What does a great leader look like?
May 29th, 2015, Jake Gammon

What does a great leader look like?


From an employee perspective, a great CEO should be a visionary, people person, with strong industry knowledge.

Personality traits like resilience, and tough mindedness, may be prerequisites for the board, but are much less highly valued by a company’s employees. More than half of workers do, however, recognize the importance of optimism (51%) and willingness to take calculated risks (53%).

Employees thought that the most important qualities for a successful CEO are:

  • Vision for the future of the company (69%)
  • Good with people (69%)
  • Industry knowledge (64%)
  • Strategic intelligence (60%)

Boomers and Millennials have a significantly different vision for what makes a strong company leader. Half of Millennials (50%) think that a successful CEO should be charismatic, and nearly half (47%) expect them to have a strong personal network compared to only 37% of Boomers. Boomers value strong people skills (76%) significantly more highly than Millennials (67%).

Compare to the actual qualities of the CEOs they worked for and they generally fell far short. The strongest characteristics employees recognized in their current CEO were industry knowledge (38%), vision (38%) and people skills (39%). Only 19% thought their CEO capable of developing strong teams.

The Manager

Expectations of employees for effective line managers are different than the CEOs. Fairness, honesty, good communications and people skills are rated most highly (each deemed important by more than 60% of employees). Again those personal attributes which might make the line manager successful in their own right are less valued by their employees: strategic intelligence, vision, charisma and resilience are not highly recognized by those on the reporting side (each seen as important by 31% or fewer of respondents).

Again Millennials rate charisma more highly than Boomers when it comes to the line manager (35% compared to 23%). For Boomers people skills and good communications are essential (82% and 78%) and are much less important for Millennials (60% and 50%).

For line managers the gap between expectations and reality is striking. Fewer than a third of employees feel their line manager is fair (31%), honest (31%) or has strong communications skills (29%). Slightly more than a third felt that their boss was good with people.


The qualities that employees would most like to see in their current line manager are perhaps unsurprisingly communications skills (19%), mentoring skills (18%) and the ability to develop strong teams (16%)

Worst qualities employees think a line manager could have? Temper tantrums (36%), incompetence (38%), and arrogance (28%). Micromanagement and favoritism were both called out by more than one in five.

Perhaps surprisingly emotion was only a concern to 5% - it seems that it is OK to be emotional as long as you are not angry.

For further information about Omnibus results, and for details about methodology and Omnibus services, please email omnibus.us@yougov.com.

Find the full results here.

Image courtesy of Press Association