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Monday, May 22, 2023

What Employees Really Want in a Leader

Being a business leader in the 21st century is a tall order. You’re responsible for the health and happiness of your staff but also need to run a profitable, efficient business.

Accounting for the differences among employees can be tricky, too, as some folks appreciate a hands-on approach while others need space to spread their wings and flourish.

Finding your stride as a leader may take time. However, you’ll never stray far from the goal if you aspire to be a trustworthy, communicative, empathetic, and authentic leader for your employees.


Effective leadership is all about trust and transparency. Without honest, open communication, employees will second-guess your intentions and be hesitant to believe the information you give them. However, building trust takes time. You’ll need to show employees consistent support and should be willing to put your neck on the line for them.

One way to build trust quickly is by funding inclusive team-building activities, including ones that get employees out of the office. These types of events help build employee camaraderie, improve communication, and often mean that co-workers become more invested in seeing one another succeed.

Activities like hosting local events, group hikes, company-backed team sports, and volunteer days give you and your staff a chance to connect over non-work-related activities. While playing sports or hiking together, you’ll also have a chance to show that you authentically support staff and care about who they are as people.

If possible, try to host teamwork activities once a quarter. In her book, “Reach for the Summit,” Pat Summitt, who coached the third-highest number of  NCAA basketball wins in history  describes teamwork “as a form of trust,” that occurs when you “realize that you won’t achieve your individual goals without the support of your colleagues.”

Teambuilding activities that encourage trust are a great way to get folks working together and build your leadership skills. Over time, your team will trust you more thanks to the experiences you’ve shared outside of work.


Clear, consistent communication is integral to effective leadership. Employees look to you for information and will appreciate concise, accurate messaging. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a natural-born orator or wordsmith to enjoy the benefits of clear communication.

Communication is a skill that can be learned over years of practice. Improve your communication skills by defining your goals and understanding your audience before you start speaking. Before you head into a meeting, jot down a bulleted list of details that you want to share. Keep your tone consistent and be overwhelmingly positive when providing feedback to staff.

Effective communication requires you to be an expert listener, too. Practice active listening when engaging with staff and take the time to really hear them. Never interrupt and try to paraphrase what they said when making your reply. This is particularly important during times of conflict when tensions are high. People want to feel heard and will be much more reasonable when you show that you are an empathetic listener and clear communicator.


Empathy is a leadership trait that is often overlooked. However, empathizing with your followers is key if you want to understand their motivations and respond to the challenges they raise.

Become a more effective leader by improving your emotional intelligence and leading with empathy in the workplace. Being emotionally intelligent and self-aware is the first step towards understanding the thoughts and emotions that other people are experiencing. This is key if you want to work through conflict and improve employee buy-in. Emotional intelligence can help you recognize your own biases and assumptions, too.

It’s important to recognize that practicing empathy and improving your emotional intelligence is a life-long journey. However, investing in empathy can increase employees’ sense of belonging and enhance collaboration among team members. Businesses with empathetic leaders enjoy higher retention and a stronger brand image, too as everyone wants to work for a company where they feel respected.


Many leaders mistakenly believe that it’s their job to protect followers from the challenges that the business faces. However, employees can handle the truth and will appreciate authentic leadership that doesn’t sugar-coat bad news. Being authentic when engaging with staff will help them feel like part of the team and may even galvanize employees during difficult times. 

It’s important to note that being authentic does not give you free rein to say whatever is on your mind. There’s a not-so-fine line between being authentic and being rude. Staff always need to be treated with dignity and respect; particularly if you’re undergoing hardship as a business.

Balancing authenticity and kindness can instill confidence and self-belief in your employees, too. Confident staff are worth their weight in gold during an economic downturn as you’ll need creative problem-solving and high-performing employees to overcome the challenges you face. Being an authentic, emotionally intelligent leader will encourage employees to take risks and discover new ways to improve the profitability of your business.


Employees need strong, empathetic leadership to support their confidence and day-to-day productivity. As a leader, you can build a positive, productive work environment by empathizing with your staff and building trust amongst your team members. Model your behavior on proven leaders like Pat Summitt who show that emotional intelligence, clear communication, and authenticity are the keys to success in the leadership world. 

About the Author: Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and business topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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