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Here Are the Key Traits of a Top-Tier People Leader To be the leader that people want to follow, you must possess a unique set of qualities that go beyond technical expertise.

By Michael Stagno

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Serving as the leader of a company is not just about holding a high position in the corporate hierarchy; it's about leading and inspiring people to achieve greatness. Starting a business is difficult enough, but to be the leader that people want to follow, one must possess a unique set of qualities that go beyond technical expertise. There are key attributes and practices that can transform an ordinary leader into an exceptional one, capable of inspiring and motivating their team to success.

In the ever-evolving landscape of leadership theories and styles, one characteristic that has consistently attracted employees is the presence of quiet and hardworking leaders. While charismatic and assertive leaders may grab attention, via grand gestures and bold statements, it is the humble leaders who often leave a lasting impact on their teams. Below are just a few reasons why employees gravitate toward such leaders, which highlight the benefits they bring to their respective companies.

Related: 12 Character Traits Exceptional Entrepreneurial Leaders Have In Common

Why employees gravitate toward quiet and humble leaders

  1. Authenticity and trust: Quiet and humble leaders tend to foster an environment of authenticity and trust within their teams. They eschew self-promotion and focus on building genuine connections with their employees instead. By demonstrating vulnerability, admitting mistakes and actively listening, these leaders create an atmosphere where employees feel valued and appreciated. The resulting trust allows employees to feel safe to express their ideas, take risks and contribute to the overall success of the organization.

  2. Empathy (emotional intelligence): These business leaders often possess a high degree of emotional intelligence. They are adept at understanding and relating to the emotions, needs and challenges of their team members. Through active listening and open communication, they create an environment that encourages open dialogue and collaboration. Employees appreciate leaders who genuinely care about their well-being. This fosters a sense of belonging and promotes a positive work culture.

  3. Recognition and development: Contrary to their spotlight-seeking counterparts, quiet and humble leaders focus on recognizing and developing the strengths of their employees. They understand that success is a collective effort and go out of their way to acknowledge the contributions of their team members. These leaders empower their employees, provide them with opportunities for growth and development and actively support their career advancement. By prioritizing the growth of their employees, they inspire loyalty and dedication, resulting in higher job satisfaction and retention rates.

  4. Effective communication and collaboration: Top executives excel in their ability to communicate effectively and foster collaboration within their teams. They prioritize active listening, allowing them to gather insights and perspectives from different team members. By encouraging open and honest communication, they create an environment where ideas are freely exchanged and diverse viewpoints are valued. This approach not only encourages creativity and innovation but also leads to better decision-making, as multiple perspectives are considered.

  5. Reduced ego (team-centric mentality): When leaders let the work do the talking for them, they learn to prioritize the success of the team above their personal recognition. They are not driven by ego or a need for personal glory. Instead, they embrace a team-centric approach, focusing on collective achievements rather than individual accomplishments. They don't need their names on a marquee but opt to share successes with their company and its contributing teams instead. This selfless attitude resonates with employees who value a sense of unity, collaboration and shared purpose. It creates a supportive environment that encourages cooperation, mutual respect and teamwork.

While charismatic and assertive executives may initially captivate attention, it is the quiet and humble leaders who inspire deep respect and loyalty from their employees. Through authenticity, empathy, effective communication and a team-centric mentality, these leaders create an environment where individuals thrive, while contributing to the overall success of the organization.

By gravitating toward such leaders, employees find themselves in workplaces that value them, recognize their efforts and provide opportunities for growth and development. As organizations (and startups) continue to evolve, the demand for these types of leaders will likely increase, reinforcing their importance in fostering a positive and productive work environment.

Related: The 5 Worst Traits a Business Leader Can Have (Infographic)

How to be a leader that people want to follow

But how can business leaders essentially light a fire in their employees? Below are just six simple ways to lead by example and traits that quiet and humble leaders exude to continue leading their companies effectively, efficiently and with empathy.

  1. Visionary leadership: A leader who people want to follow is one who possesses a clear and compelling vision for the organization's future. They have the ability to articulate this vision in a way that resonates with the employees, instilling a sense of purpose and direction. By painting a vivid picture of what success looks like, they inspire others to share in their passion and actively work towards achieving the company's goals.

  2. Transparency: Authenticity is a crucial trait for any leader. A leader who is genuine and transparent creates an atmosphere of trust and openness. By fostering a culture of transparency, they encourage open communication, honest feedback and constructive criticism. People feel valued when their ideas and opinions are considered, leading to increased engagement and a sense of ownership in the organization's success.

  3. Strong communication skills: Effective communication is vital for a leader to inspire and motivate their teams. They must be adept at conveying their vision, goals and expectations clearly and concisely. A great leader is an excellent listener, encouraging open dialogue and creating space for collaboration and innovation. By fostering effective communication channels, they ensure that every member of the organization feels heard and understood, thus creating a sense of belonging and shared purpose.

  4. Adaptability: Regardless of one's place in the business world, effective leaders are always learning. In today's rapidly changing business landscape, a leader who people want to follow is one who demonstrates a commitment to lifelong learning and personal growth. They stay updated on industry trends, emerging technologies and best practices. They encourage their team members to develop skills and provide them with opportunities for growth. Establishing a learning culture shows that they are invested in the success of their employees, enhancing loyalty and dedication.

  5. Leading by example: Leadership is not about giving orders from the top; it's about leading by example. A leader who wants to inspire others must embody the values and behaviors they expect from their team. By demonstrating integrity, resilience and a strong work ethic, they set the standard for excellence within the organization. Leading by example establishes a culture of accountability and inspires employees to strive for greatness.

  6. Rewarding success: An emphasis on the importance of acknowledging and appreciating their team's achievements makes employees want to follow leaders. They recognize the efforts of individuals and teams, and they celebrate success openly. By providing meaningful recognition and rewards, leaders reinforce a culture of excellence and motivate employees to consistently perform at their best.

Related: 9 Reasons Humility Is the Key Ingredient to Exceptional Leadership

Becoming the leader that people want to follow requires a combination of leadership qualities, emotional intelligence and a genuine commitment to the well-being, both professionally and personally, of their employees.

In embracing visionary leadership, authenticity, empathy and continuous learning, leaders can inspire their teams to reach new heights. By cultivating a workplace culture of open communication, leading by example and recognizing success, they create an environment where employees feel valued, motivated and empowered.

Michael Stagno

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Writer, Editor, Marketer

Michael Stagno is a communications professional with a love for writing and editing, public relations, marketing and branding. He writes stories and creates content across multiple platforms, utilizing both social and digital intelligence, to build awareness, engage with audiences and propel brands.

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