Traits of a Future Leader

By David Braham

Published on 27-11-2017

Traits of a Future Leader

The leadership crisis in Australia is a genuine concern. Identifying the underlying issues, mapping frameworks for an improved leadership pathway, effecting change at corporate level where needed, and then building an inspired culture of leadership, is a daunting task.

Independently commissioned, The Future of Leadership Report was officially released in October 2017 and is the insightful culmination of our company’s complete and ongoing commitment, to investing in and developing leaders for the future. We look forward to unpacking the results in a more conversational style through this, our new leadership series.

Is great performance enough?

More than 1300 Australian professionals from our network who took part in our study, confirmed that their current senior managers, line managers or team leaders demonstrated an excellent work ethic and/or proven track records of success in their chosen fields.

Considering these top-ranking attributes more broadly in the context of corporate Australia today, it could be easy to overlook or initially find fault with them as undesirable indicators of personal values and behaviours of leaders. In fact, we have quite possibly, all observed these performance indicators for “leaders” in our own workplaces.

Traditionally when recruiting, companies tend to lean towards candidates who present as “highly skilled” in their industry or field, and who they consider will therefore likely be good at other, unrelated tasks. This subjective process of hiring, commonly known as the “halo effect”, explains in a more tangible way, why people can believe that highly extroverted personalities, comfortable with delivering live presentations to large groups would also make good leaders.

That’s not to say track record isn’t important, rather it is the minimum expectation of a leader. Prioritising personal performance is an indicator of a more traditional leadership style; one that places an emphasis or leadership focus on individual positions rather than the individuals within teams.

In addition to strong performance skills, when participants were surveyed on the traits they believe great leaders should possess, soft skills linked closely to building positive team culture came up trumps. Outstanding interpersonal and communications skills together with strong team building capabilities and authenticity were nominated as the areas of focus beyond pure performance that could successfully benefit towards solving Australia’s leadership problems.

Motivational pressure points

It should come as no surprise to learn that great leaders have effective communication skills. We’re not just talking about being a great talker; having the ability to also actively listen is an essential trait that future leaders will need to motivate their teams and have the people around them contribute effectively and positively to the greater business result.

Team building and outstanding communication are traits people want their leaders to display. As is stands, our survey revealed that 57% of today’s leaders score an average-to-poor performance rating on both these attributes; the balance between technical competency and great interpersonal skills look to be significantly unbalanced.

Realigning the values and behaviours of leaders today, to enable and upskill them to better relate to and inspire their teams in the future, requires a greater emphasis be placed on personal qualities instead of a single, hard-driving business edge. Collectively, Australian workplaces need to consider evaluating the areas that mean the most to their staff, their people.

“Gone are the days when there was one “style” of leadership – a great leader communicates in a way that is authentic, inspiring those around them to be their best”

- Rebecca Burrows, GM Small Business, Australia Post

The Future of Leadership Report will help businesses understand why leader and team dynamics have changed in the workplace and provide insights into focus areas that can help to shift and grow a new corporate mindset. The report offers several tactics which will work to solve the issue as well as looking at existing practices and highlight any critical areas requiring action and change.

High performing teams in our experience don’t just happen. They work effectively because they display an orientation towards people, they use positive communication, there is a regular exchange of information, problem-solving is shared and there is genuine awareness towards a “sense of team”. As the need for value-based culture increases, I challenge you to consider these two questions: 1) Is your corporate vision and strategy clear, and 2) do your leadership team foster a team-first culture?

Thomas Edison once said, "Many of life's failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up”. Leadership resilience for the future should be a measurable trait, so look for a mindset that will always explore and consider why the same issue keeps coming up over and over.

David Braham, Managing Director, leads the Executive Search Division nationally.

Get in touch with David on 03 86133533.

To better understand the Future of Leadership in Australia, Six Degrees Executive commissioned Evolve Research and Consulting, an independent research agency, to work with us on a research piece about leadership. Evolve Research and Consulting specialise in employee and employer-based research for leading Australian and global organisations.

The research was conducted in two phases:

  • A series of in-depth, one-on-one interviews with over 35 executives from some of  Australia and the world’s leading organisations, to explore the findings and unwrap key themes.
  • A quantitative online survey of over 1300 Australian professionals from the Six Degrees Executive network to understand ‘The Future of Leadership in Australia’.