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New study shows most important leadership quality isn’t what we all think

 We’re all familiar with what makes a good leader –  decisiveness, fairness, a strategic mindset, a dash of competitiveness, etc. But a new survey from finance and accounting staffing experts Robert Half adds a new ingredient into your mix. 

And there’s learning for all types of leaders, no matter what type of industry or job you may be in.


The study examines the perceptions from two groups: the workers and the CFOs” Both groups were asked, “Which of these are the most important attributes in a corporate leader?”

The attributes offered were:

  • Accessibility
  • Collaborative mindset
  • Competitiveness
  • Integrity
  • Fairness
  • Decisiveness
  • Strategic mindset, and

While there were differences in responses, one key similarity stuck out: Integrity.

Both groups agreed integrity is the most important attribute a leader can have. Three quarters (75%) of workers put it at the top of their list, and 46% of CFOs did the same.

But that’s where the similarities end. Check out how other qualities were ranked, and see if you’re in a similar boat in your office:

The groups viewed competitiveness on two different scales. Thirty percent of CFOs considered it to be extremely important, while only 10% of workers agreed.

And with transparency, 33% of CFOs found this quality to be important, while only 25% put it on their leadership list.

Even though more than half (58%) of workers and 45% of CFOs put fairness as the second most important quality, age difference played a huge role.

Those 55 and older considered fairness to be an extremely important quality. However, only 44% of participants between the ages of 18 to 34 found fairness to be important in a leader.

The survey findings go to show: There may be a difference between what employees and managers want, but as a leader you need to understand that perception matters.

So while you may think fairness is a top quality, if you have a younger team, you may want to err on the side of honesty first.

As a great leader, you know how to adapt your leadership style to your team. There may be some employees who appreciate honesty over everything else (such as your Millennials) while your older crowd wants fairness first.

What works best for your team?

One thing’s for sure: Integrity is a quality everyone can agree is important, from the bottom to the top brass. The survey states this is one piece of advice managers can “act on immediately … set the right example. In addition to modeling appropriate behavior, address performance issues quickly, which will show you do not let problems fester.”

Leadership experts James Kouzes and Barry Posner also know the importance of integrity, and how it goes hand-in-hand with honesty:

“Honesty is essential to a leader’s legitimacy, credibility and ability to develop trust with followers.”

As a manager, acting with integrity means you’re willing to address concerns or problems head-on, rather than letting them go.

Incorporate this quality into your daily management and see what kind of difference it makes with your team.

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