Being open-minded, a good listener, and strategic can be good leadership characteristics. The problem is that so many times we consider these characteristics in isolation.

Yes, being open-minded can make a leader approachable, but if he is also indecisive, then that open-mindedness can slow down progress. Good listeners may not be good communicators, and strategic thinkers may overlook the importance of details.

Instead, here are three behavior combinations the best retail leaders exhibit consistently.

That’s it!

When it comes to managing behaviors and performance, the best leaders embrace open communication and consistent reinforcement. Specifically, when an employee exhibits a behavior that should be repeated, the leader clearly conveys that information — ideally in the moment — to the employee and reiterates it as an example to the rest of the team.

Similarly, if an employee exhibits a less than desirable behavior, he is informed as soon as possible, coached on what to do instead, and the crux of the learning moment is shared with the team in a constructive fashion.

In other words, it is not enough to give timely feedback. While that style of open communication is fundamental, to make it fully resonate across the team, the feedback must be delivered in a clear, consistent manner whether it is positive or negative.

When leaders take the time and make the effort to do this, team members feel respected, are clear about expectations and know where they stand. These clearly reinforced performance standards create a culture that acknowledges individual success while reinforcing a positive team dynamic.


Great retail bosses also understand the big picture in a way that translates to the individual employee’s focus. This is one of the reasons so many of us love our bosses who worked their way to the top — doing so gave them a solid understanding of what it is like at different levels within the organization.

This perspective enables them to take corporate goals, regional forecasts and local numbers and put them into a digestible, actionable format for each team member.

For example, it is not good enough for a leader to just explain to an employee that their goal is what it is because it is a percentage of the overall goal. Instead, she must find a way to draw a clear line between the employee’s actions and the impact it has on the team, store and region. By relating to individual team members, the best retail leaders find a way to balance their focus on the numbers with staff’s level of interest, understanding and motivation.

Loyalty and freedom

Finally, some of the best leaders in the space create loyal teams by drawing clear lines between work and non-work. These leaders demand high standards and have very specific expectations.

But on the flip side, they recognize the importance of breaks and are adamant about ensuring hard work is supported by equally important and clearly defined periods of rest. The most effective way they do this is by example. Specifically, these leaders work very hard and are not afraid of rolling up their sleeves but they also stay away from work on their days off and refrain from calling staff in on their day off.

The bottom line is that it is important to remember buzzwords do not make a good leader, it is a combination of behaviors that creates a good leader.