What Employees Want From Their Leaders

I’ve been reading a series of legal thrillers recently and the main character talks a lot about the law of unintended outcomes.  This blog post is a direct result of that phenomenon.

I am currently working on a leadership session and wanted to gather some opinions about what employees look for in their leader.  I posed the question to former IAAPA Show Ambassadors who represent a great demographic cross-section of the young staff members many of us work with.  When I saw their answers, I thought this information was bigger than the one session I was working on, and needed to be shared with as many people as possible.  Thus, an unintended outcome of asking my original question.

So, here are the answers they gave. I am including them as they wrote them, with no editing.  Watch for common themes and feel free to self evaluate regarding where you fall on the “what-my-employees-want” scale (each persons response is separated by a space):

  • Feedback: Positive or Needs Improvement. It’s always good to know how you doing, and to get assistance with development.
  • Empathy: Sometimes leaders need to understand what it’s like on the front line, especially if they haven’t done it in awhile.
  • Communication: It’s the worst when a leader does not communicate with the front line important information about the daily operations.
  • Openness to new ideas
  • Solicit input from staff when developing new policies or procedures
  • Share the big picture and long-term goals
  • Doesn’t micromanage.
  • Firm yet understanding.
  • Knowledgeable and willing to teach you and help you grow.
  • Work hard/play hard attitude.
  • Approachability
  • Humility
  • Passionate
  • Dedicated
  • Honest
  • Passionate
  • Always willing to give you constructive criticism. Sometimes I think leaders hold back on their responsibility to communicate as both professional and personal relationships build. Whenever I find myself hesitating to give feedback to a team member I always think about how much I appreciate when people give me both positive and constructive feedback.
  • Also, someone who invests time in understanding the thought process that goes into how you do your job and how you make decisions. Especially in cross-functional teams where your leader might come from a different background then you.
  • Someone who shows that they are committed to their team members success, and is willing to work with their team to help them achieve their goals.
  • Someone who leads by example (someone who doesn’t just talk the talk, but can walk the walk.)
  • Someone who can effectively communicate the teams goals, small and big picture.
  • Someone you can relate to and have fun with!
  • Dreamer –I look to someone with vision, a purpose for their labor, who is constantly seeking methods for either sustainment or improvement and innovation. To me, a great leader not only has a vision for their individual responsibilities but also how his or her efforts contribute to a greater purpose. Ultimately, the person is a “big picture thinker”
  • Inspirational –Those that lead well are those who instill motivation in others. Altruism paired with purpose and passion produce someone with fervor enough to inspire others. I find that work becomes more meaningful when I can attribute passion to it -whether it be intrinsic or inspired by another. Leaders with this quality have an excellent way of helping an organization grow because they constantly build their teams’ esteem and motivation with the passion they carry themselves.
  • Admirability –A true leader, in my eyes, is an authentic leader, a person respected and highly esteemed by others because of his or her ability to honest, caring, and dependable. Respect is built with time by the outcome of experiences. Leaders who demonstrate a high level of truthfulness, conviction in their teams and a sincere concern for others’ well-being, as well as a reputation for keeping promises is endeared by many but, chiefly, is respected by all.

What are the common themes did you notice?  How did you do on your self evaluation?  Are we missing anything that YOU look for in a leader?

I want to thank Bobby Monnerat, Ivey West, Todd Swetnam, Greg Matthew, Dave Mugnaini, Sarai Henning, Brandon Bruce, Alex Reszitnyk, and Krystal Lambert for not only chiming in to answer my question, but also for unintendedly contributing to this blog post and the betterment of leaders everywhere!  You rock!

Thanks for reading!


Now that you know what your employees want, are you and your leadership teams equipped to provide it?  I’m here to help your leaders lead!