Business Leadership Today

5 Responsibilities of a Leader


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

What separates a leader from a manager? The ability to build influence beyond positional authority, for starters. 

To build influence requires a leader to continually build trust and convince employees to follow you because they want to, not because they have to.

This is key to leading well because it helps leaders successfully manage their many responsibilities and, at the same time, support a culture that is conducive to high performance without doing harm to employee well-being. 

Leaders often take on many roles and responsibilities in an organization. They make sure their teams have what they need to perform their jobs, they manage the work process, motivate employees to perform their duties well, and monitor performance.

In short, they help the organization to succeed by helping their team members to succeed. 

There are five areas of responsibility that leaders need to master to ensure their teams have what they need to succeed. 

The five responsibilities of a leader are articulating a vision that unites team members, communicating culture, modeling core values, fostering a harmonious, inclusive work environment, and inspiring and motivating their teams to consistently produce exceptional work. 

This article will explore how effective leaders approach these responsibilities and lead teams that are invested in the organization’s future success.

Articulating a Vision That Unites Team Members

A vision statement is an essential part of strategic planning in any organization and provides direction, but it has to be more than just a sentence on your organization’s website. 

An organization’s vision is supported by its mission, provides purpose for employees, and gives them a goal beyond their day-to-day duties to aim for.

As the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) says, vision helps us visualize our goals and work toward them: “A vision statement looks forward and creates a mental image of the ideal state that the organization wishes to achieve. It is inspirational and aspirational and should challenge employees.” 

A vision statement should be informed by these questions:

  • What problem is the organization seeking to solve?
  • Where is the organization headed?
  • If the organization achieved all its strategic goals, what would it look like a decade from now?

To engage with and perform their work well, employees need to be invested in the mission that the organization’s founders set out to achieve and committed to a vision that helps the organization achieve the mission.

This is why it’s such an important responsibility of leadership to articulate the vision. 

Libby Gill, author of The Hope-Driven Leader, says it’s not enough for leaders to know the “why”; they have to be able to convey the “why” to their team: 

“The why behind your team, division, or organization may be obvious to you, but don’t assume everyone else gets it. You were privy to what the top leaders, maybe the founders of the organization, set out to accomplish. But that doesn’t mean everybody knows where you want to be six months, or a year, or five years from now. And it’s up to the leader to share that information. And the best way to do it is to create a narrative, to create a really compelling story that is so alive and so robust that people say ‘oh I see where we are going and I see how I can connect within that.’”

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Leaders articulate a vision and reinforce it with team members by helping them see meaning in their work by connecting it to the organization’s higher purpose and recognizing the impact of their work.


A shared sense of purpose unites team members, which maximizes their efforts and creates a positive work environment that is conducive to collaboration and where all employees are working together toward achieving the vision. 

When employees feel a shared sense of purpose with their co-workers and a strong commitment to an organization’s vision, it improves morale, performance, trust, and overall job satisfaction. 

Leaders define and reinforce employees’ sense of purpose by tying it to the work employees do each day and the larger mission and vision of the organization. Leaders can help team members find purpose in their work by setting expectations that are tied to the organization’s larger vision and reflective of its culture and core values. 

When leaders are able to embed culture in their organizations through purposeful work, it also clarifies and reinforces the vision with employees in ways that generate buy-in and improve values-alignment.


Recognition meets a core human need for both the employee and the manager. Meeting this need is a key aspect of a strong company culture and is essential to the successful management of organizational culture because it reminds employees that they are essential to achieving the vision. 

Yet, many managers continue to underestimate the power of frequent recognition. 

As John Spence points out, managers won’t think twice about pointing out mistakes to employees, but are not always aware of how powerful praise can be in terms of embedding culture and sparking motivation.

Spence says, “If you make a mistake in most businesses, someone will point it out rather quickly. Yet, if you do something good, not earth-shattering, just good, rarely do people say anything.” 

In a positive culture, leaders give frequent praise that is both genuine and specific. Doing this helps employees see the impact of their work and encourages them to keep working toward the vision. 

Communicating Culture

Leaders build consensus around a shared vision and inspire their teams to work according to this shared vision by communicating cultural norms to employees that guide them in setting and achieving expectations.

Good organizational cultures are intentional, and good leaders are intentional about communicating organizational culture to their teams. 

Leaders both build influence with employees and guide their behaviors by communicating information about the company’s culture, clearly articulating and modeling the organization’s core values, mission, and vision through their actions and behaviors. 

Communicating culture provides clarity for team members about the organization’s expectations of them, both in terms of the work they do and their behaviors, which keeps the work environment positive. 

Consistently communicating culture is particularly helpful in difficult times, when a strong culture can serve as a compass guiding employees toward positive outcomes and providing the stability they need to perform well. 

We recently sat down with Dave Gordon, author of TIP: A Simple Strategy to Inspire High Performance and Lasting Success, and discussed the impact leaders can have when they communicate culture. 

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Modeling Core Values

Since organizational culture is embedded in unspoken behaviors, mindsets, and social patterns, it is important to guide employees toward the behaviors, mindsets, and social patterns that you want to see more of in your organization through modeling core values.

Core values are the building blocks of a strong organizational culture. An organization’s mission and vision serve as the foundation for the core values it develops as a framework for culture. 

The key to articulating a vision that has employee buy-in and making employees conservators of your organization’s culture is to clearly define, regularly refine, and continually reinforce and model core values. 

Culture should not only be developed in an authentic way, but it should be managed in an authentic way to produce long-term positive results. Leaders who effectively operationalize culture management by authentically reinforcing core values with employees see improvements at every level of the organization. 

Therefore, it is important for leaders to continually set the tone for the culture they want in their organization by demonstrating their dedication to the values the culture is built on.

When senior leadership demonstrates dedication to core values by modeling behaviors that align with these values, it guides employees toward similar behaviors. That dedication should be strong and observable by employees daily—whether in meetings, emails, or one-to-one coaching sessions, which can be particularly helpful for employees.

Through coaching, leaders support and help employees understand the why and how of an organization, which helps reinforce culture and improve core values alignment. Coaching heightens employee awareness and has a tremendous impact on employees’ sense of belonging.

Fostering a Harmonious, Inclusive Work Environment

This is one of the most important responsibilities of a leader in terms of keeping engagement and retention high and leading teams that aren’t afraid to pursue innovative solutions.

Great cultures support healthy work environments, and great leaders are focused on maintaining working conditions that help employees do great work that benefits the organization without being detrimental to employees’ well-being. They do this by fostering a positive work environment that is inclusive. 

Positive Environment

Maintaining a positive work environment that is conducive to collaboration is crucial for team success and for preventing cultures from turning toxic. 

Toxic situations can involve harassment, microaggressions, unequal treatment of employees, or behaviors from senior management that devalue others and make them feel expendable. Toxic employees can submarine their co-workers, sabotage projects, hinder teamwork, drive top performers away, and poison culture. 

Leaders ensure organizational culture stays true to a company’s mission, vision, and values by addressing toxic situations as soon as they arise so they don’t impact morale or cause irreparable damage to the positive culture leaders and their teams have worked to create.

Confronting and addressing issues effectively keeps working environments harmonious and helps leaders build trust with team members, so don’t shy away from dealing with conflict when it arises.

I recently sat down with Lisa Baker, founder of Ascentim LLC, to discuss why confrontation shouldn’t be considered a negative and how it is sometimes necessary duty for a leader to carry out their other responsibilities: 

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Inclusion can be defined as the extent to which employees feel accepted, respected, and valued. It can also help gauge the extent to which employees feel encouraged to fully participate in the organization.

Leaders ensure their organization’s culture stays positive by supporting an inclusive work environment in which employees feel appreciated for their unique traits and skills and comfortable showing up every day as their authentic selves.

Employees who feel a sense of belonging in the organization will experience more alignment between their values and the organization’s core values.

In addition to the many ways inclusion can benefit innovation, creativity, employee engagement, and employee retention, it can also help an organization recruit talented employees. 

Inclusion has become an extremely important issue to many workers just entering the workforce. According to a recent article in Big Think, an organization’s commitment to inclusion and diversity is important to 83% of Gen Z job seekers. 

Leaders who want to support an inclusive environment should make it a habit to regularly re-evaluate seemingly innocuous practices embedded in a company’s culture that could potentially make employees feel less welcome and negatively impact employees’ perception of the culture. 

The key is to be mindful of how the culture impacts employees, aware of aspects of it that may need to change, and intentional about how it evolves over time.

Inspiring and Motivating Teams to Consistently Produce Exceptional Work

One of the greatest responsibilities of a leader is to work continuously to create the necessary conditions for their employees to stay motivated to do great work and help them identify and remove obstacles to doing great work. 

Motivation drives an employee’s success and plays a vital role in employee satisfaction. To keep employees motivated and consistently performing well, leaders need to understand what really motivates them in order to best meet their needs and engage them with their work. 

This means going beyond checking the management boxes and overseeing the day-to-day work of the team; it’s about inspiring each team member to fully invest in their roles and reach their full potential.

I recently spoke with Grant Botma, CEO and author of The Problem Isn’t Their Paycheck: How to Attract Top Talent and Build a Thriving Company Culture, about the importance of intrinsic motivators in ensuring top performance. 

While salary is certainly an important extrinsic motivation for workers, it is not what brings in top talent and keeps them engaged.

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Botma says employees need freedom (in the form of autonomy) to feel inspired:

“I believe that… freedom is a thing that all of us were not only created for but we desire and we want and we need. Sadly, some places of employment take away freedom—from micromanaging the flow of our employees’ work to being overreaching in how the work is done and not letting our employees have autonomy.” 

He also says they need affirmation to stay motivated: 

“Affirmation is the guardrail that keeps people from ending up in the gutter. You give people the freedom to try and complete a goal and then use affirmation to guide their decisions and actions as they choose their path.”

Good leaders use strategies that boost intrinsic motivation, resulting in employees that are more invested in their jobs. 

Some ways to motivate employees include being flexible, giving them the tools they need to work with autonomy, helping them to develop and advance professionally, and uniting them with a sense of purpose that is aligned with the organization’s mission, vision, and core values. 

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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