Embracing the behavioural aspects of leadership
Rune Jensen, Senior Partner, EV Private Equity
My experience from CEO and Executive Chairman positions in 16 countries across Europe, USA and Asia is that although there are certain cultural differences that influence how leaders behave, and how employees expect them to behave, some basic leadership behaviours influence employee satisfaction levels more or less the same way everywhere – positively or negatively.
Employees in general want to be treated with respect. They want feedback. They want clarity on their role and objectives. They want to be seen as both individuals and as part of a team. They want to feel safe. Some want stability, while some need to see a clear path of career progression. They want to be praised when doing well and hate being barked at and losing face in front of colleagues. This should all be quite basic and easy to adhere to for any leader. But still more than a third of all employees leave their positions due to bad leadership, often working with leaders who do not follow the common sense rules for interpersonal behaviour.
Research shows that leaders who behave in a way that creates happy, motivated employees also create better results. Such employees are usually more engaged, efficient and loyal than those being exposed to bad leadership behaviours. Getting each employee to perform to the best of their ability creates better results for the company both in the short and long term.
One reason why leadership is challenging is because being a leader requires a complex, varied and highly adaptable set of skills and personality traits. Which of these you need to draw upon should vary according to the situation the company is in and according to personalities of those reporting to you. A crisis situation will demand a different style than a successful growth period. A creative department will demand a different style than the accounting department. All leaders need to act within what is commonly known as leadership paradoxes, see some examples below.
Your leadership style will be influenced by your personality and perceived from how you typically behave in these types of scenarios, and in basic one to one communication.
My advice to any new CEO is to run a workshop with your team where you put focus on leadership behaviours and where you discuss and agree what good and bad leadership looks like. In the same workshop you should discuss the value and company culture you wish to create, as your leadership behaviour rules should be aligned with that.
Some leadership paradox examples:
- Establish a close relationship with employees, while keeping a professional distance
- Be upfront and present – but in the background when your team needs to shine
- Delegate responsibility – and stay in control
- Be tolerant and know how you want things to work
- Care about your division goals – while being loyal to the company as a whole
- Reward your employees – and keep labor costs in line with market levels
- Plan your time carefully, but try to be flexible
- Be clear and firmly express your opinions – but remain diplomatic
- Strive for unity – and be able to cut through
- Be visionary – while keeping your feet on the ground
- Be dynamic and action oriented – but also analytical and thoughtful
- Be confident – and humble
- Have high ambitions – and be realistic
- Focus on long term value creation – and vigorously pursue short term improvements