How to be a people leader (whatever your title)

Jan 8, 2024 | Blog

Anyone can be a boss, but not every boss is a leader. 

Being in charge, having a special parking spot, or badge, power to fire people, or even an enviable salary – those things don’t make you a leader. So whether you’re a line manager, team lead, managing director, or CEO, you need to do more to be considered a people leader too.

Let’s explore what a people leader is, the qualities of good leadership are, and the single-most important tool you’ll need to achieve those heights: people analytics.

What is a people leader?

A ‘people leader’ is anyone who leads a group of people. It’s a broad term, but could include any number of titles, at any level of seniority. Sounds obvious, but that’s because it’s not the right question you should be asking. 

What you should really understand is what it means to be a leader in the first place. And it comes down to being the sort of person that people want to follow. You can’t force people to like you, or respect you, or trust you – you have to earn it. 

What makes a good leader?

To be a good leader – someone people listen to, and willingly accept instruction from – there are a lot of useful traits to adopt. But they can be broadly grouped into two characteristics:

1. Emotional intelligence

To be a leader, you need to be a ‘people person’. You need to be able to connect and communicate, from your side, and be able to listen empathetically to their personal and professional motivations. That way, you know how to move people, and drive them to do whatever tasks are needed.

2. Strategic thinking

It’s not just about communication and understanding. A key component of being a leader is having a clear direction. Otherwise, where are people following you to? Being strategically minded and motivated means you can use your emotional intelligence wisely – directing your ‘followers’ according to your organisational goals.

Where are leaders going wrong?

Only 40% say their organisation has “high-quality leaders” – with a lack of trust being a major factor. Just 33% trust their own organisation’s senior leaders! Other research also found that 10% think CEOs are actively untrustworthy – perhaps in part due to the fact that 36% of UK staff have had absolutely no interactions with their own CEO.

It’s also important to remember that trust goes both ways. One study found a strong correlation between employee engagement and feeling trusted: 81% of those who felt trusted by their line managers were found to be engaged, suggesting a two-way foundation of trust is essential.  

This all links back to those two crucial qualities: emotional intelligence, and strategic thinking. No-one can feel trusted without feeling understood. And no-one will trust you if your decision-making isn’t soundly strategic. 

So how can you be an emotionally intelligent, strategically-minded leader without intense levels of self-improvement and training? 

People analytics: the shortcut to being a better leader

Whether you’re a line manager or a CEO, it doesn’t matter. People analytics is the key to understanding any size time, in any scenario, for any purpose – because it combines fact and feeling, and shows you what matters to your employees and the impact on your organisation. 

Take all your HR data, for example. Every data point – each absence, leaver, joiner, promotion – tells a story. Add demographics and departments, and you start to uncover trends and identify predictions. 

Layer in employee feedback, and you get a rich picture of what’s happening in your organisation. You can hear your employees (explicitly and implicitly), you can respond to their needs, they learn to trust you to fulfil them, the organisation prospers – need we go on?  

Try Qlearsite: a People Analytics Platform for everyone

Our platform is designed for all people leaders – whether you line manage a team of five, or are the CEO of a thriving organisation. It’s simple really: you plug in your HR data, we analyse it, compare it to benchmarks, identify trends, and help you understand your people. 


Try the platform for free, and see benchmark data

Get started with Qlearsite