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The Top 3 Leadership Traits Employees Value Most

11 April 2024

What if the employees could hire the CEO? Frontline, middle management and senior level employees participated in a confidential survey by Great Place To Work to uncover what they really want from their leaders.

The 3 key leadership traits the UK workforce values most:

1. Ideal leaders are transparent, strong communicators

Throughout the last 30 years, trust has remained the single most important factor for creating a great workplace. For UK employees, ‘transparent and strong communication’ was the most valued leadership trait of an ideal CEO, chosen by 45% of survey respondents, with an almost equal split of male and female votes.

“Above all, employees just want to be kept in the loop,” says James Bufton, Organisational Trends Analyst at Great Place To Work UK. “Communication goes both ways, though: the best leaders also open up the conversation and create an environment where employees feel able to ask questions and share ideas.”

Leadership Behaviours

2. Ideal leaders provide vision and clarity

The best leaders are courageous – they innovate; think outside of the box; have the courage to do things differently. These are not just daydreams, however. Great CEOs consistently deliver on their promises. For 41% of UK employees, the ideal CEO is one who provides vision and clarity. The UK’s Best Workplaces are leading the way here, with 86% of employees believing that “management has a clear view of where the organisation is going and how to get there” – 21 percentage points more than the UK average.

3. Ideal leaders display empathy and approachability

Around 40% of employees chose ‘empathy and approachability’, making it the third most popular choice in the survey. One respondent stated that their ideal CEO must have “the ability to relate, in a meaningful way, to every employee in the organisation,” while another boiled it down to simply this: “they need to be a decent person.”

In fact, our research shows that employees who believe management shows a genuine interest in them as people, and not just employees, are 7X more likely to recommend the organisation to family and friends as ‘a great place to work’ than those whose managers fail to do so. They’re also 7X more likely to feel the organisation is a psychologically and emotionally healthy place to work, which has a huge impact on employee wellbeing.


Looking to workers for insight on what they value most in a leader is more than just a thought experiment. When employees trust, believe in and connect with their leaders, they’re happier, more engaged and more productive – making for a great workplace and, ultimately, a more successful organisation.

In practice, the most influential CEOs often possess a combination of these qualities (and more), adapting their leadership style to the needs of both the organisation and the workforce. Building trust and a strong rapport with employees is vital to becoming a successful and respected CEO.

Discover how Great Place To Work can support your leaders with our Change & Culture Consulting Services


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