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Unveiling the key leadership behaviors that shape successful teams

By Marco Franzoni June 7, 2023


Key Takeaways

  • Leadership behaviors are actions that inspire and motivate team members and contribute to organizational success.
  • Self-awareness, feedback, emotional intelligence, continuous learning, and a servant leadership mindset are crucial to fostering successful leadership behaviors.
  • Leadership actions can transform companies, as seen in industry leaders like Satya Nadella, Howard Schultz, and Alan Mulally.
  • Effective leadership behaviors can be nurtured and developed to enhance one's leadership style and team performance.
Unveiling the key leadership behaviors that shape successful teams

In the ever-changing dynamics of today's business world, one constant remains: the integral role of leadership. Leadership, as a concept, extends beyond merely holding a title or managing a team. It encompasses a constellation of behaviors and skills that define how a leader interacts, influences, and inspires their team. Indeed, leadership behaviors, the nuanced actions, reactions, and strategies of a leader, form the crux of this influential role.

The power of good leadership behavior cannot be overstated. Picture this: you are part of a team where the leader isn't just someone who issues orders from an ivory tower. Instead, they are right there with you, involved in the daily grind, constantly demonstrating the values they want the team to embrace. This leader takes responsibility for their actions, shows empathy, listens actively, and communicates openly and effectively. They are not just a boss, they're a coach, mentor, and guide — a true embodiment of what an effective leader should be. This is the profound impact of positive leadership behavior. To know more about the difference between a coach and a mentor check out our blog post Business coach and mentor: what is the difference?

Great leaders are not born, they are nurtured, and their journey is often marked by a conscious choice to develop and exhibit effective leadership behaviors. Whether we talk about industry titans like Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla, or Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, their stories illustrate that success isn't a serendipitous happening. These successful leaders have painstakingly honed their leadership behaviors to unite and steer their teams towards shared goals.

In this post, we aim to unveil the key leadership behaviors that shape successful teams. We will take you on a deep dive into the leadership behaviors that successful leaders demonstrate, and how these behaviors foster a healthy work environment, enhance employee development, and ultimately drive organizational success. Our goal is to help you understand the subtleties of effective leadership behaviors and inspire you to nurture future leaders. Stay with us as we unfold the compelling narrative of leadership behavior.

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Defining Leadership Behaviors

Understanding the essence of leadership behaviors is the first step towards mastering them. In essence, leadership behaviors are the range of actions, attitudes, and decisions that a leader embodies in their daily interactions. These behaviors manifest themselves in how leaders communicate with team members, how they handle challenging situations, and even how they celebrate successes. They form the fabric of the leader's personality and influence the team's performance, morale, and overall work environment.

Great leaders, for instance, often demonstrate behaviors such as empathy, decisiveness, resilience, and adaptability. They provide objective feedback, show high emotional intelligence, and create a positive culture. It's the combination of these behaviors that often propels teams to achieve and exceed their goals.

How Leadership Behaviors Differ From Leadership Skills

While the terms 'leadership behaviors' and 'leadership skills' are often used interchangeably, they represent different aspects of effective leadership.

Leadership skills refer to the abilities that a leader possesses and applies in their role. These include problem-solving skills, communication skills, conflict resolution abilities, and innovative thinking. For example, being able to effectively communicate a change in direction, manage risk-taking, or facilitate the development of new skills within the team are all reflective of good leadership skills.

On the other hand, leadership behaviors are more about how these skills are applied. For instance, the way a leader communicates - their body language, their choice of words, and even the tone of voice - is a leadership behavior. The ability to communicate is a skill, but how that skill is utilized reflects the leader's behavior.

In a nutshell, while skills are about what leaders can do, behaviors are about how they do it. The best leaders exhibit a fine balance of strong leadership skills infused with positive leadership behaviors, making a huge difference in the success of their teams. This combination creates an environment where employees feel valued, empowered, and motivated, which in turn leads to improved employee retention and workplace satisfaction.

The Importance of Understanding Leadership Behavior in the Modern Workplace

The Importance of Understanding Leadership Behavior in the Modern Workplace

Today's business landscape is more complex and dynamic than ever. It demands leaders who can not only manage change but also inspire and empower their teams to navigate it. Here, the role of effective leadership behaviors becomes indispensable.

Leadership behaviors set the tone for a team's culture, impact employee morale, and have a significant influence on productivity and performance. Good leaders foster an environment that promotes trust, encourages open communication, and nurtures innovation. They understand the diverse needs of their team members and adapt their leadership style to create a healthy work environment where everyone feels valued.

These behaviors matter more now than ever because the expectations from leaders have evolved. Today's employees expect their leaders to be more than just taskmasters. They look up to leaders who exhibit emotional intelligence, provide constructive feedback, and encourage personal and professional growth. Effective leaders understand this changing dynamic and exhibit behaviors that resonate with their team members.

Why Leadership Behaviors Matter More Now Than Ever

In the age of remote work and virtual teams, leadership behaviors have become even more crucial. Today's leaders need to inspire trust, foster collaboration, and maintain team cohesion without the benefit of physical proximity. This reality brings behaviors like active listening, transparency, empathy, and adaptability to the forefront.

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Moreover, societal shifts have also put a spotlight on the importance of emotionally intelligent leaders who can navigate diverse teams and foster a culture of inclusion and respect. This requires leaders to exhibit self-awareness, understand the perspectives of their team members, and demonstrate cultural sensitivity.

Finally, as businesses face increasing pressure to innovate and stay ahead of the curve, leaders who encourage innovative thinking, are open to challenging projects, and can swiftly change direction when needed, are in high demand.

In conclusion, leadership behaviors are not a nice-to-have, they are a must-have. As a leader, nurturing these behaviors and adapting your leadership style to meet the evolving demands of the modern workplace can make a positive impact on your team's success and satisfaction.

5 Key Leadership Behaviors That Promote Team Success

5 Key Leadership Behaviors That Promote Team Success

Successful leaders are often distinguished by a common set of leadership behaviors. While the mix of behaviors may vary depending on the leader's style and context, the following five behaviors have proven to be particularly effective in promoting team success.

  1. Communicative Leadership: An effective leader understands the value of open and transparent communication. They encourage dialogues over monologues, keep their team members informed about the bigger picture, and facilitate an environment where everyone feels comfortable voicing their ideas or concerns. Take, for instance, co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman. Known for his transparent leadership style, Hoffman is often praised for creating a culture of open communication at LinkedIn.
  2. Emotionally Intelligent Leadership: Emotional intelligence (EI) is a cornerstone behavior for any successful leader. An emotionally intelligent leader is self-aware, empathetic, and able to manage their emotions in a way that positively impacts those around them. They understand their team members' emotional needs and adjust their approach accordingly. Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, is a prime example of an emotionally intelligent leader. Known for her empathetic approach, she used to write personalized letters to the parents of her senior executives, appreciating them for the upbringing of their children.
  3. Adaptive Leadership: In today's ever-evolving business landscape, a leader's ability to adapt is crucial. Adaptive leaders are open to new ideas, flexible in their approach, and can easily pivot in response to changing circumstances. Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, is a shining example of an adaptive leader. Since taking the helm at Microsoft, Nadella has brought significant changes in the company culture and business model, driving the company to new heights of success.
  4. Empowering Leadership: Empowering leaders foster a sense of autonomy among their team members. They encourage employees to take ownership, make decisions, and learn from their experiences. This empowerment often leads to increased job satisfaction and productivity. Google's co-founder, Larry Page, exemplifies this behavior. Under his leadership, Google implemented the "20% time" policy, empowering employees to spend 20% of their time working on passion projects outside of their job descriptions. To learn more about the benefits of diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace, you can read our comprehensive guide here.
  5. Resilient Leadership: The ability to stay resilient during challenging times is a key behavior of effective leaders. These leaders maintain a positive attitude, inspire confidence, and encourage their teams to see setbacks as opportunities for growth. Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, displayed remarkable resilience when she steered the company through a major crisis soon after assuming her role. She faced the challenge head-on and turned it into an opportunity for organizational change.

Each of these behaviors plays a critical role in fostering a positive work environment, enhancing team cohesion, and driving performance. By cultivating these leadership behaviors, leaders can unlock their team's potential and steer them towards shared success.

If you're looking for comprehensive training resources to develop successful leaders, you can explore our blog post on First Time Manager Training: How to Train Successful Leaders.

Successful Leadership Behaviors From Top Industry Leaders

Successful Leadership Behaviors From Top Industry Leaders

Examining the leadership behaviors of successful industry leaders can provide valuable insights into what it takes to guide a team or an organization towards greatness. Let's take a closer look at some of the unique leadership traits that have contributed to the success of renowned leaders in various industries.

  1. Visionary Leadership: Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc., was renowned for his visionary leadership. He had the ability to see potential in ideas others dismissed, and he created revolutionary products that people didn't even know they needed. His inspiring vision and relentless pursuit of excellence transformed Apple into one of the world's most successful companies.
  2. Inclusive Leadership: Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, has been recognized for her inclusive leadership style. She has made diversity and inclusion a priority, believing that a mix of perspectives leads to better decision-making and innovation. Her leadership behaviors have not only made GM a more inclusive place to work but have also contributed to its financial success.
  3. Innovative Leadership: Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla and SpaceX, is a testament to innovative leadership. He's not afraid to take risks and challenge the status quo. His drive for innovation and risk-taking has disrupted industries and paved the way for advancements in electric vehicles and space travel.
  4. Servant Leadership: Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks, is known for his servant leadership style. He always put his employees (who he refers to as partners) first, believing that happy employees lead to happy customers. His focus on employee development and benefits helped create a positive culture that contributed to the company's immense success.
  5. Transformational Leadership: Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, has exhibited transformational leadership since stepping into his role. He shifted the company culture to a "growth mindset," encouraging employees to learn from failure rather than fear it. His leadership behaviors have fostered innovation, collaboration, and resilience at Microsoft.

These successful leaders, each with their unique leadership style, demonstrate that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. The best leaders are those who understand their team's needs, adapt their behaviors accordingly, and inspire their teams to reach their full potential.

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The Role of a Good Leader: Behaviors That Make a Difference

The Role of a Good Leader: Behaviors That Make a Difference

The difference between an average team and a high-performing one often boils down to one crucial factor: leadership. A good leader, through their behaviors and actions, can significantly influence the direction and success of a team. Let's explore some of these key behaviors.

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

A good leader doesn't just understand the tasks at hand; they also understand the people they are working with. Leaders with high emotional intelligence demonstrate empathy and connect with their team members on a personal level. They understand the importance of employee well-being and foster a work environment that is mindful of employees' emotions.

For a deeper dive into Emotional intelligence, read Zella's blog post on how to expand your emotional intelligence competencies.

Communication and Transparency

Effective communication and transparency are crucial behaviors of a good leader. They maintain open lines of communication, ensuring that team members feel heard and informed. They also prioritize transparency, which fosters trust and respect within the team.

Empowerment and Trust

A good leader empowers their team members. They trust their team with responsibilities, providing them with the autonomy to make decisions and learn from their experiences. This trust and empowerment can boost team members' confidence, job satisfaction, and overall performance.

Resilience and Positivity

Leaders are often faced with challenging situations and setbacks. A good leader handles these situations with resilience and maintains a positive attitude, viewing challenges as opportunities for growth. Their positivity can help keep team morale high, even in tough times.

Encouragement and Constructive Feedback

Good leaders know the value of continuous growth and development. They encourage their team members to constantly learn and improve. They provide constructive feedback that helps their team members grow professionally and personally.

How These Behaviors Can Turn an Average Team into a High-Performing One

When a leader exhibits these behaviors, it creates a ripple effect across the team. Team members feel valued and heard, leading to increased engagement and satisfaction. Trust and empowerment enable them to take on new challenges with confidence. Positive reinforcement and constructive feedback drive them to constantly improve and excel at their work.

All of this culminates in a high-performing team. A team that is driven, motivated, and capable of overcoming obstacles to achieve their goals. As such, the role of a good leader goes beyond managing tasks; it involves shaping a team that is equipped and inspired to deliver their best.

The Interplay Between Manager Behaviors and Leadership

The Interplay Between Manager Behaviors and Leadership

While the terms "manager" and "leader" are often used interchangeably, the roles encompass different, albeit overlapping, responsibilities and behaviors. Managers are often tasked with the day-to-day operations, ensuring tasks are completed on time and goals are met, while leaders inspire, guide, and influence their teams towards a vision. However, when a manager's behaviors align with leadership behaviors, they can have a significant impact on their leadership style and the team's overall success.

From Managing to Leading: The Transformation

A manager becomes an effective leader when they exhibit behaviors that go beyond the realm of task completion and performance metrics. This includes demonstrating empathy, maintaining open communication, empowering their team, and encouraging innovative thinking. These behaviors allow managers to establish meaningful relationships with their team members, fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and inspired to contribute their best.

The Impact of a Manager's Leadership Behavior on the Team's Success

A manager's leadership behaviors can significantly influence their team's dynamics and performance. When a manager leads with empathy and emotional intelligence, they create a healthy work environment where team members feel understood and appreciated. Open and transparent communication fosters trust, while empowerment and trust in team members boost their self-confidence and job satisfaction. Encouraging innovation and providing constructive feedback drives continuous learning and improvement.

The result is a highly engaged and motivated team that is committed to achieving their goals, contributing to the overall success of the team. Therefore, it is crucial for managers to cultivate effective leadership behaviors to drive their teams towards excellence.

The relationship between a manager's behaviors and leadership exemplifies how, with the right approach, managers can transcend their roles and emerge as true leaders. By intertwining management and leadership behaviors, they can guide their teams to new heights of success.

Behavioral Leadership Examples From Different Industries

Behavioral Leadership Examples From Different Industries

Across various industries, we find leaders who have made significant impacts on their teams and organizations through their unique leadership behaviors. These individuals serve as valuable case studies for anyone looking to understand how specific behaviors can drive success. Let's delve into some of these inspiring examples.

Tech Industry: Sundar Pichai - Embracing Open Communication

As the CEO of Google and Alphabet, Sundar Pichai has always championed open communication. He believes in keeping communication lines transparent and active, a behavior that has fostered a culture of openness and innovation in the company. By doing so, he has created an environment where every team member feels their voice is heard and their ideas matter, contributing significantly to the groundbreaking innovations Google is known for.

Healthcare Industry: Bernard Tyson - Prioritizing Empathy

The late Bernard Tyson, who was CEO of Kaiser Permanente, was known for his empathetic leadership style. He recognized the importance of empathy in healthcare, a perspective that extended to his team and colleagues. This leadership behavior was instrumental in fostering a culture that prioritized patient care and employee well-being, enhancing Kaiser Permanente's reputation as a leading healthcare provider.

Manufacturing Industry: Mary Dillon - Empowering Employees

Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta Beauty, exhibits an empowering leadership behavior. She believes in providing her employees with the tools, resources, and autonomy they need to make decisions and innovate. This trust and empowerment have created a motivated workforce that continually strives to improve customer experiences, significantly contributing to the company's success.

Non-profit Sector: Bill Drayton - Promoting Innovation

Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, showcases a leadership behavior centered on promoting innovation. He encourages his team to think creatively and come up with solutions that have a positive social impact. By fostering a culture of innovation, Ashoka has emerged as a global organization that enables social entrepreneurs to develop and implement solutions to societal problems.

Each of these leaders, despite being from different industries, share a common trait: they understand and leverage the power of specific leadership behaviors to influence their teams and drive their organizations towards success.

Leadership Actions That Have Reshaped Companies

At times, a single action or decision by a leader can have far-reaching implications, altering the course of their company and inspiring transformative change. Here, we explore a few remarkable case studies that highlight the power of leadership actions in shaping organizational success.

Microsoft's Cultural Shift: Satya Nadella

When Satya Nadella stepped into the role of Microsoft's CEO in 2014, he initiated a significant shift in the company's culture. Nadella encouraged a growth mindset, a behavior focused on learning and innovation rather than sticking to established norms. His leadership actions facilitated a culture of experimentation and risk-taking that enabled Microsoft to reinvent itself, leading to the introduction of successful products like Azure and Teams.

Starbucks' Employee-Centric Approach: Howard Schultz

Howard Schultz, Starbucks' former CEO, made the bold decision to shut down more than 7,000 US stores for racial-bias education training after an incident in Philadelphia. Schultz's actions communicated a clear message: Starbucks values its employees and customers, and is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment. This decision, which put people before profits, greatly enhanced Starbucks' reputation as a socially responsible company.

Ford Motor Company's Strategic Risk: Alan Mulally

Alan Mulally, former CEO of Ford Motor Company, took a risk during the 2008 financial crisis by mortgaging all of Ford's assets to avoid bankruptcy and fund a new business plan. His courageous leadership action and forward-thinking strategy paid off, helping Ford recover without a government bailout, unlike its competitors.

These examples illustrate how decisive leadership actions can bring about transformative changes in a company. These leaders' willingness to take calculated risks, prioritize their employees, and embrace innovative mindsets have had profound impacts on their organizations, showcasing the immense power of leadership in shaping a company's destiny.

How to Foster Successful Leadership Behaviors in Your Own Leadership Style

Developing your leadership behaviors is an ongoing journey that requires self-awareness, openness to feedback, and a commitment to continual learning. Here, we provide you with actionable steps to cultivate successful leadership behaviors and enhance your own leadership style.

Understand Your Leadership Style and Identify Areas of Growth

Self-awareness is the first step in enhancing your leadership behaviors. Understand your leadership style and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Do you tend to be authoritative or are you more of a democratic leader? Each style has its unique characteristics and recognizing yours can help identify which behaviors you need to develop.

Seek Feedback and Embrace Constructive Criticism

Feedback, both internal and external, is crucial in improving your leadership behaviors. Regularly ask your team members, co-workers, and even superiors for feedback. Be open to their perspectives and make sure to act upon the constructive criticism you receive. This can significantly improve your relationships with your team and enhance your effectiveness as a leader.

Cultivate Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a hallmark of successful leaders. Enhancing your self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills can significantly improve your leadership behaviors. Make a conscious effort to understand and manage your emotions and those of your team members. Recognize their efforts, empathize with their challenges, and maintain an open line of communication.

Engage in Continuous Learning

Leadership development is a continuous process. Attend leadership workshops, seminars, and trainings. Read books, listen to podcasts, and watch TED Talks about leadership. This can provide you with a wealth of knowledge and insights that you can apply in your own leadership role.

Embrace a Servant Leadership Mindset

Servant leadership focuses on meeting the needs of the team. As a servant leader, you prioritize the growth and well-being of your team members. This approach builds trust, fosters a positive work environment, and can enhance your team's performance.

By incorporating these steps into your leadership journey, you can foster successful leadership behaviors, improve your leadership style, and drive your team towards success. Remember, leadership isn't a destination but a continuous journey of growth and improvement. For a comprehensive understanding of different coaching approaches in the workplace, check out our post on Types of Coaching in the Workplace: The Ultimate Guide."

Explore the practice of mindful leadership and learn how to become a mindful leader with the help of our blog post on Mindful Leadership Coaching: How to Become a Mindful Leader.


Leadership is much more than a title or a position; it's about influencing others through our behaviors, actions, and decisions. The journey to becoming a successful leader isn't easy, but by understanding and cultivating effective leadership behaviors, we can significantly enhance our impact and inspire our teams to achieve their best.

Remember, the best leaders are those who continuously learn, seek feedback, understand their emotions and those of others, and put their team's needs at the forefront. By embodying these behaviors, we not only create a positive and productive work environment but also drive our organizations towards success.

In a world that's constantly evolving, one thing remains constant - the value and importance of effective leadership. So, whether you're a seasoned leader or just stepping into a leadership role, it's never too late to work on your leadership behaviors and leave a positive impact.

In the words of John Quincy Adams, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." It's time for us to inspire and become the leaders we are capable of being.

For tips on conducting effective meetings, check out our blog post on Is That Truly an Important Meeting? A Quick Guide to Effective Meetings.

If you're interested in learning more about training successful leaders, check out our comprehensive guide on First-Time Manager Training: How to Train Successful Leaders for valuable insights and strategies.

Read more about: Professional Development, Executive Coaching

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