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Five Keys to Effective Leadership

What are the attributes of effective leadership? Everyone can recognize an effective leader when they see one, but it may be more difficult to analyze what the qualities of an effective leader are.

1.  An effective leader must be authentic. No one will follow a leader who is not authentic. An authentic leader is able to relate to people at all levels of the organization and to understand their issues. That means, an effective leader cannot act superior, be unavailable, unreachable or be aloof.  An effective leader is personable and treats others with respect.

I once worked for a very large multinational entertainment company. In the year that I worked there, I was never introduced to anyone above the level of low-level vice president. The CEO of this company was more like a rock star than a CEO. I never received any kind of communication from him or saw him on the property. There were numerous accounts of him in the press during that time, however. That’s when I came to learn that that’s what was important to him. Employees didn’t matter, publicity did. This is how CEOs get the reputation that they are politicians rather than displaying effective leadership. This kind of performance from the CEO rattles throughout the organization instilling mistrust and alienation among the employees.

2.  One attribute of effective leadership is credibility. Telling the truth is an attribute that everyone should have in business, but it is doubly important for leaders to be truthful and honest. In fact, once a leader has been caught in a lie, it is almost impossible to get credibility back.

3.  An effective leader must take ownership and responsibility. If the leader makes a mistake, it is critically important that the mistake be acknowledged publicly, especially to the employees.

A good example of #2 and #3 would be the career of Richard Nixon as president of the United States. He began lying about the Watergate situation early on and continued to lie throughout the scandal. The result was a massive cover-up that was much more instrumental in bringing him down than the actual Watergate break-in. He never acknowledged responsibility for any of the things that he had done. He had no credibility after he left office and was disgraced for the rest of his life.

4. An effective leader must be able to create a strategy and to articulate that vision. They must be able to see what the next step is in the evolution of their business or department. They achieve this by understanding their business well and assessing the ability of their organization to execute. An effective leader is familiar with new technology and processes that will make their business more efficient and incorporates these processes into the strategy.

I once worked for a director who had no vision for the future of his department. It was 1987, and every inside sales group was automating their operations. Our department operated from massive card decks of over 100,000 customers that had to be kept in a huge interior closet. There were no calculators, so the representatives had to add up their orders on their fingers. He did not know what type of office environment was required for such an operation in a large company. Each representative was asked to work a long seven-hour day at a cubicle that was 3 feet wide. They had no drawer or file space and most of these cubicles were in a large room with all glass windows on one wall. When the representatives were on the phone, their voices bounced off of the glass and created a terrible background noise of people talking.

When we were bought out by a large company, he made no proposal for any changes. In fact, I don’t think that he even knew of a different way to do things as he did not keep up with the industry or find out what others were doing. When I asked for even small changes, I was turned down. He did not know how to write projections for increased sales and cost savings in order to justify expenditures for improvements. He wasn’t very responsive to any of the people who worked for him. I think you could say that he was a bad example of effective leadership.

5. The effective leader is able to articulate their vision so that all employees can see where they belong and their roles within the vision.

One of the best examples of effective leadership that I have known was the CEO at Mattel, John Ammerman. Every quarter, he held a company meeting with all employees. At that meeting he reviewed our progress against goals for the last quarter, and outlined goals for the next quarter. He also reviewed any new products and communicated important information to the employees directly. It was so effective that we continued to make our goals year after year. Just the simple act of communicating and providing direction can have a tremendous impact on an organization.

What do you think comprises effective leadership? Have you known anyone who has displayed particularly effective leadership? I would love to hear your thoughts. You can reach me here.

Click below for more articles about leadership:

Seven Employee Motivation Ideas to Energize your Team

Leadership and Management are Different

Seven Employee Motivation
Techniques to Improve Your Team

Motivating Employees –Three Simple Ways to Become a Great Leader

Employee Motivation and a
Sense of Belonging

Creative Problem Solving is 
Essential to Leadership

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About the Author of this Website

My name is Carolyn Jolly. My professional life has been in sales, marketing and IT management. Along the way I’ve been studying and experimenting with self improvement and personal development techniques for the past 20 years. I have had more than a few mind-blowing experiences and I’ve made some discoveries that have shaped my ideas. I’m now using this website to pass those ideas along.

Our world is changing very rapidly. Many of the constants and institutions we thought to be permanent are now crumbling or changing drastically. This website is dedicated to those interested in how to manage their lives in light of these changes or in just becoming a better person. I hope the information you find here will stimulate you to embark on your own voyage of motivation and self improvement.

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