Cutting-Edge Leadership

The best in current leadership research and theory, from cultivating charisma to transforming your organization

4 Behaviors Shared by the Best Bosses

How to identify the best bosses

I've been conducting a series of workshops on effective leadership. They are based on research that has helped us discover the behaviors that are displayed by the most effective leaders. Interestingly, it doesn't matter which sector these leaders come from - business, government, education, nonprofits. Effective leader behaviors are quite consistent across different types of leaders. See how your boss (or you) measure(s) up.

Positive Expectations and Attitude. I've written before about the Pygmalion Effect - the notion that simply holding positive expectations about your team's performance will create a self-fulfilling prophecy and lead to high levels of performance. But there's more to it than that. Effective leaders are also optimistic and upbeat. They exude confidence, in their own leadership, and in the competencies and capabilities of their teams.

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Fairness. There are two types of justice. Distributive justice is based on outcomes. Do people get rewards and recognition that fairly reflects their contributions? The second type is procedural justice. Is the leader fair and impartial in how rewards and recognition are decided? Both are important.

Authenticity. Good leader-follower relationships are built on trust, and nothing builds trust more than a leader who is straightforward and "authentic." Authentic leaders don't have hidden agendas. They let people know exactly what they are trying to do, and how they are trying to accomplish it. Good leaders are honest. They don't expect others to do anything they wouldn't do, and they embody the mission of the group or organization. As they say, good leaders "walk the talk."

Good Communication. This is seemingly simple, but the very best leaders communicate effectively and they communicate constantly. They inform, clarify, and connect. Unfortunately, too many leaders undercommunicate (I often say that it's impossible for a leader to "overcommunicate"). They assume followers know more than they do. They assume that "if I've told them once, they know and understand." Repetition is important.

Good communication underlies all of the other behaviors - you need to communicate positive expectations and attitude, explain clearly procedures and the rationale for policies, and develop good, solid interpersonal relationships with those you lead.

So, how do you develop these positive leader behaviors?

Use a leadership model to guide you. The model I find most effective is transformational leadership, because it is relationship-based and built on empowering team members.

Devote time each week to developing your leadership. "Leadership is a journey, not a destination." The best leaders work at it, and work hard.

Get feedback. Find out what you do right, and what you can improve.

Work hard. There are best leadership practices. Learn what these are and work hard to develop them in yourself.

Follow me on Twitter:

 http://twitter.com/#!/ronriggio

Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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