Working at the coalface of the employment sector, we know first-hand which qualities candidates really want from an organisation’s leadership team.  In fact, if candidates wrote their own job ad it would read,

‘Seeking company with strong leadership team that will enable me to be the best version of myself’.

Conversely, we also know first-hand the damaging consequences between companies whose leaders ‘lead’ as opposed to those which demonstrate true ‘leadership’. By assessing the two sides of this insightful coin, we’ve compiled a list of leadership qualities which, over the past two years, our most in-demand job candidates have identified as ‘non-negotiable’ in roles they have considered.


Who doesn’t want to be in a workplace where you are inspired to do your best work? Those who show true leadership not only have a vision but are able to articulate that vision. Better yet, they inspire the support of those around them to join them on the journey that delivers on that vision. Which means getting to that better version of yourself is an overwhelmingly positive experience.


Great leaders are magnets for great talent – we all want to work with the best people in our fields. But it’s not just about being able to attract the best talent, it’s about being able to draw out the power of that talent. Great leaders relinquish control and give employees the freedom to learn, grow, and power-up themselves, supported by the knowledge that those at the top have their back.


Candidates want to work for and stay with real people. Great leaders aren’t afraid of bringing their whole self to work, as opposed to the ‘brochure version’ of themselves, and they encourage employees to do the same. Leaders know that trust and loyalty are built on real connections which can only be achieved by being 100 per cent real. As they say, being yourself is the only way to be, everyone else is taken.


Team members are looking for strength of character in a leader.  Leaders who are confident but never arrogant or dominant are the most effective.  Senior candidates, in particular, are looking for an organisation that promotes a ’meeting of the minds’ approach to leadership.  Too often we see those in power confuse leadership with management, to the detriment of both the business and its employees.


Great leaders cultivate a culture of mutual respect, honesty and kindness, across the whole team.  FTR: Being kind isn’t about being nice. Top talent is looking for a firm but fair approach to leadership.  For leaders, it’s about knowing when to let go and when to reign it in and have those difficult conversations.


Generosity is commonly associated with materialistic giving, but this isn’t what candidates are looking for in a leader.  Great leaders understand the power of giving time and giving of themselves; never asking their team to do anything they wouldn’t do. Ironically, the defining qualities of leadership are about serving, so the leader who is focused on how to serve employees knows this is the best way to foster loyalty and engagement. It’s also the best role modelling future leaders can have.

Which ‘non-negotiable’ qualities do you look for in a leader? Join the conversation on LinkedIn.