7 Traits of Highly Effective Leaders
A remarkable amount of time, effort, and money has been devoted to the study of leadership. Despite all this research, there is little agreement about exactly what leadership is.
Still, people know effective leadership when they see it. And while great leaders may sometimes be born that way, there are certain traits that great leaders share in common that anyone can practice and adopt to become more effective.
What qualities are those? Well, to be a highly effective leader, you must ...
... inspire action.
Try to paint a vision of the future that inspires your people to do whatever it takes to get there. The best leaders also clear away the organizational roadblocks that constrain employees’ natural creativity and initiative, unleashing a tremendous amount of energy in the process.
... be optimistic.
We all want to work with and for people who lift us up into the clouds instead of dragging us down into the mud. Make sure to seek out the positives in your people, helping them overcome their own feelings of self-doubt and spreading optimism throughout your organization.
... have integrity.
Research shows that the top thing that employees want from their leaders is integrity. Be honest, fair, candid and forthright, and treat everyone in the same way that you yourself would want to be treated.
... support and facilitate your team.
For people to do their very best work, they need an organizational environment that supports them by making it safe to take risks, to tell the truth, and to speak up ... without being punished for doing so. Support your employees by creating this kind of environment, and it will facilitate their progress toward attaining your organization’s goals.
... have confidence.
Highly effective leaders know deep down inside that they and their team can accomplish anything they set their minds to. Failure is not an option. Tentative leaders make for tentative employees. If you’re confident, your people will be too.
In any organization, knowledge is power, and great leaders ensure that every employee, from the very top to the very bottom of the org chart, is provided with complete and up-to-date information about the organization’s goals, performance, successes and failures. To achieve this level of connection, you should also provide ample channels for two-way communication between employees and managers, actively soliciting their ideas for improvement and rewarding employees for submitting them.
... be decisive.
One of the most basic duties of any leader is to make decisions. Highly effective leaders aren’t afraid to be decisive and to make tough calls quickly when circumstances require it. Once you have all the information you need to make an informed decision, then don’t hesitate--make it. And once you make a decision, then stick with it unless there is a particularly compelling reason for you to change it.
No matter what type of organization or industry you're in, it's possible to become a more effective leader, inspiring your people to give their very best every day of the week. Make a point of practicing these 7 leadership traits, and you will be a highly effective leader too.
While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest Inc.com columns, and visit him anytime at petereconomy.com.