What Great Leaders Do

What Great Leaders Do

In a world of growing complexity and seemingly constant crisis, we need great leaders more than ever. But when you look at the stories in the press or check the staggering numbers of burnout and disengagement in surveys, it seems like fewer and fewer leaders are rising to the challenge. It starts to seem like becoming a great leader is too complicated and nearly impossible.

But when you survey people on what makes them appreciate and follow leaders, it turns out there are just a few simple habits that set great leaders apart. Simple, but not necessarily easy.

In this article, we will explore what great leaders do across six key habits that make them influential and their teams successful.

Promote Purpose

The first habit great leaders do is to promote purpose. Great leaders understand the importance of connecting the larger organizational purpose to specific projects and tasks. They are able to do more than regurgitate the mission statement of the organization. They can draw a connection between the organizational purpose and the work of their specific team. In doing so, they inspire their team members to see the bigger picture and understand how their contributions align with the overall goals. Furthermore, great leaders shift the conversation towards “who” benefits from the work and promote pro-social purpose. This helps team members feel a sense of fulfillment and motivation in their work, knowing that they are making a positive impact.

Clarify Vision

The second habit great leaders do is to clarify vision. A clear vision is crucial for the success of any organization, and great leaders excel at explaining what success looks like and where the organization is heading. They are able to paint a vivid picture of the world or the specific people the organization serves and what it will look like when the vision is achieved. Even when plans change, great leaders provide a clear vision of what a good job looks like. They use the concept of “commander’s intent” to communicate the vision of a successful mission, ensuring that even in constant turmoil, everyone understands the desired outcome and can align their efforts accordingly.

Create Accountability

The third habit great leaders do is to create accountability. Great leaders understand the importance of holding people accountable to their jobs and calling them up to a higher standard. They ensure that individuals are held accountable to the result, not just the tasks. By providing the necessary resources for individuals to achieve their goals, great leaders empower their team members to take ownership of their work and deliver exceptional results. Leaders provide autonomy to team members, allowing them to decide how the work gets done. But they’re also reminding everyone on the team that autonomy means greater accountability to the team, not less. They are leaders who hold their team to a higher standard and encourage them to perform even greater.

Provide Fair Feedback

The fourth habit great leaders do is provide fair feedback. Feedback is a crucial tool for growth and development, and great leaders excel at providing fair feedback. They tailor their feedback to the individual’s situation, skills, resources, and accountability goals. Great leaders give feedback that is in equal proportion of positive to negative, focusing on building upon the great things. Poor leaders often spend most of their coaching time on constructive criticism—which can be demotivating and decrease performance. Instead, great leaders create a balance between appreciation and constructive criticism to motivate and improve performance, ensuring that team members feel valued and supported in their professional growth.

Build Safety

The fifth habit great leaders do is to build safety, as in psychological safety. A psychologically safe environment is essential for fostering innovation and growth, and great leaders understand this. They provide feedback in a way that does not blame individuals for things outside of their control, encouraging transparent and honest conversations about failures to extract lessons and improve. By establishing a culture of safety, great leaders create an atmosphere where team members feel comfortable taking risks and learning from their mistakes. This leads to increased creativity, collaboration, and ultimately, success.

Develop Oneself

The final habit great leaders do is to develop themselves. Great leaders recognize the importance of continuous learning and self-improvement. They take responsibility for developing themselves as well as others. With a growth mindset, they actively seek out new information and skills, constantly striving to become better leaders. Great leaders understand that they need to develop themselves in the areas that their team needs in order to be better leaders. By investing in their own growth, they set an example for their team members and inspire them to also pursue personal and professional development.

The habits discussed in this article are what make great leaders worth following. They’re simple, but not necessarily easy. And they need to be done on a regular basis. But great leaders understand the importance of these habits and strive to incorporate them into their leadership style. By promoting purpose, clarifying vision, creating accountability, providing fair feedback, building safety, and developing oneself, leaders can inspire their teams to do their best work ever.





About the author

David Burkus is an organizational psychologist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of five books on leadership and teamwork.

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