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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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