Ten Things Great Leaders Do

Are You Aware

If our businesses are to be successful, we need to move from an era of command and control to a system of “leadership by consent.” Here are ten things great leaders do to make that shift.

Today’s post is by Debra Corey, author of Build it: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

The role of leaders is changing. More than ever, our employees are demanding visible, accountable and valuable leadership. We’ve moved from an era of command and control to a system of “leadership by consent.”

The voice of our employees has never been more powerful, with social media, open communication and public reviews leaving nowhere for leaders to hide if they don’t meet their employees’ demands. Sites like Glassdoor, which has 41 million people visiting each month, allow employees, past and present, to easily leave anonymous reviews of a company and its leadership. And with 80 percent of candidates reading Glassdoor reviews before applying for a job, as well as customers and even external investors visiting the site, we can no longer ignore the influence and power of employee reviews.

In Build it: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement, co-authored with Glenn Elliott, we address this new world of leaders, as well as other critical engagement elements, through our engagement model called The Engagement Bridge™. Using this model as a framework, we talk about the urgency for businesses to start treating employees differently in all areas in order to improve employee engagement and get better business results.

As part of our research, we conducted a study of 350 millennials, asking them what they wanted and expected of their leaders, and had them prioritize leadership traits. The result is what we call “Ten things great leaders do,” and they are:

  1. Own and live company values
  2. Communicate openly and early
  3. Inspire people to reach higher
  4. Own their mistakes
  5. Recognize big wins, small wins and hard work
  6. Trust people
  7. Make the right decision not the popular decision
  8. Add value to their teams, helping them to succeed
  9. Have the courage to be transparent and visible
  10. Take care of people

These results show that what employees are looking for in a leader has changed drastically in the last 20 years — and not just for millennials, but for our entire workforce. They expect leaders to be different in the following ways:

Be Human

One of our values at Reward Gateway is to “be human,” which talks about the importance of taking responsibility and being brave enough to show your human side, “warts and all,” as the expression goes. This is seen in many of the ten leadership traits, with leaders expected to show empathy as well as overall care, concern and commitment to their teams. It also involves being honest, saying you’re sorry and admitting when you’ve made a mistake.

Be Aware

Being aware, of both oneself and of others, also encompasses many of the ten leadership traits. This includes the need for leaders to understand the impact they’re having on their team by role modeling company values, communicating in an open and honest way, trusting employees to do the right thing and recognizing them for their efforts. It also involves understanding what happens when these aren’t done in the right way or are neglected.

Be a Coach

As is apparent in the ten leadership traits, the role of a leader has changed from a one-dimensional “lead and control” role to that of a more multi-dimensional role common in a coach. Like a coach, business leaders are expected to help employees develop their full potential by guiding, instructing and providing encouragement.

What this all means is that if our businesses are to be successful, we need to throw out our old ways of managing and accept and address the new role of leaders. We need to hire the right ones, develop them to have these new skills and behaviors, and reward and recognize them for delivering in this way. Without this, our leaders will quickly lose the confidence of their teams and not be able to deliver the results our businesses need.

Build ItDebra Corey is global head of employee engagement at Reward Gateway, and is co-author of the new book, Build it: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement (CLICK HERE to get your copy). This book has been called “Your all-things-necessary guide to employee engagement” by Daniel Pink, author of When, and said to “Give you ideas, debates, great arguments and, most of all, hope” by Margaret Heffernan, author of Willful Blindness. Learn more at

Did you enjoy this post? If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog. It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!). SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!

Photo: Aware? by Susan Murtaugh

Leave a Reply

  • ©Copyright thoughtLEADERS, LLC. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast in whole or in part without the EXPRESS WRITTEN CONSENT OF thoughtLEADERS, LLC. Content may not be republished, reproduced or distributed in whole or in part without the proper attribution of the work and disclosure of its source including a direct link back to the original content. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content nor can you modify the content in any way. However, you may download material from this website for your personal, noncommercial use only. Links to websites other than those owned by thoughtLEADERS, LLC are offered as a service to readers. thoughtLEADERS, LLC was not involved in their production and is not responsible for their content.

    thoughtLEADERS, LLC has worked to ensure the accuracy of the information included herein. thoughtLEADERS, LLC is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services beyond training, coaching, and consulting. Its reports or articles should not be construed as professional advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. thoughtLEADERS, LLC is not responsible for any claims or losses that may arise from any errors or omissions in our reports or reliance upon any recommendation or advice provided by thoughtLEADERS, LLC.

    thoughtLEADERS, LLC is committed to protecting your privacy. You can read our privacy policy by clicking here.