The 5 Common Behaviors of Strong Leaders

Leadership is always a hot topic among executive teams at mid-market companies. Everyone looks for strong leadership – Boards, CEOs, VPs, managers and new employees.

Some of you are natural born leaders. But for many of us, leadership is something that is learned, developed and practiced. There are many strong leaders that were not “natural” early on in their careers; they became strong leaders through a combination of skill, development and behavior.

In a recent post, I talked about the 12 essential skills of a strong leader. In today’s post, I want to talk about behaviors – the practices that are common across cultural, gender, age, and other variables.

Leadership behaviors come from an observable set of skills and abilities. The best way to understand the common behaviors of strong leaders is to study them. I’ve done that many times over my 35-year career as a CEO.

From my experience, I learned the following:

1. Trust your instincts – all good leaders have natural instincts, but remember that no one else really trusts your instincts, so be careful when telling people that’s what is guiding you

2. Encourage your people – constantly; you will be surprised how much people will respond to positive leadership

3. Know your values, publish your values, live your values

4. Talk about your vision often – it must make sense, be realistic but exciting – people don’t want to follow a parked car

5. Allow for dissent within your team – it’s healthy and productive

6. Keep everything as simple as possible

7. Know your own limits and don’t be afraid of not being the smartest person in the room

8. Allow members of your team to make as many decisions as possible

9. Constantly be aware of how to minimize risk

10. There are only two important questions when deciding on significant expenditures in business: Do I have the cash to do it? Does it increase the value of my company if I do it?

But even more powerful than my personal experiences is the research of those who have studied thousands of leaders for decades to discover what great leaders actually do when they are at their personal best.

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner performed this research to shape one of the most popular and influential leadership programs ever created. Their research discovered that when leaders are at their personal best there are five core practices common to all.

Those behaviors are:

1. Model the Way
Leaders establish principles concerning the way people (constituents, peers, colleagues, and customers alike) should be treated and the way goals should be pursued.

2. Inspire a Shared Vision
Leaders passionately believe that they can make a difference. They envision the future, creating an ideal and unique image of what the organization can become.

3. Challenge the Process
Leaders search for opportunities to change the status quo. They look for innovative ways to improve the organization. In doing so, they experiment and take risks.

4. Enable Others to Act
Leaders foster collaboration and build spirited teams. They actively involve others.

5. Encourage the Heart
Accomplishing extraordinary things in organizations is hard work. To keep hope and determination alive, leaders recognize contributions that individuals make.

These practices and behaviors can be taught and learned by anyone willing to step up and accept the challenge to lead. To become a better leader, focus on each of the behaviors. Try focusing on one each month; in five months you’ll be a better leader.

You can also dig deeper into their content on their website: The Leadership Challenge.

And you can also have you or your team’s leadership behavior measured and validated by the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI)—one of the most widely used leadership assessment instruments in the world.

I’m a Certified Leadership Challenge Trainer, so contact me if you’d like to get set up with the assessments. They will allow you to determine both the effectiveness of your current leadership and the level of commitment, engagement, and satisfaction of those that follow.