technically brilliant executives fail as leaders by not modelling and upholding their organisation's values and behaviours. Many say they're "too busy doing far more important things". They grossly underestimate the adverse impact of their poor behaviour and their lack of connection with their employees on their organisation's culture.
 

'A' is for ambition

Great leaders think big and set a high bar for performance. They drive ambitious outcomes. Leaders should not settle for mediocrity, homogeneity or the status quo - they should encourage diversity, agility and innovation. Leaders are pro-active and foster a high performance culture, including adding urgency where appropriate.

Voltaire said: "Good is the enemy of the great". That is certainly true when it comes to leadership. Understanding and supporting employees in a passionate way and championing ongoing development, growth and improvement makes a significant impact. Great leaders energise their people, empower, challenge and stretch them.
 

'L' is for luminate

Great leaders also shine a bright light on a clear and compelling future for their organisation. Not surprisingly, the best employees want to be part of it - It's infectious. Leaders who develop a coherent and compelling narrative and a unified response to the challenges ahead are inspirational. This illuminating future is not something that's self-serving but is worthy and will draw people to it.

Leaders will make sure that their leadership team is 101% on board and unified around the organisation's vision. They know that a minor crack at the top can become a massive chasm further down through the organisation.

Insync's extensive research shows that the single biggest differentiator of high and low performance organisations is the extent to which the leadership team has an inspiring vision for the future of their organisation. To live an inspiring vision, leaders also need to connect their people to that vision by communicating very clear strategies and goals. If employees know how their role contributes to those strategies and goals and therefore, to the vision, they are much more likely to be engaged.
 

Our research

The views expressed above are based on Insync's research, which includes hundreds of employee surveys, board effectiveness surveys, director effectiveness surveys, CEO effectiveness surveys and leadership team effectiveness surveys and reviews.

The following items from Insync's CEO Effectiveness Survey, many of which are also included in our Isync's Leadership Team Effectiveness Survey, are consistently rated by directors as being the most important attributes for an existing or new CEO.

'R' is for relationships

  • Builds strong relationships (including with the directors, customers and key stakeholders)
  • Inspires confidence and dedication from others
  • Relates well to others (including being empathetic)

'E' is for exemplar

  • Models and upholds the organisation's values and related behaviours
  • Is trustworthy (i.e., predictable and with a high standard of personal integrity and ethics)
  • Takes time to listen and understand other viewpoints and concerns

'A' is for ambition   

  • Insists on high standards (including of integrity and performance)
  • Fosters a high performance culture (including adding urgency where appropriate)
  • Inspires confidence and dedication from others

'L' is for light

  • Paints a clear picture of an engaging future for our organisation
  • Is a competent leader of strategic discussions (including around trends, competitive advantage and key drivers of profitability)
  • Continually reinforces alignment of actions, behaviours and outcomes with vision, strategy and values
     

If you want to know more about the work that we do please use the following links:

Employee surveys & consulting

Board surveys & consulting

 

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