Character is crucial

What do employees look for in a leader? It's not the latest business book trends, but basic principles managers are more likely to have learned in elementary school. That's according to survey results from Right Management Consultants, a career transition and organizational consulting firm in the US.

"Employees today are looking for strength of character in their leaders," says Chris Pierce-Cooke, director of Right's organizational consulting practice. "They want to shake off the hangover of last year's corporate scandals and financial sleight of hand and be reassured that their leaders are honest, ethical and caring individuals."

Last month, Right asked 570 full-time, white collar workers what the most important trait or attribute their corporate leaders should possess.

Respondents rated the following five attributes as the first or second most important:

  • Honesty (24%). Interestingly, older workers placed much more importance on this than their younger counterparts. Honesty was the top trait for 38% of the 55- to 64-year-olds, as compared to only 16% of the 18- to 34-year-old group.

  • Integrity/morals/ethics (16%)

  • Caring/compassion (7%)

  • Fairness (6.5%)

  • Good relationships with employees, including approachability and listening skills (6%)
Which of the 28 skills didn't rank as highly? Perhaps surprisingly, the bottom five attributes include some traditionally associated with successful leaders:

  • Creativity (1.2%)

  • Decisiveness (.8%)

  • Flexibility (.6%)

  • Good personality/sense of humor (.5%)
  • Attention to detail (.4%)
Pierce Cooke says, "The ideal leader will already have an internal moral compass that is guided by ethics and caring.

Companies need to select those individuals carefully and then ensure their internal culture is one that nurtures and rewards that type of leadership."

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