Why good leadership is essential for work performance

The competence of a leader is undoubtedly one of the biggest factors that can drive – or hold back – the performance of a business. What a leader says and does can indeed have far-reaching implications on an organisation, touching every aspect from staff morale and productivity to the company's bottom line itself.

In fact, a new survey suggests that poor leadership could have the largest impact on the individual performances of an organisation's employees. According to the 'Developing High-Performing Teams to Drive Business Performance and Engagement' study from Robert Walters, almost a third (32 per cent) of professionals in Australia and New Zealand pointed to ineffective leadership when asked what adversely affected their performance the most.

The survey polled more than 250 hiring managers and 700 professionals across the two countries, and a deeper look at the findings highlights some areas in which today's leaders may want to place priority.

For instance, 32 per cent of respondents also said that not having “clearly defined goals and objectives” also placed a drain on workplace performance. Employees want to be adequately recognised for their efforts as well – almost a quarter (22 per cent) of professionals said that rewards and recognition keep them most engaged at work.

The flow-on effects of poor leadership simply cannot be ignored. Eight out of 10 respondents said that bad leaders contribute to lowered trust and openness within the organisation. Meanwhile, two-thirds believed poor leadership “blocks performance”, and just over half said that it “prevents team alignment with organisational goals”.

So what makes a bad leader?

Even the very best leaders have their flaws, and the first step to facilitating productive leadership development is understanding where your biggest issues lie. 

The 'Leadership: You're doing it wrong' report from Hogan Assessments outlines six common personality traits that define bad leaders. After polling a sample of working adults, Hogan revealed that arrogance is one of the least desirable traits in leaders, with 52 per cent of professionals reporting their boss possesses this flaw.

Around half also complained of manipulative behaviour and emotional volatility in their bosses, while common leadership mistakes such as micromanaging, being passive aggressive and being distrustful of others also received a mention.

“These behaviours undermine employees' trust, and prohibit leaders from creating and maintaining a high-functioning team – which is the definition of failed leadership,” the report concludes.

The link between leadership and team building

As the Hogan report outlines, leadership is defined by how well or poorly a leader can build, manage and get the most out of their work team. 

It is a critical error for leaders to neglect that this is one of the most important functions they serve in the organisation – and this sentiment is echoed among leadership and management authorities around the world.

The Center for Creative Leadership, for instance, pinpoints 'leading a team' as one of the six common challenges leaders across the globe face. In its 'The Challenges Leaders Face Around the World: More Similar than Different' report, challenges such as team building and development, instilling pride in the team and the steps to take when taking over a new team remain high on leaders' agendas.

It can certainly seem like a sizeable undertaking for any leader to take on, but fortunately there is a range of consulting initiatives that can help any manager make the most of their team. Tools such as team building workshops can help encourage teams to cooperate and share a common purpose, making it easier for leaders to tap into their full potential.