Sample Leadership Phrases for Performance Appraisals

Published: Sep 22, 2014
Modified: Dec 02, 2020


Raising the bar in terms of performance expectations isn’t as hard as most employers think.  It’s simply a matter of defining what that particular core competency should look like in your company from this point forward.  There’s no better place to start than with your company’s performance review template.

This series of blog posts from authors Paul Falcone and Winston Tan’s The Performance Appraisal Tool Kit: Redesigning Your Performance Review Template to Drive Individual and Organizational Change (AMACOM 2013) will help you redefine leadership by raising the proverbial performance bar and avoiding grade inflation.  After all, anyone can get a 5 (“Exceptional”) out of 5 on a performance review if your organization’s established standard is low enough; raise that standard, however, and your management team will automatically become much more realistic about assigning performance grades, and 3s (“Fully Successful”) and 4s (“Superior Performance”) may become more of the norm—which is favorable to assigning everyone 5s right off the bat.

Core, Traditional Descriptors

Many sample performance appraisals seen in various industries define “Leadership” as follows: Leads effectively by providing appropriate feedback and direction to staff.  Delegates and assigns work in a manner consistent with departmental workflow and company policy.  Listens openly and encourages feedback while creating and maintaining an inclusive work environment.  Effectively manages timecard processing, schedules work appropriately, and sets performance expectations to reach and exceed departmental goals. Ho hum . . . Is that all you’re truly expecting from your organizational leaders in terms of shepherding your company’s employees to greater victories and success?  If so, then try ratcheting up your expectations using some or all of the following samples . . .

Enhanced Descriptors Reflecting an Organization’s Heightened Expectations

Provides an appropriate amount of structure, direction, and feedback to ensure a high level of group performance.  Defines, delegates, and directs work in a flexible manner. Recognizes that proper delegation, communication, and the setting of priorities and goals help employees feel empowered and self-motivated. Sets realistic work demands and a fair distribution of assignments. 

Structures projects and assignments with clear goals and measurable outcomes so that team members can creatively individualize solutions. Empowers teams to embrace change opportunities. Inspires team members to take ownership of their own performance improvement and career development. Finds creative ways of working toward consensus. Creates internal competition by forming teams tasked with identifying viable solutions to ongoing quality challenges.

Focuses team on not getting bogged down in analysis paralysis. Plans, prioritizes, and executes in light of budget guidelines and constraints. Collects best practice ideas from team members in terms of getting work done more effectively and efficiently.  Views individual differences as value-adds to group thought. Ensures that new hires work their plan and plan their work consistently on a day-in, day-out basis. Adheres consistently to safety standards and all company policies and protocols.  Focuses on measurable outcomes, sets incremental milestone targets, and celebrates victories and successes along the way. Manages with a conscience and places integrity, ethics, and trust above all else.

Other descriptors might sound like this:

Supports our organization’s strategic plan and ensures that business practices are consistent with our mission.  Sets a high standard for integrity and respect and is consistently viewed as objective and fair.  Engenders trust by communicating openly with others, shares feedback in a constructive fashion, and addresses problematic situations head-on in a spirit of positive confrontation.  Serves as a model of cooperation, sharing, and goodwill.  Assumes good intentions and practices selfless leadership. Sets others up for success and inspires others to reach their personal best and stand out among their peers.

Engages team in setting specific, measurable goals as well as concrete outcomes.  Creates an environment in which team members can find new ways of motivating themselves in light of our organization’s changing needs.  Is highly self-aware and holds others accountable for their own perception management.  Regularly celebrates successes and learns from mistakes while making it safe for others to take risks and volunteer innovative recommendations.  Focuses on aligning team members by setting a common vision and measuring progress toward particular goals. Creates a common mindset of learning, growing, and acquiring new skills.

Uses training opportunities to develop creative people, innovative teams, and profitable revenue streams.  Strives to provide a healthy work-life balance and maintain perspective in light of constantly changing priorities. Strives to provide open-book leadership so that team members understand the financial and operational drivers of organizational success. See the difference?  As you can see, there are lots of areas to focus on when describing leadership, and while no one size will fit all companies or situations, any one of these outlined approaches—taken as a whole or combined in part with others—will help your organization reach its goal of inspiring employees to higher performance and communicating clearly the level of excellence that you demand and expect from your leaders. Improve on your performance reviews even further and take our course on How to Turn Painful Performance Conversations into Positive Results

Keep an eye out for the following AMA Playbook blog posts coming your way soon that highlight how to set the performance bar higher for these key performance review competencies:  Communication, Teamwork, and Creativity/Innovation.  Along with Customer Service, these “Big 5” will round out your performance review template nicely.  And of course for other core competency descriptors, look no farther than The Performance Appraisal Tool Kit or Paul Falcone’s bestselling 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews. For more insights and business strategies, sign up for our free leadership newsletter.

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About The Author
Paul Falcone is a human resources executive in Los Angeles and has held senior-level positions with Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, and Time Warner. He is the author of a number of AMACOM and SHRM bestselling books, four of which made SHRM's prestigious "Great 8" list: 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire, 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems, 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees, and 2,600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews. His latest AMACOM book, 75 Ways for Managers to Hire, Develop, and Keep Great Employees, was released in 2016. Follow Paul on Twitter at @PaulFalconeHR and his website and blog at