Behavior Leadership Qualities Role Model Self awareness

Are You a Chart-Topping Leader?

Five qualities leaders need to be recommended as good leaders to others. Plus one tip on hiring right.

You may be familiar with the term Net Promoter Score. It’s a metric originally used to measure customers’ recommendations to other prospects to use a brand, product, or service. The question used is simple.

Would you recommend this brand, product, or service to others? 

Customers would score from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest. People scoring a 9 or 10 are considered promoters. People scoring the brand, product, or service with a 7 or 8 are considered passives. People scoring a 6 or below are considered detractors. These people harm your brand, product, or service.

By calculating the average of all scores, you would get an indication of how favorable your brand, product, or service is.

Now, imagine we would do this for leadership.

Would you recommend your leader to others, either within your organization or externally, for example, when someone leaves to work outside? Or, would people on your team recommend you as a leader to others?

I recently learned about an organization that started to use a variation of this metric. Their initial score was 80, meaning that 80% of their leaders would be recommended. 

That also means that 2 out of 8 leaders would not be recommended.

When I heard the story, my brain immediately confronted me with two questions:
  1. How do leaders react when their organization announces that they are starting to use the leader’s promoter score? Would they embrace the idea or resist it?
  2. Are you willing to announce which leaders have failed the leader’s promoter score? What intervention would you create to help these leaders grow and become recommendable?

As I write this, a third question pops into my mind. How sincerely would people answer this question when they know it would expose their leader?

Would they still be sincere? Would they be more favorable? Or less favorable?

I’ve had many leaders in my life whom I recommend without a second of hesitation. I also have had a few leaders where I would score as a detractor, meaning I would not recommend them as leaders.

The core question here is which qualities would leaders need to be recommended as good leaders to others?

You won’t be surprised when I say the first quality of recommendable leaders is self-awareness. They know who they are, what they stand for, and how to grow and impact people. More importantly, they’re open to listening to feedback at every level and taking action when they hear it. 

Another quality is that they’re observant and show integrative thinking. They know what’s happening around them and are curious about the reason why. Good or bad. They can hold multiple realities and perspectives. Kids hate their parents one moment and love them the other moment. They can’t see beyond that. For children, the world is black and white. When we grow and mature, we’re supposed to grow beyond that and learn to think more integratively. But not everybody does. For some people, the world remains black or white. Or it’s either love or hate. These people have not learned to think integratively. Great leaders think integratively. They excel in holding ambiguity.

Recommendable leaders are also excellent communicators. They err on the side of over-communication versus remaining silent. Not everything can be communicated, but that’s never the excuse. For example, when you spend two days offsite as an executive, you inform your team about the conversations. You let them know what has been discussed. You share how what you have learned will impact your work. And if it’s really all that confidential, you can still tell them what you have learned. If anything, what have you learned about yourself? Make people feel included. Make people think they matter.

Recommendable leaders know how to deliver with their team. They understand the capacity of their team. They understand there’s a limit to what people can hold. They know how to care and stretch — in that order. They know how to prioritize and focus. Not everything is important and urgent. Not everything needs to be executed now. These leaders understand that priorities must be postponed when something else becomes an immediate priority. It’s not an add-on. It’s an adaptation of priorities. They know what matters most!

Last but not least, great leaders know how to build and maintain a culture of psychological safety within their teams. Making sure people are comfortable being themselves, showing their qualities and thoughts without worries about repercussions, and feeling trusted while giving their best has enormous benefits. When people feel free to perform, they’re more likely to do so.

When I summarize these qualities, I characterize these leaders as leaders creating freedom within a framework. Direction is clear, culture, purpose, and values are well defined, and people understand their roles and contributions. There’s a high degree of alignment on priorities and goals. Add trust to the mix, and the ideal ingredients are available for outstanding performance.

To be clear. The goal is not to chase the idea of becoming a recommendable leader. The goal is to set up the right conditions and lead with the right mindset so people perform because you, as their leader, have created the ideal context.

One final note on hiring the right people. 

Great leaders hire great people. Those are the A players who hire A players. Some leaders prefer to hire people who ‘fit’ their style, don’t push back, and spend most of their time validating that leader. Those are the B players who hire C players.

A players deliver A performance. B and C players deliver mediocre performance. A players recommend their leader, because they’re growing and held to a higher standard. B and C players recommend their leader because that’s what the leader wants them to do or what they believe needs to be done to be favorable.

This is how leadership works. 

If you love excellent performance, you surround yourself with people who challenge you and are potentially smarter than you. Yes, they may be after your position, but what’s wrong with that? When you’re clear on direction, communicate well, and care about their growth, your performance will, first and foremost, mean you grow as well. 

It’s a win-win. You grow, they grow. 

If they outgrow you, you should be proud. You helped them to get there. It makes you look bigger, not smaller. And that’s what authentic leadership is all about. First, how do I grow myself to become an effective leader, and second, how can I help others grow?

Your turn: Would your team authentically and honestly recommend you as a leader?


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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