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  • AJ Cheponis

What leadership skills can enable performance - and increase retention?

By now, you’ve probably figured out that battling attrition is a team sport. If your organization is going to dodge the brunt of The Great Resignation, you’ll need everyone working in tandem to make employee retention a top priority.


That means it’s not just on the CEO, or the Chief People Officer, to focus on morale and engagement.


“Leadership at all levels” is a core tenet of talent optimization, the discipline that aligns business and people strategies. And as you navigate an unprecedented labor market—one in which employees hold more leverage than ever before—your people strategy will need to continually evolve. Accordingly, what you look for in team leadership skills must evolve, too.


Every team, department, and organization has its own unique behavioral makeup. The better you understand those dynamics, the more equipped you’ll be to appoint team leaders that spur high performance—both themselves and from their peers.


Here’s what we’ll cover in this post:

  • Why are team leadership skills so important?

  • What makes a good team leader?

  • Qualities of an effective leader

  • How to improve team leadership skills with our tools and framework



Why are team leadership skills so important?

A good leader supports their team and sets them up for success. They give people the resources they need to do their jobs well. A great leader does all the above, but with a keen sense of their people’s behavioral drives, preferences, and stretches.


Team leadership requires more than par-for-the-course communication skills. The communication traits of a good leader are fluid, ebbing according to the needs of each individual on that team. That might mean recognizing which team members feed off of consistent verbal feedback, or ensuring certain direct reports have the information they need to feel prepared and confident heading into projects or meetings.


Particularly in a hybrid workplace, the leadership role is complex—and yet, ever crucial. If you’re hiring for a team leader who will direct reports across the country, in various time zones, with an array of behavioral makeups, that person needs to be skilled in more than just decision-making and resource allocation.


They need to understand how to effectively empower each team member. And even if those members are working toward a common goal, an effective team leader knows that empowerment may look very different for each person they’re leading.



What makes a good team leader?

Today’s best leaders are mastering the art of adaptability. They recognize that flexibility and autonomy are increasingly important to employees. But those things may look different depending on the individual employee.


For high-demand roles like developers, money matters, but only to a certain extent. These people have leverage not only in terms of where they work, but how, when, and why. These people are increasingly choosing self-employment, knowing their services and skills will still be in demand. That’s preferable to working for a company or on a team that doesn’t suit their behavioral pattern, or de-prioritizes their professional development.


That puts an even greater premium on quality team leaders. We already know that managerial fit is one of the four forces of employee disengagement. Now, in a rapidly evolving job market, team leaders who prioritize the whole person can actually offset attrition, by reassuring their direct reports in the near term (even when their careers may lead them elsewhere long-term).


Engaged teams can move mountains


Qualities of an effective leader

Traditional leadership traits—such as “soft skills“—still matter. Leaders with higher emotional intelligence will always be in demand, particularly for roles that require them to work cross-functionally.


But within the modern employee-employer dynamic, we’re asking more of our leaders. Increasingly, these people must be not only beacons of strategic clarity, but models of an organization’s mission and motivation. That might mean:

  • Integrity

  • Storytelling

  • Investment in others

Especially as a new generation puts its stamp on the workforce, the integrity of a brand matters. And order to clearly convey a company’s principles and priorities, you need great storytellers. These leaders can distill complex problems into succinct, digestible narratives, through various mediums and utilizing a range of visuals or content types. They’re often brand evangelists and cheerleaders, generating momentum in places like LinkedIn or on speaking circuits. They attract new company champions with their ability to captivate.


But they also need to be inwardly focused. An effective leader in 2022 has to devote as much time to the development of others as they do themselves or their organizational brand. It’s no easy balance. But the leaders who can captivate and inspire are the ones more likely to keep their people around—because they know how those people are wired and motivated. And conversely, their people know the grass isn’t always greener.



How to improve team leadership skills with our tools and framework

The most pivotal piece in hiring a great team leader comes at the start: You need to know what sort of person you’re targeting. Our Team Discovery tools apply the behavioral data from each individual within your team, plotting it within the group construct. Armed with these insights, you can visualize where your gaps exist, where your team is strongest, and where it may be stretched.


That knowledge is empowering. Companies—and teams—powered by such self-awareness are in the best position to hire (or anoint) excellent team leaders. And with those leaders in place, they’ll be better positioned to retain the key people who drive those teams, and those businesses.


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