You can have the most talented employees in the world, but if they’re not fully supported by your leadership, their talents will be wasted. That’s because a high-performance culture starts at the top of an organization. Leaders set the tone for a company’s focus and its values. If you want a culture of excellence to be one of those focuses, ensure your leadership team possesses these three key qualities.
A leader who hovers over their employees, watching their performance like a hawk, isn’t a true leader—that’s a micromanager. By contrast, a leader in a high-performance culture empowers employees to make smart decisions for themselves, and take responsibility for the results of those decisions. Yes, that means there may be some missteps along the way, but giving employees responsibility over their day-to-day actions and projects always pays off. When your employees become personally invested in their work, they truly give it their all. If their work is just going to be corrected by a “leader” no matter what, why bother to put effort into the work the first time around?
Great leaders can empower their employees in two big ways:
- By Understanding the Importance of and Investing in Training for Employees
In order to improve and do their best work, employees must continually hone their skills. Skills training focused on instilling lasting behavior change is the ticket to a high-performance culture. When leadership invests in training like this, it sends a message to employees that their personal and professional growth is of utmost importance to the company.
- By Modeling Desired Behaviors
You want your employees to feel empowered to make decisions and take responsibility for their actions? That’s not going to happen if, for example, your leadership team gets in the habit of asking employees to behave in a way they do not behave themselves. Employees take behavioral cues from leadership, so if you want your employees to feel empowered to behave a certain way in the workplace, the first step is to ensure your leadership team embodies those desired behaviors.
What does it mean to be an authentic leader? It means being true to oneself, yes—but it also means being true to those you serve. Transparency and honesty from leadership are hallmarks of a high-performance culture. Transparent leaders are dedicated to communicating frequently and openly with their employees—which makes employees feel vital to the organization. If employees constantly feel like they are being left out of the loop, chances are high that they may start to distrust leadership. A high level of distrust between leadership and employees is one of the biggest signs you might be dealing with a toxic workplace culture.
High-performance leaders are also honest, especially when it comes to employee performance. Sugarcoating feedback to employees only harms them in the long run, since it robs them of an opportunity to improve. Leaders at all levels must focus on providing feedback that draws a clear line between employees’ behaviors and the consequences of those behaviors. As discussed above, leaders can then empower employees to improve those behaviors by investing in time-tested skills training.
For a company to creatively flourish, a leadership team must recognize that the best ideas often don’t come from the top of the organization. An open-minded leadership encourages innovative thinking—and action—at every level of a company. Cultivating an open-minded culture of innovation may require some leaders to rewire their approach to success. That’s because for innovation to flourish, employees must feel safe to take risks…even if that occasionally leads to failure. Of course, employees are expected to learn from that failure and apply their new knowledge of what works and what doesn’t to their future endeavors.
In other words, leaders in a high-performance culture exhibit open-mindedness in two main ways:
- They’re open-minded about where good ideas come from. Hint: It’s not always the boardroom!
- They’re open-minded about what success looks like; success may not always translate to a direct impact on the bottom line.
When leaders tweak their mindset to define success as learning from calculated risks, then an innovative, high-performance culture will truly flourish. It’s worth noting as well that not all leaders are born with these qualities—and that’s okay. That’s what leadership development programs are for.
In your experience, what other qualities do you think a solid leadership team should possess?
About the author
Dave joined Eagle’s Flight in 1991 after having spent a number of years with a Toronto-based accounting firm. Since that time, he has held a number of posts within the company, primarily in the areas of Operations, Finance, Legal, and IT. In his current role as both Chief Financial Officer and President, Global Business, Dave is focused on ensuring the company’s ongoing financial health as well as growing its global market share. In pursuing the latter, Dave’s wealth of experience and extensive business knowledge has made him a valued partner and trusted advisor to both our global licensees and multinational clientele.