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‘What makes a good leader?’ This is a question that has a plethora of answers that propose key characteristics of effective leadership. However, according to experts, a good leader should possess the following competencies:

Strong ethics and creating a sense of safety

High ethical and moral standards together with clear communication are universally accepted traits of a good leader and when combined, these two attributes helps the leader to create a safe and trusting environment. When the environment is such, then the employees will naturally feel more relaxed which in turn invokes the brain’s capacity for innovation, creativity, ambition and engagement. This has been scientifically proved as well. When the brain registers a threat to safety, a person loses access to the social engagement system of the limbic brain, inhibiting the drive for excellence so from a neuroscience perspective, making employees feel comfortable and safe on a deep level should be the first priority and competency of a good leader.

In order to increase the feeling of safety and belonging in a group, a leader should behave in a way that is consistent with his/her values and ethics. One way of achieving this is by acknowledging consequences from the beginning. For example, the leader can tell the employee, “I’m not blaming you. I just want to understand what happened”.

Empowering self-organization in others

A good leader has to be very clear when giving directions so employees can organize their time and work efficiently. So while a leader should be organized, he/she should motivate employees to be self-organized too so power is distributed throughout the organization. According to research, empowered teams are more proactive, productive and committed and yet, many leaders fall short in empowering their people to self-organize for fear of facing negative consequences. A key feature of a good leadership is understanding that giving power in order to increase influence can build power over time.

Creating a sense of belonging and connection

When a leader is clear in communication, demonstrates strong morals and empowers team members, it can go a long way in building a very strong foundation for connection. As social beings, we always want to feel a sense of belonging and attachment is an important aspect of survival. Moreover, research has confirmed that a good sense of connection can increase productivity and emotional well being.

On the contrary, when there are strained or unpleasant interactions between co-workers, other employees will naturally start feeling emotionally depleted. This is why fostering a sense of connection is a key job of a leader so employees can unleash their full potential.

A few ways of doing this is by smiling at people, calling them by their name, paying close attention to them when they speak and keeping their interests in mind. This will set the tone of a sense of belonging and acceptance which in turn will strengthen connections.

Being open to new ideas and encouraging organizational learning

Everybody has his/her own strengths and weaknesses and as a leader, it is important to recognize this. Admitting that you’re wrong is hard but it’s very important for a leader to be more flexible so he/she learns and inspires learning in others too. If there is any discussion, withhold judgment until everyone has spoken out their ideas. This brings about a greater diversity of ideas.

It is also important that leaders understand that failure is part of learning and therefore, they should create a culture that supports controlled risk-taking. And even if employees do make mistakes – which they are bound to commit at some point – then it serves as a platform to build collective intelligence where employees learn from other’s mistakes.

Nurturing growth

Growth is human nature but to ensure that the growth is positive, nurturing is required. Think of all those people you are grateful for, be it parents, siblings, friends or teachers. We have grown because they cared enough to teach and nurture us.

Similarly, when a leader demonstrates commitment to growth, the same emotions of gratefulness are tapped and this motivates employees to reciprocate it by expressing their gratitude through loyalty and dedication. If a leader wants to inspire the best from his/her team, then the leader should play an active role in nurturing them.


The above mentioned five areas pose as huge challenges for leader due to the natural responses that are inbuilt in us. However, with deep reflection and a shift in perspective, the same five areas can serve as huge opportunities for improving the performance of employees as well as leaders.



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15/1A, St.Joseph's Road,
Nugegoda, Sri Lanka.
Phone: +94 71 303 2422

Website: http://www.epitom.org
Email: info@epitom.org

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