How to avoid ‘one-way’ leadership

When you think of great leaders, you likely think back on your own experiences with leaders in years gone by. It’s something we all have in common, whether we’re Senior Leaders or just starting out in our first job, we all interact with managers and leaders who set the standard for what we expect – for better or worse. 

But, when the time comes for us to step into management positions, it’s all too common to forget the examples they’ve set, falling into the trap of ‘one-way’ leadership and, ultimately, letting down our teams. 

What do you expect from your leaders? 

To figure out which leadership traits are important to employees, we only need to look at what causes low morale – those things are usually great indicators of where leadership is going wrong and therefore, what employees expect. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, some of the most frustrating things a leader can do (and often leads to employees quitting) include, setting inconsistent goals, having too much red tape, setting resource-wasting tasks, creating a psychologically unsafe environment and being treated unfairly because of bias. 

We all want our leaders to: 

  • Be transparent and clearly communicate with us 
  • Assist in solving problems, rather than creating more hurdles
  • Value our time, energy and other resources
  • Listen to us and create a working environment where trust reigns 
  • Treat us with respect 

Are you delivering on these expectations in your own leadership? 

It may seem obvious, but when it comes time to step into a leadership role, these expectations still exist. This time, you’re on the other side, with your team expecting all of these things from you. 

Too many leaders forget this and, instead, believe that their role is to tell their team members what they’re doing well and what they’re not doing well, with the conversation only operating one way. 

And, the reality is, that unless you are at the very top of your organisation with no one to report to yourself, you would still have a manager or leader that you expect these things from. 

Two-way leadership in action 

Every day will offer up unique opportunities for your team to ‘manage’ you to build a leadership-team relationship that thrives. 

A typical example might be a 1:1 meeting. Allow your team members to speak first, to hear what they have to say as you give them your full attention. They’ll have questions, things they want to celebrate, concerns and frustrations – when you let them speak first, you get an insight into their reality in the team while allowing them to be listened to and taken seriously. 

Being managed by your team isn’t some strange manipulation exercise. It’s an opportunity to: 

  • Understand their priorities 
  • Build trust with your team 
  • Discover the real problems 
  • Gain more visibility into the daily happenings of the team
  • Work on effective solutions after understanding their problems 
  • Detect any conflict in the early stages so it can be diffused 

This doesn’t mean that your team runs the show – meetings can still cover off the topics you need to get into, but allowing them to go first and giving them space to be heard can be the foundation of a healthy leader-team relationship that thrives on open communication. 

Leadership is not a one-way street where leaders direct their team and the lines of communication are closed. Consider what you expect of your own leaders – or the leaders in your past – and keep it in mind as you go about your own leadership. 

Want to work on opening up your leadership? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.