When you think of the traits of a great leader, you might think of fearlessness, charisma, the ability to inspire others.
But there’s a way less exciting trait that global companies like Google look for when hiring for leadership positions and that’s cited in leadership books dissecting the personalities of great leaders.
When you work for someone who is unpredictable, you expend energy trying to predict their next mood, move or other action that could impact your job. Having a consistent, predictable boss lets you focus on doing your job. It frees you up to add value, work creatively and be more productive, instead of managing the relationship with your boss, justifying your actions or dealing with their meddling.
Predictability Helps Maintain Sanity
If you’re a worker in the trenches every day, constantly anticipating the next bomb to drop diverts your focus from the task at hand or the real problem you’re supposed to solve. Not to mention, it isn’t the best for your mental health.
A boss who doles out praise and punishment randomly can drive people mad. But a boss who lets employees know in advance how their actions will be rewarded or punished creates an environment where employees feel motivated and engaged to do their best work.
But that’s not all great leaders must do regarding rules. Leaders can help maintain predictability by not only establishing rules with expected outcomes but also playing by those rules themselves. A boss who preaches about punctuality to meetings and arrives late to every meeting, for example, loses credibility with employees. But one who shows up two minutes early to every meeting clearly sets the example. Employees see what’s expected, and they’re more likely to follow that example instead of roll their eyes.
Predictable Does Not Mean Boring
But don’t be boring. British magazine Management Today makes the argument that leaders run the risk of being too predictable – the monthly CEO brief, quarterly meetings, rote thank-you messages to staff, to name a few examples. Instead of working away in the corner office all the time, leaders need to make sure they’re inspiring workers, whether by a surprise celebratory event or sharing personal stories.
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