What defines an effective leader?
Well that is a good question. If you ask 10 people for their definition of an effective leader, you might get 10 different answers or find some commonality in their response. If you Google “What make an effective leader” you are presented with 34 million variations. If you search Amazon “effective leaders”, there are 2900 books.
Throughout my career in corporate America, I have been blessed to be surrounded by amazing leaders and mentors. They helped framed my leadership skills and my outcome of today. Here is a list of five skills I think we all can agree on to becoming an effective leader.
Effective Leaders Must Care
I observed an interaction between an executive leader and a team member. Without going into great detail, it was evident that the leader did not care for this person. His body language, inflection, and tone of voice was far from soothing. Was the leader having a bad day or was that the way the leader interacted with his team? No matter what they answer is, the result is a leader must care about his team.
Leadership is about caring about people. Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, sums it up this way. You must care about the “whole” person — personal and professional. Leaders inspire people, serve people, care for people and care about people. Leaders show how they care through daily interactions.
Effective Leaders Must Communicate
How many times have you said to another co-worker, “I feel like I work in a silo. I never know what is going on in my department or in this company?” Well, it happens all the time.
Not communicating is one of the greatest mistakes a leader can make. Leaders who are not open communicators, make their team less feel valued. A great leader encourages open communication. They listen and respects other team members opinion. They accept the fact that people will disagree and should embrace dissent. Teamwork is all about hearing different views, sharing risks, admitting mistakes and sharing the rewards.
Effective Leaders Must Have Character
To be a great leader, you must have integrity. As Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office”.
People want to work for leaders that are ethical and leads with integrity. A leader who is honest will treat people right and do what’s best for the business. A leader respects others and is selfless. I once heard Gary Kelly, CEO for Southwest Airlines, say “there is an old saying that adversity doesn’t create character, it reveals it”.
Ethical behavior manifests from the top and creates a culture that values integrity. A leader with poor character creates an environment that becomes toxic.
Effective Leaders Must be Competent
A leader must be knowledgeable in depth of a domain and the width of leadership qualities. As a result of that depth, competent leaders can enable their teams to seek out new ideas and propose better solutions”. A competent leader understands if they don’t know the answer. They know how to ask questions, get team members involved, encourage discussion, and point the team in the right direction. A leader is required to be competent and proficient to get anything done.
Effective Leaders Must Have Courage
Leaders must demonstrate bold but reasonable judgment, be a risk-taker and be assertive. Followers let someone else own a problem or make a decision. Leaders make decisions decisively but inclusively, evaluate situations with rational and emotional intelligence and exude confidence and humility. Leaders must have courage to stand up, speak up, and be accountable.
In closing, a leader comprises of all these characteristics, plus numerous more traits. What defines your leadership style is what will follow you from job to job with or without s solid reputation of achievement. No matter who your mentor is or has been, its your responsibility to continually improve your leadership skills. If you care about your team personally and professionally, your team will stand behind you. Encourage disagreement. Foster collaboration. Reward the entire team for a job well done!
What are your thoughts?