When businesspeople cite the attributes they consider most valuable in a leader, the responses are widely consistent, according to Mark Burrell, APAC managing director of leadership advisory firm Leadership Circle.

    “People say they want leaders to create a sense of purpose and meaning,” says Burrell. “They want their leaders to be authentic and to create the conditions for people to speak up and have effective conversations, including conversations that might be a little risky.” They also want leaders to be highly skilled at managing trusting relationships.

    In times of uncertainty and challenging market conditions, the attributes of leaders become even more important. To that end, Leadership Circle has been undertaking research for 20-plus years, developing a concept called “creative leadership”, which encompasses the desirable attributes of an effective leader. It creates the conditions for mental wellbeing in organisations and requires a high level of self-awareness among leaders in terms of how their decisions are impacting others.

    “When leaders possess these qualities, it has a profound impact on people’s sense of psychological safety and wellbeing, as well as their engagement and connection with others,” says Burrell.

    It also delivers superior business performance. The data shows that business results are strongly correlated with the creative leadership style. There is a negative relationship between “reactive leadership” style and business results. The creative competencies most highly correlated with business performance are: relating, self- awareness, authenticity, systems awareness and achieving.

    Leadership Circle has developed assessments to measure effective leadership by gleaning insights from leaders at prominent organisations in sectors that include pharmaceuticals, technology, manufacturing and finance.

    “It is one of the world’s most significant instruments to measure leadership effectiveness,” says Burrell. “We’ve had more than 275,000 leaders complete it, making it one of the globe’s largest databases on the topic.”

    He believes everyone has reactionist tendencies and that self-awareness can help to minimise the negative impacts. “Reactive tendencies are a natural human coping mechanism to stay safe in a range of difficult circumstances. However, when they are overused or manifest on an unconscious level, they become liabilities. They are protective mechanisms that get results, but at the expense of things like effective relationships, personal balance and sustainable business results. The results delivered by reactive leaders often come at a very significant cost.”

    In practice, reactive leadership looks like arrogance and being autocratic, controlling or too pleasing. It matters, because the tone of an organisation is set from the top.

    “Leaders bring the weather,” says Burrell. “When leaders come from a place of authenticity, are able to create effective relationships and have a sense of purpose and vision, it has a positive effect on an organisation’s culture and, ultimately, business results.”

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