While a sizeable salary and perks aplenty can help attract new talent to a company, engagement is what keeps people there. And to feel engaged, employees need a sense of purpose and value in the work they’re doing, something that leaders with specific personality traits can help cultivate, according to this Harvard Business Review article.
Authors Lewis Garrad, an organizational psychologist, and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London and faculty member at Columbia University, point to research that found people experiencing meaningful work can be happier and healthier, and may be more resilient in the face of failure: they’re more likely to view their errors as an opportunity for growth rather than a setback.
According to Garrad and Chamorro-Premuzic, leaders with four specific personality traits “proven to have a strong impact on team and organizational performance” play a crucial role in helping employees find or create meaning in their work. It’s worth reading the Harvard Business Review article in full, but here’s a brief summary of the traits they described so you can identify the type of leader you want or want to be.
They’re constantly seeking innovation
Garrad and Chamorro-Premuzic cite research showing that people who “feel like they are contributing to something new” find the most meaning in their work. Curious leaders can also help as they tend to ask questions about the future and think creatively. Rather than being prescriptive or controlling, curious leaders will create the space for novel approaches to tasks, and seek the same sort of innovation in their own work.
They’re never satisfied, in a good way
The authors refer to this leadership trait as being “challenging and relentless,” and ultimately, adaptable to change. One the main issues companies face, according to Garrad and Chamorro-Premuzic, is the “inertia and stagnation that follow success, or even its anticipation.” If leaders are too comfortable or complacent, they may not rouse their employees to think innovatively and creatively. But leaders that are never satisfied, in that they’re constantly pushing people to grow, can “instill a deeper sense of purpose in their teams and organizations,” which can help employees feel “a sense of progress, reinvention, and growth.”
They hire smart, not just smart people
Research shows that people “only find something valuable if it aligns with their core needs and motives,” the authors write, which adds more emphasis to hiring a “culture fit.” But more than that, leaders who are able to identify what each individual person on their team values are more likely to spot incoming talent that aligns with their colleagues and the organization as a whole, all which can help instill a greater sense of meaning. And getting along with your colleagues makes for more than just a pleasant workday: a recent study found that employees with strong work friends are more productive, and potentially happier and healthier. A leader who hires well will also help to make employees feel like they’re part of a team, which other research shows can help employees stave off burnout and feelings of social isolation.
They believe in you
Most people don’t like being micromanaged or controlled, the authors write, especially because bosses like these can be disempowering, making it hard to find value and meaning in the work you’re doing. Trusting leaders not only spare their employees from the horrors of micromanagement, but give people room to grow. Plus, these type of leaders will help their employees “job craft,” or shaping your job to be more meaningful.
Garrad and Chamorro-Premuzic note that these qualities have to be happening concurrently, otherwise the balance is skewed. (Complacent innovators don’t apply.) Taken together, these personality traits culminate in a leader who’s focused on “helping employees find meaning in their achievements, rather than just enjoy their time at the office.”
Read more on Harvard Business Review.