Nine Supportive Leadership Behaviors

September 24, 2010

Supportive leadership helps to build and maintain effective interpersonal relationships. A manager who is considerate and friendly toward people is more likely to win their friendship and loyalty. The emotional ties that are formed make it easier to gain cooperation and support from people on whom the manager must rely to get the work done. It is more satisfying to work with someone who is friendly, cooperative, and supportive than with someone who is cold and impersonal, or worse, hostile and uncooperative. (Yukl, 2010)

If you practice supportive leadership, your people will likely be more satisfied with you and with their jobs. That’s important given the new research that shows the relationship between pay and job satisfaction is very weak. The research on the relationship between supportive leadership and employee performance is not well established, but there is some evidence suggesting that supportive leadership can enhance performance. An exceptional recent study showed that organizational support affects employee engagement and ultimately performance.

Here are nine behaviors that supportive leaders should work on (Yukl, 2010):

1. Show acceptance and positive regard for others.

2. Be polite and considerate, not arrogant and rude.

3. Treat each employee as an individual.

4. Remember important details about the person (like their name!).

5. Be patient and helpful when giving instructions or explanations.

6. Provide sympathy and support when the person is anxious or upset.

7. Express confidence in the person when there is a difficult task.

8. Provide assistance with the work when it is needed.

9. Be willing to help with personal problems.

Check your motives before you begin work on your supportive behaviors. There is no substitute for genuine caring, and over time it’s easy to tell who really does and does not care about us. If your employees sense your sincerity, they will respond better to your support. If they smell a rat, your supportive behaviors could backfire.

Are there any other supportive behaviors you would add to this list? If so, please leave your comment below!

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Comments (10)

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  1. How about “listen more than you talk”?

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Absolutely! it’s that “you have two ears and only one mouth” thing. Thanks, MJ!

  2. One behaviour I would add to this list is allowing others to take the lead when using their strengths would benefit your team’s efforts. Obviously, we can’t be good at everything and that’s why effective leaders know not only which employees can help complement their strengths, but also when to step back and let others in their team take the lead. In terms of supportive leaders, this would also allow them to provide opportunities for their employees to grow and gain some insights on what it takes to lead others.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    That’s a very good point, Tanveer. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  3. Abdol Daneshinia says:

    Hello Bret, i was wondering what books do you recogmend me to read about supportive behavior in an organization? I am writing a graduate paper on the four models of Organizational Behavior. your response will certianly be appreciated, Thanks.


    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Hi Abdul. I cited Yukl’s classic text on leadership, so check that out and find his references. Thanks! Bret

  4. Mike says:

    The suggestion to “Provide assistance with the work when it is needed” is very important to developing people. Looking for opportunities to “coach people up” is a top management skill. Managers will find they have to be on the alert for opportunities, then ask for an invitation to coach and help.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Sorry to be so slow with the reply, Mike. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. Bret

    JC Buckner Reply:

    I got it…..really understood that phrase “coach people up” and realized that my understanding comes from knowing the exact opposite as my latest experience of working for a manager/owner who comes from the “beat people down” philosophy. Sadly this takes a big toll on employees. Some managers (mine)often forget that employees are human beings. Rude, abusive, mean-spirited, short-fused and cruel managers ruin their own companies and destroy jobs and harm the economy which eventually hurts all of us.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, JC. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Not sure where the best people down philosophy comes from. The evidence does not support it. it is both a learned behavior and a character flaw. Thanks, Bret