What is Effective Leadership?
An effective leader is one whose team works together to get projects done efficiently, ethically and enjoyably. An effective leader is neither a dictator barking orders nor an indistinguishable member of a team. Finding the balance between being the “boss” and “one of the gang” can be challenging, but the rewards are great. You probably fall somewhere between the autocratic leader (dictator) and the passive, delegative leader (a leader with no authority who wants all decisions to be made by the group).
Effective Leadership Styles
According to your business, your most effective leadership style will vary, of course. Leading a team of engineers will likely require different approaches from a team of school teachers. But there are more similarities in styles of leadership than there are differences.
An effective leader must be a person whom the team trusts and looks up to. A leader who has not performed the work prior to becoming the head of a group faces almost insurmountable obstacles. The members of the team have little reason to trust your ideas, as they have not seen proof of your ability.
Effective leaders can make decisions quickly, and be aware of those which require input from team members. Quickly gather the key players (not the whole team) to discuss the issue and listen to each person’s contribution with respect. Then, make the best decision for the entire project or department.
Most effective leaders are able to keep a bird’s eye view of all the sub-teams working on different areas of the project. This is a bit like being the conductor of the orchestra. You are watching the overall performance without playing any one instrument or favoring one section of the ensemble over another.
While a good leader does not micromanage his/her people, he/she must be able to pitch in when a crisis arises. And, in most situations, a form of crisis will arise. Errors, miscalculations, delays happen to everyone. Reacting calmly will be the best response to keep your team focused and positive. Negative or explosive reactions will spread panic, anxiety and lack of productivity, with opposite results from what you desire. Whatever the job, whatever needs to be done, do not be afraid to jump into the work to help, especially when extra hands are needed.
Effective Leadership Skills
Skills can be learned and sharpened. If you do not have all of these skills, do not be discouraged. Few people begin with strength in all areas. Always being able to learn and grow is most important.
An effective leader can take constructive criticism. This may be from a team member, or person higher up or a client. Be open to hearing suggestions, because there is a good chance they are coming from a place of good intention.
An effective leader has organizational skills, preferably on the job and in his/her personal life. Organization streamlines work and saves time. Effective leadership requires planning and ability to imagine the steps of the project before the work is assigned. This means having the foresight to anticipate obstacles before they occur. No one can foresee all of the potential road blocks, though, so being flexible and prepared to change direction are vital to success.
Effective Leadership Traits
The traits of an effective leader are sometimes easily confused with styles and skills. The basic difference is that traits are things which the leader possesses, not necessarily skills they have learned.
An effective leader is:
• confident without being arrogant;
• trusting of his/her crew;
• approachable and respectful of everyone, from the janitor to the CEO;
• a team player while still remaining in charge;
• a good listener (who does not prepare responses to what is being said while it is being said, but instead listens fully and attentively;
• empathetic without being too involved, especially in personal situations.
What are the Qualities of Effective Leadership?
Effective leadership is consistent. Steadiness and consistency will help your team know what to expect in a given situation. Changing reactions drastically will discourage communication with your peers. Effective leadership qualities of great importance are foresight and planning. Effective leaders have integrity.
Without being honest and sincere, no one goes far for long. Enthusiasm and excitement are essential in leaders in order to inspire and motivate the entire team. A project that no one understands the reason for will be a mess. Explain the benefits of the project, the importance of the work and the trust you have in your employees. Your confidence in them will make them appreciate their responsibility and respect their teammates.
How do you know your leadership style is working? There is minimal dissatisfaction in your team; work load is distributed fairly; your crew is always working constructively and there is minimal downtime; your team is communicating well – not just with you, but with each other.