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What is a High-Performing Leader?

The only traits that all leaders have in common is that they have followers.

Every team, and every member of a team, will require something different from its leader, but in general a good leader works with their team to reach a goal in the most efficient manner by producing superior results. No high-performing team has a poor leader. If it does, it won’t remain high-performing for long.

A fundamental attribute of all high performing leaders is their ability to earn a high level of trust from their team/followers.

Trust is broken into two components: trust in a leader’s competence, and trust in their character.

In terms of their competence, a leader should have the skills to do their job and be able to apply their skills under pressure. Their team sees that they are in control, understand the fundamentals and works hard to get the job done.

In terms of character, they should remain true to their word and put the teams needs first when required to do so.

Many teams are trapped in the competence paradigm when it comes to selecting or promoting their leaders. You often see the best salesperson promoted to lead the sales team when their skillset may not be the best suited to leadership.

So think about the character traits of the best leaders you’ve worked with or met.

They built relationships and showed a level of vulnerability.

High-performing leaders take an interest in the individual. They get to know your background, asked questions and listened attentively but, more importantly, they humanise themselves and let you get to know them too and aren’t afraid to show their vulnerability.

This is imperative in building a strong professional relationship and a level of mutual trust. When leaders demonstrate an interest in people and their work it helps to develop a mutual commitment to the job.

Think about a leader who makes regular effort to take time away from their office to connect with the team. They might take time out from their day to lunch with you and might invite you to events outside of work.

They have your back.

Leaders created this feeling by actively listening to ideas and opinions, allowing your confidence to develop and creating a sense of openness across the whole team. This results in a very collaborative team that gets work done efficiently in a safe environment.

Think of the power that comes from a team saying, ‘we can take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed’.

This confidence drives innovation and innovation ensures that goals are met in the most effective manner.

They provided feedback.

Giving and receiving feedback is something that every human craves.

From birth we are accustomed to receiving feedback, but at some stage in early adulthood it seems to dry up.

Feedback, delivered by someone with your best interest at heart, is a gift. The best athletes in the world have coaches to provide feedback. These athletes don’t view feedback as positive or negative, they take it as an opportunity to improve.

And feedback needs to go both ways. How can you be a great leader if you aren’t willing to hear from your team how you could improve? Why should they listen to you if you won’t listen to them? How would you feel in a situation where all the feedback was one way?

They made consistent and effective decisions.

Trust and respect are created when a leader makes consistently good and effective decisions.

Great leaders understand how to balance emotion with reason and make decisions that positively impact the team.

A high-performing leader takes input from the team but ultimately takes responsibility. Taking responsibility, and knowing when to listen to your team, are a short cut to building trust.

Being consistent comes from knowing who you are and what you stand for. This foundation means that when the pressure is on, your decisions are consistent. A clear understanding of your personal values is essential if you are to become a high-performing leader.

Many of these traits are common sense. They are discussed and debated in countless articles and books and many of us have them in some quantity. However, the important thing is to prioritise them every day. To be a high-performing leader you must recognise that this isn’t in addition to your job, this is your job.