When I ask my teen and young adult clients what they think leadership is and whether it is something that can be learned, these are some of their most common responses.
Although these answers are on track, they don’t give a clear understanding of what effective leadership means. Some people have the innate ability to lead. Those who don’t, but have a passion to achieve something, can certainly learn skills and exhibit qualities that make them effective leaders.
So, what are the qualities of an effective leader?
Vision- Motivating a group of people can be complicated. Whether you are the president of your senior class, captain of the basketball team or leader of a social club, sharing a vision of what needs to be accomplished is necessary. Without vision there is no clear purpose. And without purpose, you cannot set appropriate goals or develop strategies for reaching them. Develop a brief description of the vision and make sure everyone is on board with it at the outset.
Passion- What is truly meaningful to you? What are you determined to accomplish? When you can answer these questions, you will find self-motivation. For example, I was one hundred percent sure I wanted to attend Florida State University and major in Psychology. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for the tuition. The strong desire deep inside of me to get to FSU was all the motivation I needed. Nothing was going to stop me. I spent many hours – long before the internet – researching scholarships and student loans so I could follow my passion. The saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” is so true! I had to work part-time and pay off student loans — but I valued the education I received and the whole experience all the more because my passion got me there.
Honesty- Be a role model for the type of behavior and communication that you expect from others on your team. Integrity is essential. If you are perceived as dishonest or if your intentions are selfish and not in the best interest of the group, people will lose respect for you.. Some may even lie or withhold information from you to get things done. You don’t want to be an obstacle to your team. Look at your motivation and if you haven’t been honest, then get honest and get the team back on track.
Delegate Responsibility- Trust others to complete tasks. The more work you take on, the more likely it is that the quality of your work will suffer. Identify the strengths of teams and individuals and try to give them work they will most likely enjoy doing. This will make them feel trusted and motivate them to be successful in the task at hand. Delegation done right will improve the overall quality of work and increase personal satisfaction in your people.
Communication- Be sure you communicate your requests clearly and explicitly. Don’t assume that people know what you’re talking about or that they come from your same experiences. If you don’t clearly communicate your instructions or the desired result, others may misinterpret your wishes. This could lead to frustration and tension on both sides. Also, be prepared to communicate your dissatisfaction when required. A big mistake that many leaders make is to avoid conflict or confrontations. Anticipate where problems might occur and reflect on how you may need to have hard conversations with difficult or confrontational people. Encourage people to have open yet respectful conversations with you and with one another by modeling and supporting open communication.
Sense of Humor- Keeping positive when things go wrong can be very powerful. Mistakes keep us human and we can even learn from them. Technology can be unreliable at times. Stuff just happens. It’s life. When your team sees that their leader can laugh things off, see the positive in a negative situation, and keep a positive temper about them, they are more likely to model the same behavior which allows the group to continue to move forward without dwelling on mistakes or feeling shame.
Confidence- Sometimes things don’t go as planned. If the leader loses confidence, the team will follow. It’s the leaders job to step up to the plate and show the others that you are confident they will do better next time. Let them know that you have confidence that all is not doom and gloom. Show them that your feet are planted firmly and you are ready to move forward successfully.
Commitment- Practice what you preach. If you expect a clean environment, set the standards for others by showing you are willing to pick up trash and dispose of it properly when you see it. If you expect positive energy, exude positive energy. If you expect detail in their work, show your work in detail. If you want people to do more than is expected, you must be committed to going above and beyond yourself. Also, be willing to give recognition and celebrations for their hard work and efforts. Recognition and praise goes a long way.
Positive Attitude- If you haven’t read about employee satisfaction at Google, google it! Their employees get lots of perks during work hours like rental cars, micro kitchens for breaks, free meals, and massage chairs to name a few. Although Google is way ahead of the norm, you can find simpler ways to create positive energy in your group or organization that will motivate, rejuvenate and inspire. Bring their favorite treats, celebrate birthdays, give out certificates of accomplishments or recognize individuals in emails or group meetings. It is amazing what people will do for you when there is positive energy in the group. People will want to do things for you and go the extra mile when needed!
Creativity- Leaders are sometimes stuck in sticky situations. They have to make decisions that no one else wants to make. Effective leaders can think outside of the box. Show your team that you have confidence and respect for them by including them in the decision making process. They will feel valued when you solicit their opinions. Be careful not to make decisions too quickly. Weigh pro’s and con’s after you have considered the input of others.
Intuition- When you find you’re in a situation where you’re not sure what to do, trust your instincts. Resort to past experiences. Reflect on what your mentor might do. Better yet, contact your mentor for support. If you do not trust yourself that you can make decisions for the group, they will lose confidence in you as well. Make a decision and stick to it. Going back and forth will create doubt in people’s minds and reduce your effectiveness as a leader.
Inspire!- Effective leaders have the ability to inspire a group of individuals to share a common vision or goal. Individuals and groups understand their role and take ownership of the work they do. The final outcome is successful because all involved gave it their best.
I believe that anyone with a clear vision and the passion to bring that vision to life has the motivation needed to learn and develop the skills of a successful leader! Start practicing these skills now and watch the impact you have on people.
I would love to hear from you. If this has been helpful or if you have suggestions, please email me at [email protected]