Top 5 Leadership Traits your Employees are Looking For

by Kerry Juhl and Julie Rose 

SIVO’s Organizational Intelligence (OI) solution offers leader development and coaching to our clients.  Our OI team has many years of experience with one-on-one coaching engagements and group development sessions.  We are also skilled at identifying employee insights, both through quantitative engagement surveys and in-depth employee discussions.  As we have looked at leadership from both perspectives, we see 5 leadership traits that employees are looking for.   

The Authentic Communicator

This trait is displayed in a leader who communicates well in one-on-one situations because they: 

• Listen to understand – communication is a two-way dialogue 

• Are empathetic – can put themselves in their employees’ shoes 

• Share truth responsibly – even hard truths are delivered in a courageous and respectful way 

• Are direct – messages are clear and concise to maximize understanding 

This is also true for group communication because the communication is transparent, honest, and the leader can read the audience.  Authentic communication can be delivered in multiple ways – written, verbal, in video, newsletters, etc. 

The Learner Mindset 

Everyone will make a mistake or fall short of a goal and when a leader reframes to a learner mindset from a failure mindset, employees gain confidence to take some risks, learn and grow. A leader with this trait might also choose to share a personal experience of failure and how there is growth from making mistakes. Through this humble approach, the leader is helping the team develop grit – that combination of taking measured risks, perseverance and resilience. 

The Big Picture Thinker 

Leaders who keep a greater purpose in mind, for themselves as well as for the company, and cultivate a sense of purpose on their team tend to have a more positive culture and better results.  Employees need to understand how their work fits into the “bigger picture” so that all are making decisions with the same end goals in mind.  Vision and purpose also give employees a sense that the work they do matters and that is critical in cultivating their engagement and enthusiasm.   

The Reflector

Some of us have worked for a manager that is scattered and acts like everything is a fire drill.  It’s exhausting!  However, leaders that take even a quick pause to reflect on a project, on a day, or even a fiscal quarter are better equipped to provide thoughtful feedback and then tackle the next challenge.  Gathering the necessary data, consulting with key stakeholders and team members before rushing off to the next thing can demonstrate a willingness to grow and learn from the past.  It can also instill confidence in the team, knowing that all angles have been considered before taking the next step.  Leading a team through an exercise of assessing what went well and what did not go well, and considering the potential for future obstacles can also be a particularly effective way to advance the team forward.  

The Goal Setter

Leaders who continually set short-term and mid-term goals toward achieving the longer vision are much more effective leaders.  Employees are seeking clear direction from their leader and while having a long-term vision is inspiring, without short-term goals, teams often find themselves churning with indecision, not knowing what their immediate next step should be.  A great leadership tool is the SMART goal setting framework.  Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-oriented. Having SMART goals also makes it possible to pause and celebrate when the team achieves the goals as it happens! 

Do you possess these 5 traits?  As it turns out, all leaders are working to achieve excellence in leadership and in business impact.  Shoring up your skills and taking action to develop these 5 traits will make you a more effective leader on both fronts.   

To talk more about leadership development, leader coaching engagements, or employee insights, please contact the SIVO Organizational Intelligence team at 



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