7 habits all great leaders have in common

By Randi Sherman

6 min read

7 habits all great leaders have in common
Illustration by Maya Ramadhina

Leadership isn’t a dictatorship. Great leaders motivate and inspire their teams to do their best work and are pivotal in helping employees achieve their career goals. Companies that report high morale, less turnover, and greater productivity often have a great leader in the driver’s seat, and their behavior sets the tone for the entire organization. 

Great leaders have a few things in common. Their word, actions, and conduct help companies advance their business goals and make it a desirable place to work, and it’s no secret that happy employees lead to higher profits. 

According to data published by the iOpener Institute, happy employees are:

  • Twice as productive
  • Six times more energized
  • Stay at their companies twice as long
  • Reduce sick days by 90%

Can great leadership do this? Absolutely! Today, we will look at the seven top leadership behaviors to cultivate now.

Understanding leadership

Leadership behavior can be described as a leader’s values, actions, behaviors, and characteristics as they pertain to working with their teams. Some leaders come by these traits naturally, but they can be learned and cultivated with the right mentorship, experience, and training. 

The difference between management and leadership is that while a manager may be accountable for a team’s productivity, leaders are there to inspire and motivate people toward achieving personal and company goals. 

Some managers may already be great leaders, while others have latent traits that can be developed over time. Recognizing leadership potential is critical for organizations as doing so will reduce costs and turnover significantly. 

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7 key leadership behaviors

Whether you are an aspiring executive or an HR professional tasked with identifying leadership talent, we recommend that you get to know the following seven behaviors, as they are common to all great leaders. 

Behavior 1: communication

Effective communication is critical to successful leadership as it helps leaders build trust, foster collaboration, and achieve their objectives. 

To develop this skill, leaders must practice active listening to better understand the unique perspectives of others and tailor their communication approach based on individual needs. 

Mastering nonverbal communication is also crucial, as body language and tone of voice convey a lot of information. 

Communicating expectations clearly and encouraging (and providing) feedback ensures that tasks are understood and lets people know they are doing a good job or where to improve. Leaders can cultivate a more efficient, productive, and engaged workplace culture by prioritizing effective communication.

Behavior 2: empathy

Empathetic leaders can better understand and relate to the needs of those they lead,  resulting in more engaged and motivated teams and improved trust in leadership.

However, not everyone is born with a natural sense of empathy, and developing this behavior is not always easy. Leaders can improve compassion by actively listening to their team members and seeking to understand their points of view. Doing so will help people feel more at ease communicating with the leader in the future.

Great leaders make an effort to understand how others are feeling and what might be influencing their actions before making a snap judgment. By practicing empathy, leaders can build stronger connections with their team members and nurture a more positive work environment.

Behavior 3: decision-making

Leaders make dozens of decisions each day. Some decisions are simple and straightforward, while others are more complex, especially when the outcome of the decision impacts others

Decisions leaders make must ensure the best outcome for the organization, team, or individual, requiring them to consider various factors and project outcomes for all stakeholders.

As the stakes become higher, pressure and responsibility increase, necessitating awareness of how their decisions impact the whole. Sometimes, the decisions will be tough, but being able to foresee the challenges will help them mitigate the fallout, should there be any. 

Behavior 4: accountability

Accountability is about acknowledging responsibility for actions and decisions, both good and bad. A leader’s decisions can profoundly impact team morale, so there’s a lot at stake. 

Great leaders stand behind their words and deeds. They don’t pass the buck or lay blame on others for decisions they’ve made. Instead, they will step up and substantiate what led them to the decision and actively implement remedies. 

Accountability not only helps leaders build stronger, more resilient teams but also enhances their credibility and reputation as trustworthy and ethical leaders. When leaders own their work, it creates a culture of trust, transparency, and collaboration, inspiring team members to follow suit. 

Behavior 5: adaptability

Adaptability enables leaders to navigate challenges, driving results in a constantly evolving environment. A leader who can anticipate and respond to industry, workforce, and technology changes can inspire confidence and steer their team towards incredible—and sometimes unexpected—success. 

Cultivating adaptability requires a growth mindset. Leaders must be open to new ideas and willing to take risks if they benefit the team or company mission. 

Great leaders inspire their teams to be more adaptable by encouraging creativity and empowering them to make their own decisions. Leaders who prioritize agility and adaptability are better equipped to handle disruption and recognize opportunities for growth and development within their teams and their industry. 

Behavior 6: confidence

Confidence is an essential leadership trait that has far-reaching impacts, both for the leaders themselves and those they lead. Confidence is the glue that holds together a leader’s vision, mission, and goals, allowing them to provide direction, set goals, and empower their teams to follow through. 

While confidence isn’t always a natural state of being, it can be learned and developed through self-awareness, seeking to honestly understand our strengths and weaknesses, and focusing on incremental improvements. 

Most of us build confidence through experience, which doesn’t happen overnight. Regularly seeking feedback and being accountable for our actions can help us become stronger and more confident over time. The more we practice openness, curiosity, and a willingness to do the right thing, the more confident we become. Confident leaders inspire others to follow where they lead, as they know they’re not flying solo. 

Behavior 7: vision

Being an effective leader is more than simply giving orders and delegating tasks. Without a clear vision, it’s impossible to see the big picture and make informed decisions that align with organizational goals. 

Visionary leaders motivate their teams by modeling the way forward, helping individuals within the organization understand why their work matters while inspiring everyone around them to strive for success. 

A clear vision is contagious and necessary for companies to compete and grow. When people see their leaders confidently communicating a clear and exciting vision, they feel energized and motivated to act, adding value that resonates throughout the organization. 

Final thoughts

Today’s great leaders are visionaries, coaches, mentors, decision-makers, networkers, communicators, delegators, role models, and innovators. Tacit traits such as these are what elevate people to leadership status and what their teams will come to rely on them for. 

In recognizing, encouraging, and cultivating the seven leadership behaviors we discussed today, companies can elevate their teams and nurture leadership talent that already exists in the organization. The good news is these qualities can be trained and developed. With the right initiative and a little planning, you can look forward to a healthier, more productive culture with strong leadership at its core. 


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Randi Sherman

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