There is no “one-size-fits-all” personality or attitude when it comes to being an effective leader. Some are reclusive introverts while others are extroverted, some highly organized while others thrive in a world of chaos.
What distinguishes an average leader from one that is effective, successful, and inspirational? Amongst all effective leaders, there are certain characteristics that bind them all together.
Communication is important for any career, but exceptional leaders must have exceptional communication skills. Some leaders are so busy getting things done that they don’t have the time to work on their own interactions or consider how the messages they send out are being conveyed by others. These leaders may be successful in what they do but won’t stand out as being effective leaders who empower and unite their team.
Effective leaders are sensitive, relatable, and approachable. They have impeccable communication and know exactly how different people want to be communicated with. They have the ability to adjust the way that they communicate so that the person they’re talking to receives the intended message in a way that’s best suited to them. This not only ensures that the leader’s messages are always clearly interpreted, but paves the way for connection, empathy, and thinking more along the lines of “we” rather than an “I” mentality.
The ability to empower and coach
And the ability to do the above without micromanaging! Effective leaders are never micromanagers, but always empowerers, motivators, and up lifters. They work to facilitate and support the growth of each member of their team, be it the receptionist or their next-in-command. Rather than simply issuing instructions and giving directions, effective leaders focus more on empowering their team members to make their own decisions and develop their own skill sets.
How do you empower your team members? There are a few things that you can do to set your team up for success.
- Ask for their ideas and insight.
- Give each member of your team tasks that are appropriate for their skill-set but that also stretch their abilities.
- Keep your door open to questions and constructive feedback. Along with this, also encourage your team to come to you with any questions or problems.
- Delegate, delegate, delegate.
- If there is a problem, coach your team instead of yelling at or shaming them.
By following the above tips, you will increase your team’s skills and confidence while also inspiring dedication. The best leaders realize that empowering and coaching are the top ways to develop a strong team.
The goal of an effective leader is to grow their team to be efficient, successful individuals who can work independently and thrive in each of their roles. They provide the tools that employees need to teach themselves valuable skills and finesse, rather than simply telling them what to do. Google research confirms this and discovered that the best managers are those who offer the right balance between advice and freedom.
When you’ve been working in the same company, industry, or career for years, things can start to get a little dull and people can feel stuck. A highly effective leader is someone who constantly innovates and engages their creativity to stop that “stuckness” from happening and hampering progress. They need to be realistic and practical, but innovative enough to stop dullness in its tracks. Thus, being careful not to get “too comfortable” in their own roles and remain agile.
Highly effective leaders should have the vision to foresee, adjust, and adapt to changes in their industry, business, environment, and technology, always looking forward and implementing new procedures to stay up-to-date and keep things fresh. They must be open to change and maintain a competitive advantage amongst others. In doing so, Fitstop Gym CMO Travis Telfer suggests “employing the right mix of practicality and realism to be creative but make decisions based on data and analytics.”
One of the most powerful traits a leader can have is to not abuse their power. Practicing humility is, therefore, one of the most respected traits of an effective leader, allowing them to inspire their team by not employing a dictatorial style of leadership. Being “humble” means admitting when you’re at fault, apologizing when necessary, and sharing the credit of your company’s success with those who helped you get there.
Humble leaders are relatable, humane, and avoid letting their power get the best of them. Practicing humility also leads to more sound decision making and planning, as it allows the leader to admit that they don’t know everything and have the capacity to learn from anyone and everyone.
Hand-in-hand with humility is the ability of an effective leader to collaborate with their team on the act of leadership itself. This means inviting others to participate in leadership with you, which then creates transparency, empowers employees, and strengthens trust and connection within your team.
Collaborating on leadership means you can work with more than just one brain, creating a hive mind that works together with the best interests of your vision at heart. An effective leader will always prioritize collaboration. You can do this by inviting others in your decision making processes, sharing your thoughts and concerns, and showing colleagues that you respect and value their opinions and ideas.
You may think of transparency as part of communication. However, it is such an important characteristic of effective leaders that it is worth mentioning here. Transparency is the practice of being open and honest with your team.
Not everything about your organization needs to be shared. However, your team members need to understand your goals. You should also be open with them about any challenges. Highly effective leaders know how to walk the line between sharing too much and sharing just enough. Sharing just enough will encourage teamwork, collaboration, and accountability.
Ethan Bernstein is an associate professor of organizational behavior at Harvard Business school. He says that “total transparency heightens the risk that our irreverence will come back to haunt us—and thus has a chilling effect on experimentation. . . . But it’s also critical for leaders to mitigate transparency with zones of privacy, enabling just the right amount of deviance to foster innovation and productivity.”
Show instead of tell
Highly effective leaders know to show instead of telling. This effectively means that you know how to lead by example. Anyone can tell a team how to do something or require that certain standards are met. But, if you do not live up to these standards or do the tasks you’ve set for your team yourself, your actions will not support your words.
Showing instead of telling is so important in a team setting because most humans are visual learners. In fact, about 65% of the population is a visual learner. This preference for visual stimuli could occur because our brains can process visual 60,000 times faster than they can process text. Clearly, humans are visually oriented. A team is much more likely to respond to and believe your words if your actions align with them.
Integrity is important in any business setting. There are three main definitions of integrity according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. These are “firm adherence to a code of, especially moral or artistic values. An unimpaired condition. The quality or state of being complete or undivided.” As a leader, you want to demonstrate all types of integrity.
The first part of the definition of integrity states that you should be morally upright. This means sticking to the policies and rules of the organization. Leaders with integrity do not underhanded deals or cheat anyone. The Sigourney Weaver character in Working Girl (1988) who steals her secretary’s idea does not have integrity. Have integrity by not acting like that character.
An unimpaired leader is one that is completely attuned to the job at hand. This type of leader will also be “complete and undivided.” To show integrity in these areas gives your team your complete attention. Do not multitask or be otherwise distracted when meeting with your team. This can be hard to do in today’s hectic work environment. But the most effective leaders strive to give each task their undivided attention.
No one is perfect. You can still strive to be a leader with integrity. Doing so will ensure the loyalty and best performance from your team.
A leader should be responsible and take responsibility for their actions. If you say you will have something for a member of your team or meet a certain deadline, you need to follow through. If you do so, you will be a responsible leader. Sometimes things happen where a deadline may be missed, but this is where good communication comes into play.
Taking responsibility can be hard, but a good leader always steps-up. As a leader, you will be called to make hard decisions. You must be willing to accept the consequences of those decisions. Integrity comes into taking responsibility because a good leader does not throw their team under the bus. If there is a mistake or a problem, you as the leader, need to step up and accept responsibility. Accepting responsibility also means learning how to better yourself so that you can coach your team. Being responsible for your own performance is the first step in becoming a leader who can motivate their team to be great.
This brings us to our final trait of highly effective leaders: they are wonderful motivators. The best leaders build people up; they do not tear them down. Here are a few other ways to grow your motivation skills.
- Get to know your team personally. You do not need to be their best friend. Knowing your team on a personal (but still professional) level can help you understand how best to communicate and work with them.
- Pay people what they are worth. This one may be challenging for the leader who does not decide on the payroll. However, in that case, support your team members in their career development by providing references and promotion support.
- Offer opportunities for self-development. Providing your team with the training and support they need will help each person perform to the best of their abilities.
- Encourage happiness, collaboration, and communications. Creating a highly competitive atmosphere among your team members does not foster a happy or motivational place to work. A drama-filled environment is stressful, which can reduce employee productivity. Plus, everyone will be focused on the competition and not on doing their jobs well.
Leaders should be motivational. Motivated team members are more likely to report job satisfaction and thus there will be less job turnover. Keeping your team together is important because it reduces the training time needed to bring a new member on board. Happy, motivated, and inspired team members are guaranteed to perform much better than those who are stressed and distracted.
Being an effective leader is the best way to encourage your team to grow into their own roles and develop the necessary skills to become great leaders themselves. A highly successful, unique, and thriving team is one with many individual leaders, each practicing the above characteristics and complementing the skill sets of the other. If you’re looking to inspire others, then consider developing the traits listed above in your team so that you can become a highly effective leader too.