Management & Organization

Look for these features in your future leaders

It’s often quite difficult to find the right leader for your team and your company. A leader who increases efficiency and makes everyone else perform better. Keep reading as we go through the features you must pay particular attention to in your future leaders.


A report from the American UNC Business School reveals that on a global scale we are going to experience a serious shortage of leaders before long.


Because the big generations (baby boomers etc.) move closer and closer to retirement the shortage of leaders will be severe, and more and more companies experience an increasing need for developing the leadership potential in their current and younger employees.


How is the new leader wired?

This also changes the way we experience the role of the leader. It’s no longer purely a question of control and authority. Instead, we focus more and more on trust, transparency and openness in order to make the company’s teams achieve more.


According to leadership coach, advisor and columnist Marcel Schwantes, these 7 features will be critical to your future choice of leaders:


1. Remarkable listening skills

Do you often have to make an effort to stop yourself from interrupting when another person talks? Do you feel like finishing other people’s sentences?

This is far from unusual, but we still need to try and restrain ourselves from doing so. We have to provide space and listen. Being an active listener is equally as important in communication as being a gifted talker.

By listening actively you save your own thoughts and are present in the conversation. You listen to the story, you ask questions and explore the depth, the meaning and the understanding of what’s being said. Always with the other person’s needs in mind. Future leaders will interact by listening actively in order to help others succeed and to avoid potential issues before they’re even made.

See our video with Jonathan Løw here where he speaks about listening louder


2. Ability to create trust quickly

In his book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey emphasizes that teams who have a high degree of trust will create results faster and at a lower cost. For a modern leader it’s important to trust your employees from the start – instead of waiting for them to earn it. It literarily pays off.


3. Desire to improve others

The best leaders are those who are interested in coaching, mentoring and developing others. These leaders have a growth mindset fixed on the desire to develop organizational talent just as much as the product and the bottom-line. Even though it might require some time, these leaders care about delivering valuable feedback and motivating employees into developing themselves and to reach their goals.


4. The will to perform

The leaders you want are those who are driven by success. Both the success of the organization and colleagues and their own!

These leaders won't take the easy way out, they are driven by ambition and will choose the right solution – regardless how difficult and demanding it is – and they do it without exceeding their own values and beliefs.


5. Contrarian mindset

This aspect may not be for every company out there. But sometimes we need a leader with an entrepreneurial mindset who doesn’t follow the rulebook and instead insists on going in new directions – often his or her own. Because that is the right way.

This type of defiance often happen with innovative speed and a contrarian can ensure that the entire team or organization take chances and are constantly moving.


6. Excellent communication skills

If you’re searching for an excellent new leader, then you can’t ignore looking at their communication skills. When a good communicator speaks, people will automatically listen. Good communicators inspire and convince people. They create a foundation for action!

This type of leader needs to show authenticity and presence more than anything when he or she speaks while also being good at delivering constructive feedback and critique. They are skilled at explaining ideas and strategies. Briefly and precisely. They are 100 % honest and communicate in order to create trust.


7. Empathy and emotional intelligence

Finally, it’s crucial that the leader always try to help others and place the needs of others ahead of his or her own. This is an essential part of leadership. The good leader is never afraid to credit others and takes time to establish strong relationships with employees. The leader is a team player!

These characteristics demonstrate empathy and emotional intelligence and they are the most important features of a good leader: One who understands people and who cares about them.

Read more about emotional intelligence here


Follow the example of Google

Extraordinary leaders don’t are not found everyday, however, and they can be hard to locate. That’s why many companies make an enormous effort to develop these super leaders themselves.


Google, for instance, has spent years studying the most efficient managers. As this article shows, the study means that they now teach their new leaders these six tangible features, among others:


  1. Mindset and values: Google want their leaders to be fundamentally optimistic and to possess a growth mindset. This means that leaders always try and develop their employees and also try and learn new things, challenge themselves and experiment. The result is better performance. It’s also Google’s goal that their leaders identify their values and align their leadership accordingly in order to make their job more meaningful and rewarding.
  1. Emotional Intelligence (EI): This is the ability to understand emotions in ourselves and in others. Self-conscious leaders make better decisions, they communicate more efficiently and they're easier for employees to relate to. EI can be the direct cause of 20-30 % of a company’s total performance.
  2. Leader transmission: Here, Google wants their new leaders to share their challenges and frustrations during the transmission from employee to leader. This demonstrates that vulnerability and problems are perfectly normal, and it helps transmit an open culture to the employees and create a better foundation for well-being. It provides greater incitement for sharing advice and experience across the company.
  3. Coaching: Google found out that coaching is the most important feature of efficient leaders. Coaching involves, among other things, constructive and continued feedback, active listening, presence, focus on their own mindset as well as the employees’ mindsets and the will to be curious and ask lots of questions to know more about the team.
  4. Feedback: Leaders at Google must deliver feedback that balances positive and negative critique. Feedback must always be authentic, appreciative and solution oriented.
  5. Decision-making: To help leaders make better decisions, Google have, among other things, implemented five questions for reflecting:
  • What are you trying to solve and is everyone on the same page? Identify and communicate the fundamental challenge.
  • Why is this important? Does it support other business goals?
  • Who makes the decision?
  • How will the decision be made?
  • When can people expect a decision? Inform stakeholders and manage expectations.

In relation to this, Google encourage their leaders to test their ideas out loud and gather feedback by expressing their own conviction and arguments and at the same time listening to other people’s perspectives. The outcome is synthesized to provide a collective understanding before deciding.

Based on these simple guidelines, Google have improved about 75 % of their underperforming leaders.

On Google’s Re:Work webpage you can find the company’s work on leadership and organizational development.