The characteristics of effective leaders |

The characteristics of effective leaders

December 2006 Portrait Shoot
Gary Weinheimer |

The world craves and desperately needs leaders. Organizations without effective leadership are destined to fail. Here is a short list of habits I’ve identified.

Have a commitment to reliability. Leaders are deemed to follow through. An unwavering devotion to a purpose is constant. Delegate something to a true leader and consider it done. If you are untrustworthy or cannot be counted on, you are not a leader. Believe the words of Walter Cronkite, “I can’t imagine a person becoming a success who doesn’t give the game of life everything he’s got.”

Engages in succession planning. Gaining followership is important for leaders. But, as equally important is developing emerging leaders. Organizations and legacies flounder when new leaders are not identified and mentored. Leaders that don’t foster new leadership eventually become unsuccessful leaders.

Challenges the status quo. Looking for a better way is ingrained in leaders. Charting a new course, evolving processes, improving conditions and eliminating inefficiencies is what leaders do. If this does not describe you, you might not be a leader. Martin Luther King, Jr. remarked, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Helps others develop competence. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, right? Yes! That is why leaders make the time to not only improve their own competencies while also being committed to improving the skill-set of the players on their team. Inadequacies are recognized and reconciled through proper training and coaching.

Values different viewpoints. There are many ways to peel a potato. Great leaders realize that they don’t know it all. Before making important decisions they research the perspectives and opinions of others, even when they believe they already have the right answer.

Gives feedback. Leaders are not afraid to confront disruptive behavior, nor are they timid about indicating when individual or team goals are not met. Hoping things will get better or that people will self-correct is passive leadership. On the other side of the coin, appreciation and kudos are awarded when performance standards are met or exceeded. Norman Vincent Peale wrote, “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

Does not engage in character assassination. Disagreeing with a person’s outlook or a competitor’s position is imminent. Choosing to attack the character of another person because you disagree with their perspective will only lower your status as a leader.

Utilizes performance collaboration. Great leaders acknowledge they don’t have all the answers to solve problems and to achieve projects, tasks and goals. A dedication for the need to collaborate and partner with others is essential. Working with others to reach agreements on what the leader and the individual need from each other as they work together is a trademark of a competent leader.

Demonstrates self-directed behavior. Leaders rarely need to be told what to do. Personal initiative is prevalent in leaders: seeing what needs to be done and stepping forward to get it done. Waiting around for opportunities to present themselves or standing idle until someone tells you what to do is not leadership.

Motivates others. Providing inspiration and motivation to individuals and teams is leadership. Inciting positive action in others qualifies you as an influence leader. Offering encouragement, building confidence, and offering rewards are some of the ways to motivate. What can you do today to inspire your friends, family and business associates?

Be a role model. Albert Einstein wrote, “Being an example is not a way of influencing others, it is the only way.” Leaders accept the responsibility of providing an example. Let your actions and achievements provide a blueprint of possibility for others. Set yourself to a higher standard if you want to elevate others. Remember, followers enact the behaviors of their leaders.

Help other people achieve what they want. The Law of Reciprocity basically states that what you get out of life is equal to what you give. By helping others you immediately begin to set in motion a universal law that will send you the help you need to achieve your goals as well. Maybe that is why Ben Sweetland shared, “We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”

Have backup plans. A backup plan can save your life, your career, even your sense of self. It demonstrates a willingness to persist if your original plan falls short. It shows you are persistent, flexible and grounded. Brainstorm and draft several viable plans that could potentially lead you to your goal. Choose what you believe to be the best plan. If for some reason it doesn’t work, learn from your experience and move on to Plan B.

Direct energy to find solutions. Too frequently people burn up all their energy complaining. Despite current difficulties, it’s in our best interest to be solution-focused. Let’s face it, it’s easy to find fault, blame someone else or dwell on a failure until it destroys us. The path less traveled is to immediately find a solution. Yes, pinpointing problems is part of a leader’s job, but more important is to find solutions.

Practice ongoing communication. Successful people and organizations take the time to have daily, weekly or monthly meetings with staff members and business associates to communicate important trends, production goals, upcoming pitfalls, current challenges and success stories. You can achieve this at a lunch meeting, an early morning or mid-day meeting in person or using phone or video conferencing. But never meet unless there is something to discuss. Meetings for meetings’ sake are the business equivalent of the boy who cried wolf.

These are just a few habits effective leaders use to continue to strengthen leadership within themselves and their team. Put them into practice to get the results you need.

Best of success to you!

Jeffrey Benjamin is the co-author of “Real Life Habits for Success,” contributing author in the book “The Sleeping Giant: The Awakening of the Self Employed Entrepreneur” and the founder of Breakthrough Training. Contact him at