The Nature of Leadership
It’s no secret that effective leadership can be a confusing labyrinth to navigate, and often, one might wonder what makes a good leader. But, as with many things, leadership isn’t black and white. In fact, leadership might be comparable to a double-edged sword – it can be extremely positive, or it can cause insurmountable harm to those affected by it.
Due to the double-sided nature of leadership, it’s vital for those in positions of authority to understand how their choices affect their immediate followers as well as those on the fringes of their reach. While there are many qualities which contribute to this topic, we will discuss five traits we believe are essential for those who hope to make a positive impact from a position of authority.
The ability to recognize and admit when a mistake has been made is paramount to securing the loyalty of those who follow you. In one way or another, the Golden Rule applies here – “do unto others as you would have done unto you,” and when you fail to do so, own up to it.
When a manager exhibits humility and integrity, it strengthens existing relationships. As a leader, staying humble about mistakes you’ve made can also inspire greater trust from those following you. Simply put, humans make mistakes and being willing to admit to those shortcomings helps others to know you’ve not elevated yourself to a position of infallibility. On the other hand, refusal to admit to personal failings can breed resentment or feelings of mistrust.
The second quality effective leaders need to possess is a keen awareness of what’s going on around them, from actions of competitors to internal challenges and struggles within the organization.
Generally, leaders and management should adopt a bird’s-eye view of the organization, allowing them to see the big picture. However, it’s also necessary to be aware of employee needs as well. Sometimes a goal cannot be implemented well due to an employee’s personal circumstances or the limitations of the department. Therefore, it’s important for leaders to understand these potential constraints in order to formulate realistic goals and plans for achieving them.
If you, as a leader, lack motivation or belief that your goals are achievable, you cannot legitimately expect your followers to believe those things can be accomplished either. Encouraging those under you can be helpful. They should feel that reaching the goal is attainable and understand how it will benefit the organization.
As a leader, if you find you cannot exhibit healthy optimism for your own plans, chances are you have the wrong plan. If the person responsible for envisioning the long-term future of an organization fails to believe success is even a possibility, those under them will become disillusioned and pull back from effectively accomplishing the tasks necessary for that plan’s success.
A leader needs to be a strategist, at least to the degree that they can form a plan and execute it. One of the greatest failures of leadership is having a place to go, but no way to get there. Doing this requires well-thought-out planning and implementation. An effective leader can pinpoint the weaknesses of a particular circumstance and be able to identify a potential solution to the problem. But it’s not enough to find a way to rectify a problem. All great plans that have no follow-through are little more than great ideas.
Leaders need to be able to cast vision and incorporate others in their mission. This doesn’t necessarily mean the leader has to be the person to lead the charge at every step in the plan, but that he or she at least learns how to appropriately position the people who can lead the charge, allowing the plan to become a reality.
An effective leader is one who knows how to communicate the needs of the various departments in an organization, and who ensures they all function alongside each other the way they’re meant to. If each department functions at optimal productivity, but fails to operate with the others, the whole machine breaks down.
Though leaders aren’t required to provide an explanation for every move they make, it can help to communicate the reasons for significant shifts to those who will be affected. When a team understands the “why” behind a leader’s decision, they’re more likely to be receptive to those changes.
Of course, these five characteristics are only a few of the important factors for effective leadership. While these traits may be naturally present in some leaders, it’s also possible to develop them over time. Consider taking one of our Characteristics of Effective Leadership courses for HRCI/SHRM or CPA credits to learn more about these necessary skills.
Article written by Braden Norwood