May 24 responses

Reflecting on leaders they’ve known, HR community members identified leadership behaviors proven to inspire employee engagement. The following summary captures their best advice for new and veteran leaders alike.

1. Focus on leading

“Good leaders take the time to go into the weeds and understand behaviors that help or hinder results.”

  • Seek advice: Ask for input on decisions and feedback on performance.
  • Engage everyone: Encourage folks who may be reticent—show that all perspectives matter.
  • Always listen: Give people your full attention.
  • Follow through: Stick to your commitments.
  • Give credit: Recognize others’ ideas and actions.

2. Leverage individual strengths

“Keeping work interesting and giving employees opportunities to use their skills and make meaningful contributions has a large impact.”

  • Use strengths to guide assignments: Play to each individual’s strong suits when divvying up projects.
  • Explore strengths training: UHR Learning and Development offers the Clifton StrengthsFinder workshop.

3. Show confidence in the team

“Empower team members to take ownership of their work and achieve results. Let them take calculated risks.”

  • Ban micromanagement: Once a responsibility is delegated, keep a respectful distance.
  • Build autonomous teams: Hand them problems to solve, not assignments to complete.

4. Communicate openly

“It’s important to be transparent with communication and involve key stakeholders in making decisions.”

  • Make regular rounds: Check in with each team member formally and informally.
  • Keep everyone in the loop: Use meetings and other methods to share information clearly and consistently.
  • Respect different communication styles: Develop a variety of approaches and learn what works for each individual.

5. Stay positive

“Recognize successes rather than dwelling on failures, praising staff for their work.”

  • Be generous with appreciation: Recognize everyone’s contributions and achievements.
  • Turn failures around: When things don’t go according to plan, focus on lessons learned.
  • Show resilience: Adapt as circumstances change, but don’t lose sight of goals.

5. Support each team member’s goals

“The leader I’m thinking of seemed to truly care about me as an individual, not just another ‘worker’ he was supervising.”

  • Meet people where they are: Learn what motivates and challenges each individual.
  • Honor the professional and the personal: Respect and foster work/life balance.
  • Set clear expectations: Identify what’s essential and be flexible with the rest.

7. Incentivize positive leadership

“Rewarding relationships between supervisors and employees—not just productivity—would be helpful.”

  • Identify mentors: Recruit accomplished leaders who can share their experience.
  • Model effective behaviors: Ensure that HR community members share what works through example.
  • Evaluate for leadership: Prioritize this dimension when assessing anyone with a leadership role.