A Common Trait of Highly Successful Leaders

employee engagement

There is a common trait that I have observed in highly successful leaders.  What it is may surprise you.

Successful leaders prioritize learning from others more than acting as the expert.   

Leaders are often promoted into leadership based on their individual performance, results and expertise.  Yet, leadership demands a very different version of yourself.  One that is setting direction and empowering others to be in action, listening more than talking, and inquiring, observing, aligning, supporting and providing feedback.

What percentage of the time are you operating as expert or directing with your ideas and what percentage are you learning from and leveraging the talent of your team and across the organization?

The ideal percentage likely depends on the nature of your role and the level of guidance you need to provide.  With that said, hopefully you are spending a significant portion of time engaging the thoughts and ideas of others as you lead.  This is particularly important given the degree of complexity and change that exists in organizations today.  Leveraging the insight of the team as a whole provides much more intelligence and creativity than going with your own thoughts.  What then becomes important is how you channel that collective intelligence to move forward.

If this resonates for you, determine the target you want to set for yourself as you reflect on the following questions:

  • – Where can I give space for others to add value?
  • – What untapped expertise and potential exists?
  • – Where does the team need my direction?  Where can I give them the reigns?
  • – What elements do we not know and how can I empower the team to increase our understanding?
  • – What percentage of time am I asking questions versus telling?
  • – What support does the team need from me to enable their success?
  • – What am I expecting of myself as the leader of this group?
  • – What new measures of success do I want to create for my personal leadership?


It is not unusual for a leader to share with me that they should have thought of a particular idea first rather than their team bringing it to their attention.  They felt insufficient by not being the first to the table with the best solution.  If you find yourself thinking this way, re-evaluate your success from the perspective of how you are the creating conditions to tap the energy of the team to be creative and drive results.

Statistics have shown that employee engagement levels are at all-time lows in organizations.   By increasing the involvement of your team members, along with peers and other stakeholders, you can have a positive impact on those around you and the organization as a whole.  You can still share your opinion, provide direction and align the team, however, you are being intentionally selective around when you do so.