3 Compelling Qualities of Effective Leaders
The chaos brought upon us in 2020 put a spotlight on our leaders, as we watch real-time as they cope with the effects of COVID-19 and an economic downturn. We judge them based on the timeliness of their decision-making, their vision and agility to pivot, their cooperation and coordination across the various support systems, and their words to uplift us through dark and fearful times.
Of course, leadership is not cookie cutter—there are a variety of styles in how goals are achieved. But these three qualities are a start to understanding who and how a person leads.
As a history buff, I often look to our past presidents for inspiration. This quality may mean a variety of things, ranging from making followers want to reach a goal or vision (as John F. Kennedy with the man on the moon) to cheerleading us through rough times (Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats during the Second World War) to reminding us who we are and what we stand for (George W. Bush following 9/11). Inspiration touches the audience, the team member, and creates a connection with the heart. Inspiration motivates people without coercion or negativity because it taps into their passions.
Great leaders inspire their followers through their charisma, vision, and approach. People want to follow them, instead of having to follow them. Ask yourself if you are inspiring your team to want to follow—or, are they doing what you say mainly because they believe they have to for money, policy, or process?
As an individual starts to lead, a key element is their ability to delegate. Without it, they will likely end up doing all the work themselves (“If you want it done right, do it yourself” mentality). Delegation enables the leader to give or share some of their responsibility and authority with another team member—it is not just assigning work! This passing of responsibility enables leaders to expand their reach and impact.
Yet, how we delegate and the success that comes from it often defines our reputation. It relies on the quality and capability of those we empower to work for us. History is replete with successes and failures: ranging from the success of Roosevelt to delegate to the military in the Second World War to the failure of Lyndon Johnson to delegate to his military commanders in Vietnam.
Determining if a leader is genuine is one of the most difficult tasks—and the further you are from the leader, the harder it becomes. What is the leader really like? Do they truly mean or believe what they say? Yet this attribute goes to the heart of what we look for in leadership—if they are not authentic in their values, beliefs, and words, then can we really trust them? Surveys of the workforce repeatedly cite workers seek leaders who “walk their talk,” yet they find that most do not.
Authenticity is basic to trusting someone. And trust is basic to leadership. People follow leaders because they trust them—the direction they are headed, their ability to protect the team, the statements they make. When trust is broken, teams often implode, abandoning the leaders as quickly as possible.
As a leader, ask yourself if you are living your values and principles. Are you talking about them with your team? How genuine do your team members think you are? Do they trust you? If your answers concern you, then think about how you can build trust with the team—and it usually starts first with you, your words, and your actions.