For Fabulous Leaders These Things Are Second Nature

For Truly Fabulous Leaders These Things Are Second Nature

I recently shared a story about a toxic leader that was allowed to wreak havoc on their people and – ultimately – the customer experience [and profitability] for approximately five years inside a retail organization. The style of “leadership” that was present in this manager was “Transactional Leadership” [or Management-By-Exception], this is where the leader focuses primarily on what is going wrong, rather than encouraging positive behaviors and contribution and recognizing strong performance. This is a very antiquated, awkward, tone-deaf, and unfortunate management style that was/is endorsed in this droll workplace that values compliance and hours worked by employees over innovation, creativity, and customer experience.

In today’s world, with so much information about the people and financial benefits of supportive, kind, and human leadership, it’s absolutely wild to me that anyone would still practice an outdated and profoundly ineffective leadership style as transactional leadership.

Intelligent and curious learners|leaders are constantly challenging themselves to upskill and learn the best way(s) to work and are usually very strong and competent – so strong in fact that some of the most difficult responsibilities that fall into their job descriptions – likely – seem easy to most people that don’t yet possess a full catalog of strong leadership abilities. Great leadership is learned behavior that becomes perfunctory over time.  For example, leaders can make several important and difficult decisions about an issue in the time it takes others with less experience to simply absorb and understand the question.

Successful leaders have learned to master the art of anticipating business patterns, communicating strategy, changes in strategy, supporting the people they have committed to developing and leading, and overcoming all obstacles that could potentially impede progress or excellence.


If you were to ask some of the most impressive, productive, and excellent leaders about the following traits, they are so second nature to them, they probably take for granted all the self-development and focus they put into these behaviors that separate them from the masses of average “leaders”:

  • Encourage & Amplify The Voice Of Others:  Far too frequently, “managers” intimidate their people with their title, their mood, and assumed power when they walk into a room.   Successful leaders deflect attention away from themselves and encourage others to voice their opinions, perspectives, ideas, and points of view.  They are experts at making others feel safe to speak-up and confidently share their perspectives and points of view.   They use their presence to create an approachable, inclusive, and diversely interesting environment.
  • Make Difficult Decisions [And Then Take Action]: Successful leaders are expert decision makers. They either promote the dialogue to empower their colleagues to reach a strategic conclusion or they do it themselves.  They focus on action to make great things happen and encourage healthy conversation and change at all times – decision making activities that sustain growth and progress.
  • Communicate Expectations: Successful leaders are energizing and engaging communicators, and this is especially true when it comes to strategic vision and rallying their people around change.   Regardless of initiative, they mobilize their colleagues around the organization’s core values and vision – ensuring that their purpose is properly translated and actionable objectives are identified and executed.
  • Challenge People to Think: The most successful leaders understand the mindsets and personalities of the people on their team, they know their capabilities and areas for improvement.  They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more.   These types of leaders excel in keeping their people on their toes, never allowing them to grow complacent and they support|encourage curiosity and development. Great leaders don’t spoon feed answers to their team and they understand that there are different approaches to everyday challenges.

  • Show A High Level Of Accountability: Successful leaders consistently solicit feedback and welcome unsolicited evaluation from their people and peers.  This doesn’t mean they are allowing others to control them – but rather they possess a high level of accountability to ensure they are being proactive to their colleagues needs. Beyond simply mentoring and sponsoring their team members, being accountable to others is a sign that a leader is focused – equally – on their success and the success of their people.
  • They Are Acutely Aware They Are The Example: A leader should embody what the team stands for, and should be an active, accessible, and involved member of the team. Leading by example certainly sounds easy, but very few leaders are consistent with it.   Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and ready to mimic their actual behaviors and philosophies.
  • Recognize Performance & Authentically Express Gratitude: Truly phenomenal leaders always have a strong knowledge of the overall business performance and those people who are the performance champions and drivers on their team. Not only do they review business levers and are active in acknowledging hard work and productivity efforts but they also ensure that their people are contributing to a positive workplace culture that is focused on collaboration and productivity.  Successful leaders always recognize and show gratitude for consistent performers through authentic and genuine actions that show appreciation
  • Communicate With Radical Candor: People want to know that they are being seen and heard and that their leader is paying attention to them and has the courage to provide performance and professional insights consistently, in the moment.  Successful leaders deliver on-going, honest feedback feedback by creating trustworthy relationships –  built around integrity – with their colleagues.  They understand the power of perspective and have learned the importance of feedback early on in their career as it has served them to enable workplace advancement and elevated performance results.

  • Level & Invite Great Talent Onto The Team: Successful leaders know what their team needs to be well rounded and highly successful. They  know how to leverage high-potential and highly productive talent and place them in the right roles with the right responsibilities.  They are experts at activating both the obvious and latent capabilities of their colleagues and knowing when to highlight and activate their unique skill sets given the situations that can arise.
  • Again…They Take Action: Successful leaders don’t spend valuable time talking endlessly about doing something. They don’t procrastinate. They are passionately curious and problem solvers. They learn from – and don’t avoid – uncomfortable circumstances. Standing out and getting ahead, professionally, is about doing the things that most people avoid doing [and doing it really well]. For the best leaders  – it’s about taking action around things that scare others.
  • Positive Energy & Attitude: Successful leaders create a positive, motivational, and inspiring workplace culture|working environment.  They know how to set the tone and bring an attitude that galvanizes their colleagues to take action.   These managers are likeable, strong-willed, exciting, and magnetic.  They don’t allow failures to disrupt momentum and mistakes are embraced as learning opportunities.
  • They Are Active Mentors: Many people in the workplace will tell you that their leader has stopped being a teacher and is often “too busy” to invest in their career path, growth, and development. However, successful leaders never stop teaching because they are passionately curious themselves and pass on what they have learned.  They use teaching to keep their colleagues well-informed, interested, and knowledgeable through casual dialogs, social, and experiential learning opportunities. They are happy to invest the time and energy into those who show they are enthusiastic about learning and growth.

  • Invest in Relationships: Successful leaders don’t focus on protecting their domain, elevating a hidden agenda, or holding information to use for political reasons – instead they expand their network to capture and encourage mutually beneficial relationships. Fabulous leaders align themselves with positive influences, enthusiastic learners, and people who are smarter than they are – the types of people that can broaden their sphere of influence and knowledge.  They don’t do this out of selfishness – they do this to share information, knowledge, learn from others, and enhance the workplace culture for everyone they interact with.
  • Genuinely Enjoy Their Responsibilities: The best leaders love what they do – absolutely not for the sake of authority and status but for the meaningful and purposeful impact they can have on others.  When you have reached a senior level of leadership – it’s about your ability to help people and support a rewarding culture and this can’t be accomplished unless you genuinely enjoy what you do.



Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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