12 Characteristics of Effective Leadership

Leadership  is one of those terms that is often used interchangeably with other management terms but  is defined as: the ability to lead; an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction.

The term leadership is used in many forms to describe many things but is ultimately the act of leading people in a certain direction.

Following are some leadership characteristics that successful leaders demonstrate and develop through their own professional journey.

12 Characteristics of Effective Leadership

1. Influence

Effective leaders are able to influence others to get things accomplished. They help others see what needs to be done and shows them the path forward. Anyone can be a leader – kids can be leaders. Did your mom ever say, “She’s a bad influence on you”? That means that person influences your thoughts and behaviors – positive influence is what we’re going for. Leaders can influence us in ways that we sometimes are not even aware of.

2. Help Others See the BIG Picture

Leaders are big picture thinkers and can rise above the urgency of the day-to-day and understand things from a broad perspective. They see all the pieces to the puzzle and have the ability to share the importance of each piece with employees.  When leaders communicate the BIG picture they get people excited about where they’re going and the process of getting there.

3. Gives Others the Benefit of the Doubt

Effective leaders always give others the benefit of the doubt and believe the best in people. A true leader first gathers all the facts before drawing final conclusions. It’s amazing how one-sided a situation can look and how very different it seems when you have all the information. Take the time to ask questions and make sure you have all of the facts when dealing with employee issues.  My husband always says there are three sides to every story. Make sure you know all the facts before making judgments.

4. Credibility

Leaders have credibility with those they lead. What this means is a leader says what they mean and does what they say. They are the same no matter who they are around and are honest with their communications and interactions with others. Their personal integrity is the same whether they are at work or on the little league baseball field.  They are credible (worthy of belief, trustworthy) people.

5. Teacher

Leaders are gifted teachers and master the art of coaching others in personal and professional development. They teach leadership principles and help others develop their own credibility. They help others identify areas that can be improved and coach them on how to make those improvements.

6. Master Delegator

Leaders develop skills in others by delegating responsibilities. This includes allowing others to make mistakes and helping employees learn through the process. Making mistakes is the best way to learn and allowing others to learn from their own errors is an invaluable lesson.

7. Empower Others

Leaders are gifted at empowering (to enable or permit) others to take responsibility and risks. Taking chances is part of the development and learning process and people need to be comfortable taking risks and learning from mistakes.

8. Integrity

Leaders have a high level of integrity and adhere to honesty, moral and ethical principles. They demonstrate these behaviors to others and do it consistently.  Their behaviors are the same regardless of the situation they are in or the people they are with.

9. Trust and Respect

Leaders are able to gain trust and respect from others. Their behaviors are predictable and consistent. People trust them because they have earned the trust by their consistency in professional behaviors.

10. Team Players

Leaders are team players and work with others to get things done. They operate out of a win-win philosophy and help others come to agreement and encourage collaboration in tasks.

11. Celebrates Successes

Effective leaders are able to recognize success and help their team celebrate those successes. This is a critical component in team function and development.

12. Have Right Priorities

Leaders have a good understanding of their personal priorities and are able to keep all aspects of their lives balanced. Leaders understand the importance of setting personal boundaries and giving family as much focus and attention as their professional lives.

Have you had any leaders in your life who have influenced you to get you to where you are?

This article was first published January, 2010 and updated  June 24, 2013.


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