Leadership is always challenging—in today’s environment, where change happens more quickly than ever and a leader’s sphere of influence is ever-widening, the leadership challenge hits on many levels.

What do successful leaders do? What are key behavioral traits that strong leaders possess and act upon? Where are organizational priorities for leadership?

Last week at the ASTD 2013 Conference, I heard a highly informative and entertaining panel discuss a vast leadership study put on by the Leadership Research Institute and the American Management Association. Experts from ASTD, FranklinCovey, The Ken Blanchard Companies and the Marshall Goldsmith Group, all weighed in on the topic of global leadership.

We too have been intently focusing on leadership and asking our global client base what key elements help define and push strong leadership. Taking insights from both our study and Leadership Research Institute findings yields a few key factors for leadership.

Clearly Articulating Goals:

Leaders need to exemplify strong, performance-based behavior on a small and large scale. That means fitting work into a goal-centric perspective driven by the team’s and organization’s mission. The organization must have clear, consistent goals from its senior leadership around performance, results and development. Great leaders identify the skills and attributes present on their teams and correlate them with more productive goal achievement.

Providing Ongoing Feedback:

Leaders who are perceived as fair and trustworthy are usually those who provide feedback to subordinates on their performance.  Team members and employees need to receive feedback in a way that reinforces their role, their strengths and their approach to work. Again, high-quality leaders treat feedback as a two-way street and adjust their feedback style to meet employee needs.

Decision Making to Drive Growth:

Leaders make decisions constantly, and at the heart of every decision is an element of trust—that the decision was informed, critical and beneficial in as many ways as possible. Complex thinking skills like this are a core component for leadership in a quickly changing environment. Decisions and delegation from a team perspective is built on crafting decisions from a broad perspective of approaches and ways for action—the best leaders outline a scope of action and a path for growth that adhere to the team’s innate tendencies. When decisions make sense, trust is reinforced and performance can be boosted.

Aligning Roles and Responsibilities:

Leaders are faced with the growing task of managing and delegating—it is a complex puzzle of matching roles and responsibilities. The best performing teams have experts who understand the role, know the factors for success and perform the work via an optimal approach to each. The best leaders take these elements and also factor in how employees and teams actually work best—not only what roles people play based on expertise or job title, but how they approach both daily application and bigger picture ideation and development.

We’ll be posting the findings from our leadership and organizational development survey soon, so stay tuned!