The four behaviours of great team leaders

Does a leader’s behaviour really impact on employees' productivity? In short, yes. Research into leadership shows employees' perceptions of their team leaders has an enormous impact on the team's creativity and productivity.

In a study, carried out over an 18-week period by Harvard Business School, 238 employees from seven successful companies were asked to recount one event each day that stood out in their minds. By analysing nearly 12,000 diary entries, the results found that the most frequent event recorded was employees' interactions with their team leaders.

Employees' perceptions of team leaders were put into two categories: positive and negative. Team leaders were perceived positively when they showed four behaviours:

  1. Monitoring work effectively.
  2. Showing social and emotional support.
  3. Recognising good work privately and publicly.
  4. Consulting employees about work.

Alternatively, employees had a negative perception of their team leaders when they showed three ineffective behaviours:

  1. Monitoring work ineffectively.
  2. Failing to clarify roles and objectives.
  3. Dealing with problems ineffectively.

Interestingly, the results showed that negative behaviours were reported more frequently than positive behaviours. The researchers believed this was because negative leadership evokes stronger emotional reactions than the way that positive leadership affects positive reactions. Also, the negative emotions were more specifically described than the positive ones (eg. anger and frustration compared with feeling happy).

The conclusion: Teams who considered their leaders to exhibit positive behaviours generated more creative ideas and enjoyed greater performance success compared with those whose leaders exhibited negative behaviours. Common sense wins again.

How would you rate yourself against each of the criteria? Now think about this. If you asked your team to rate you against each of the criteria, would their perception match your own? Where would the gaps be? What might be causing the difference in perception? How might this be impacting on the productivity of the team?