Good leadership and business success go hand in hand. It’s not possible for a company that isn’t well-led to enjoy sustained success.

Today’s leaders need to be more than just a good CEO or MD though. They need to lead by example. If leaders aren’t trustworthy or respected within the business, there’s a real barrier to employee engagement.

What do employees think?

To find out how senior leaders are currently perceived, we researched the views of almost half a million employees.

Worryingly, a third of employees don’t think that their senior leaders are trusted or respected. And a further quarter of employees don’t think senior leaders are leading by example.

Such beliefs could have far-reaching implications for companies’ performance. If a leader lacks integrity or isn’t living an organisation’s values, how can they expect their employees to do so?

What makes a good leader?

Ideally, we’d all love to be inspired by our leaders. However, not every company has a Steve Jobs or Richard Branson. And, to be fair, CEOs aren’t generally hired for their charm and charisma. They’re not charged with making friends or winning popularity contests.

That notwithstanding though, there are some universal character trains that all good leaders should embody. They should be genuine, honest, passionate and ethical. In short, they should be real; employees will spot a fake.

The changing face of business

How companies act has never needed to be more transparent. Cultural values, social responsibility, ethics and work in the community are important for employees (and customers). As the figurehead, a leader must live the values.

Senior leaders now have a far greater responsibility. They must be part executive, part politician and part PR guru. Most of all though, they must lead by example.