Good leaders inspire positive outcomes
A good leader clearly communicates long-term objectives and desired outcomes—not outputs—and provides the strategic context folks need so that they can find the best ways to achieve those outcomes. Leaders foster environments that support ownership, autonomy, and shared purpose while encouraging teams to work closely together, lean on each other, and take risks in how to accomplish their goals and outcomes. A good leader communicates a vision of the future in ways that inspire and motivate teams to work with sustainable focus and dedication to achieving their goals. A good leader is there to remove roadblocks and enable effective decision making that help people accomplish things they wouldn’t be able to by themselves.
A bad leader dictates tasks and outputs without context or collaboration. They assume ownership over solutions—they simply track whether or not outputs were delivered. The ultimate result is a reliance on a command-and-control leadership style to get things done, which is demotivating and often results in disappointing outcomes for the business and its customers.
Good leaders are strong coaches
A good leader understands that company success is strongly tied to the fulfillment, growth, and accomplishments of the team. They embrace opportunities to help others grow in their knowledge and skills—whether it be through coaching, recommended resources, or formal training. Importantly, a good leader does not shy away from hard conversations, but approaches them with curiosity and a desire to learn. They provide candid yet kind feedback with the intent of helping folks address behaviors that might impede individual or team growth. A good leader practices continuous learning in their respective fields, so that they continue to gain trust as an “expert leading experts”.
A bad leader avoids conflict, hoping problems will simply go away. They don’t communicate clear expectations, making it impossible to know what success or failure looks like. As a result, they are unable to hold themselves or their teams accountable for outcomes. When they do provide feedback, they enter these conversations in a way that places blame and feels like punishment, instead of the growth opportunity it should be for everyone involved. A bad leader doesn’t have any interest in being a mentor, and severely limits the positive impact they can have on people and the business.
Good leaders cultivate safety
A good leader actively cultivates safe, calm environments that are built on trust and empathy. They work hard to listen deeply, and they ask questions to understand intent and hear underlying feedback (even when it’s communicated poorly). A good leader celebrates individual differences and points of view, and they are able to navigate varying backgrounds with understanding and curiosity. They frequently reflect on opportunities to consider better and more thoughtful ways of communicating. And, they recognize when they’ve made a mistake and apologize directly.
A bad leader disconnects psychological safety from success and consistently prioritizes business outcomes over individuals. They expect teams to simply work together without commiting effort to nurturing an environment where every individual can thrive. When there is a conflict, the individual is blamed and not the environment that fostered a lack of safety. A bad leader sees vulnerability as weakness and an opportunity to assert their superiority and power.
Good leaders build strong relationships
A good leader sees peers as strategic partners and recognizes the need to build strong relationships. Through thoughtful and humble communication with their peers they are able to do more in their role while supporting the team and community even better. They know that strong relationships, empathy, and trust make creativity, productivity, and growth possible. A good leader trusts their peers and teams deeply, and approaches conversations with awareness of intent and impact. They are also not afraid to challenge each other to constantly be better leaders.
A bad leader sees politicking as a necessary part of leadership. They operate mostly out of self-interest, and seek to build their own siloed empire at the expense of the larger team. A bad leader views stress between teams and people as a necessary element to making progress. This often makes them short-sighted, reactive, and focused on near-term goals instead of good outcomes.