Leadership and Management

ICS Learn logo

10 Unusual Leadership Strategies (That Actually Work)

We all have different ideas about what makes a good leader.

For some, a strong character is preferred and for others, quiet confidence makes a great manager.

Getting your leadership style down can be tricky as you look to be flexible with different workers and manage each person in the way that gets the best out of them.

Here are ten successful leadership strategies that you can test out with your co-workers.

(And if you think these aren’t at all unusual, congratulations - you’ve worked for some fantastic managers!)

Talk About the ‘Why’

Workers tend to feel more motivated when they understand where their role fits within the wider organisation. You can delegate tasks to employees and expect them to do their job, but the chances are they’ll be more productive if you tell them why.

Doing tedious research is a good example of the why coming into play. If you explain that the research is the grounding for a brand-new service to boost sales and increase customer satisfaction, they’re more likely to be motivated to stay focused, take an interest, and complete the task well.

This also inspires discussion around the task: is there a better way to get to that goal? Collaboration can often take a solution and make it better thanks to the different experience on the team.

Showing your employees that you care about what they have to say is never a bad thing. Any time that you spend on the discussion will generally be recouped with your streamlined solution.

Two People Watching Tablet

Treat Employees like Adults

Netflix are well known for their initiatives to give their employees autonomy. They focus on intention and actions to empower their employees. In their culture outline, they state:

“There are companies where people walk by trash on the floor in the office, leaving it for someone else to pick it up, and there are companies where people lean down to pick up the trash they see, as they would at home. We try hard to be the latter, a company where everyone feels a sense of responsibility to do the right thing to help the company at every juncture.

We believe that people thrive on being trusted, on freedom, and on being able to make a difference. So we foster freedom and empowerment wherever we can.”

This may not be the culture that you’re accustomed to, but you can make it happen. Flexibility and responsibility are both key for employee engagement, and this will definitely make a splash with your employees. Test out flexible working hours, fewer management checks, additional holidays or mental health days, and less restrictive dress codes.

Communicate Directly

While you might be accustomed to softening the blow of feedback or stepping around placing accountability, this isn’t the best way to deal with important issues. Instead, communicate directly with those that you lead and let them know when their behaviours need to be changed.

Often co-workers prefer the direct approach, as long as the feedback is warranted and constructive. 57% of employees prefer corrective feedback, compared to 43% that want solely positive feedback and praise, according to a study by Harvard Business Review.

This is also fairer to your employee, as they can take proactive steps to improve rather than jeopardising their professional reputation by continuing with problematic behaviour.

Meetings should also have a clear direction, specific actions and only involve the relevant people. A recent investigation has found that the average employee in the UK wastes 13 working days each year in unproductive meetings.

Communicate directly and don’t waste your workers’ time!


Accept That You Will Make Mistakes

The best leaders are able to and even expect that they will make mistakes. A sense of humility is needed to admit these faults and accountability is needed to take charge of them.

The worst leaders tend to bumble through processes without learning from their mistakes. This doesn’t mean that you should go out of your way to make these mistakes, but don’t try to cover them up either!

This can help you to assess your weaknesses: if you keep making the same mistake then you know you need to work on it.

Employees quickly come to know the managers that will throw them under the bus when a mistake is made, they won’t stick their neck out if this is the case.

Share Information Openly

A closed company culture can lead to a real disconnect and poor satisfaction for employees. Many managers feel that they have to act as a barrier for information, especially during times of strife.

Unfortunately, employees will usually sense when change is afoot when they notice more management meetings and office gossip begins to spread. This doesn’t mean you have to tell every employee all of the ins and outs of the company, but if something is going to affect them it’s a good idea to get that out there.

We tend to think the worst when we’re in the dark; clear things up and your employees will be more confident in your ability to weather the storm. End meetings by asking employees their views, which can let you in on the water cooler gossip on various topics.

Shutterstock 522895537

Let Employees Communicate Anonymously

Some employees might be confident enough to give you the whole truth about what others are saying to your face, but these are generally in the minority.

No one wants to put a target on their back by challenging management about a sticky issue, and this might be holding back important information from your management team. Giving employees an anonymous space to communicate their issues can make the workplace better for everyone.

This can be conducted through an anonymous online survey or a suggestions box.

Look Past the Qualifications

This is one that you’ll want to bear in mind while interviewing and recruiting new members of staff. While having professional qualifications is often vital, qualifications alone are not enough! Getting to know the person behind the CV is essential to picking talented candidates that will fit well into the team.

Define the personal and professional qualities that the position requires as well as the qualifications that you want to see. When interviewing candidates, spend as much time on the person and how they will fit into the role as you do on their credentials.

Shoe retailer Zappos place 50% of the weight of the success of a candidate on their cultural fit interview. They use behavioural questions, hypothetical scenarios and interactions with interviewers to assess this fit.

Woman Working Outside Cafe On Laptop

Tell Employees to Take Time Off

Many people dread calling up their boss to ask for sick leave, as they worry about their reaction. Lots of us would rather come into work while dealing with a minor illness than deal with the wrath of the boss.

If you’ve ever worked around people that are sick, you know it’s going to make its way around the whole team. Your co-worker blows their nose constantly and before you know it, you’re starting to feel a fever coming on.

This dreaded presenteeism can impact the productivity of the entire team, so encourage responsible employees to take the sick leave that they need to get better and keep their germs at home.

This positions you as a caring and responsible leader, which helps you to get the very best from your team.

Step Back

Great leaders are willing to delegate and empower others on their team. They don’t micromanage, they give out responsibilities to those that they know are up to the task.

It’s important to set the right balance when taking a step back. You want to show that you still have your finger on the pulse, without looking over your colleague’s shoulders. This might seem counterproductive, but it can give your staff the chance to grow and learn.

Leaders should give others the chance to hone their skills too, instead of taking all of the responsibility for themselves. Those that work with you might just surprise you when you give them the right opportunity.

Jeff Sheldon 264922 Unsplash

Practice Upward Feedback

You might be accustomed to dishing out feedback to your employees, but you should also be ready to receive it from them too. Again, anonymity will most likely lead to more honesty and you can implement a moderation process to weed out any unhelpful feedback.

A regular survey to gain upward feedback can make your colleagues feel like their voices are being heard. This is a tactic practiced by Google managers, who receive up to 18 points of feedback every six months.

Your development as a manager is important, so don’t neglect new and unusual leadership strategies that could help you to get more from your staff.


Develop vital managerial skills in yourself or your team with flexible online courses in Leadership & Management, fully accredited by the ILM.

Download Your Free Leadership Management Course Guide

Get information on our Leadership Management courses

Share this post