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What Are the Characteristics of an Effective Leader?


By Amit Prasad on September 5, 2018

Even after having spent a remarkable amount of time, effort, and money devoted to the study of leadership, we still have little agreement about what exactly leadership is. Although everyone defines leadership in separate ways, based on their knowledge and experience, they all can feel its presence when they see it. Many of us are led to believe that great leaders are born that way; however, there’s no proof that an average person cannot acquire the traits of a great leader through practice and dedication. What are those traits or characteristics to become an effective leader? Keep reading.

Optimistic & Positive Attitude

A team leader cannot have a poor attitude and at the same time expect the team members to be positive. It’s expected from a leader to stay optimistic, enthusiastic, and energetic so that their aura has that same positive effect on their team members. A leader can cultivate a positive attitude and optimism by being a believer, and staying passionate about his work.

According to Bernie Swain, the author of What Made Me Who I Am, “Leadership requires a positive attitude and passion. If you believe in yourself, stay true to those beliefs and remain driven and passionate, you can do just about anything in life.”

A Keen Sense of Humor

Among the many qualities with which leaders make unforgettable first impressions is a keen sense of humor. Leaders with a positive, uplifting attitude and a little wittiness don’t just fuel excitement in the workplace but also help balance the atmospheric intensity that exists in a high performing organization.

According to Billy Graham, a well-known American evangelist, “A keen sense of humor helps us to overlook the unbecoming, understand the unconventional, tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected, and outlast the unbearable.” With a keen sense of humor, a leader can add fun and excitement to the overly serious work culture of any organization, helping it to improve the overall employee and production output.

Complexity Manager

One of the most demanding leadership qualities is the ability to manage complexities in rapidly shifting circumstances. Learning to lead in a complex and consistently shifting environment is a vital skill for a true leader. Leaders should be able to assess the complexity of a situation before any definitive information is available, and choose definitive courses of action to resolve the underlying issues.

A Harvard Business Publishing report explains, “Managing complexities is the ability to continuously scan the environment in search of subtle trends and indicators of disruptive change, and establishing practices that allow their organization to respond swiftly to changes in their environments.”

Decision Maker

Business leaders are faced with dozens of decisions that need to be made on a daily basis. Many times these decision-makings have serious ramifications if they were not adequately thought out. Effective leaders know how to turn challenges into opportunities with their decision-making skills. Leaders who are confident in their decision-making skills can peer into the future, calculate cumulative effects, and make decisions accordingly.

The Decision Making Strategies for Leaders program by London Business School teaches to develop decision-making confidence by acquiring sophisticated skills, knowledge, and experience. These are highly required in this fast-paced world of business where you need to harness rare skills to manage risks and take others with you, according to the program circular.

Effective Communicator

True leaders are also effective communicators. They know how to clearly and succinctly explain to their subordinates everything from organizational plans to specific tasks. Having such quality is also high in demand as most business conversations today are happening either online or on phone calls. In that scenario, people with excellent listening skills – that is also a part of effective communication – and, an ability to communicate on all levels: one on one, to the department and the entire staff, as well as via phone, email, and social media can keep the workflow speedy, effective, and intact.

Creative & Innovative

Effective leaders always foster creativity and innovation in their organization. They understand that no strategy can sustain a company’s competitive edge indefinitely, regardless of how brilliant the strategy may be. Knowing that effective leaders always risk experimentation so that it can foster innovation that can steer the organization to new destinations and around the twists and turns of a changing business landscape.

Adaptive Learner

An example of bad leadership is the resistance to change. Failing to adapt to the changing landscape invites troubles not only for the person who is in charge but for the organization as a whole. On the contrary, true leaders are insatiably curious to learn and grow constantly. They utilize their critical thinking skills, social and emotional intelligence, and their determination to keep pushing forward to make themselves more adaptable to the sudden circumstantial changes. This way, they are better able to seize on opportunities amid the changing landscape.

Every team or organization needs an effective leader for success. Leaders should ask themselves whether they are an effective leader for their organization. To know the answers, they should look for these (given above) characteristics in their leadership.

Quotes from Industry Leaders

Ajay Prasad
“Leadership is about laying the groundwork for your team’s success, then standing back and letting them shine.”

Gaurav Mundra
Gaurav Mundra
Businesses today are complex and business leaders are continuously staring at the unknown. However, it is extremely important to keep up your team’s morale as many of them have limited visibility unlike the leader who sees the big picture.

An important part of the business leader’s job today is to be a “shock-absorber”. Complex problems have to be faced and the business leader is not expected to pass the buck to his team. He/she is expected to break the problem into jobs which are manageable by the team and assign them to the right person. Once each person has done their job, the leader has to again put back the pieces together and make the whole count more then the sum of the pieces.

Humour also plays an important role in today’s dynamic and ever-changing business scenario. The ability to laugh at the problem and laugh at one’s own mistakes helps the team in thinking that they can try different things and find a solution rather than being scared of taking initiatives.

Sujiv Nair
Sujiv Nair
I believe that Destiny is not created by the shoes we wear but the steps we take!

Jugnu Jain
Jugnu Jain
There are SO MANY unexpected problems and issues that come up as an entrepreneur that its only an optimistic and positive attitude that can keep you sane through them. The more such experiences, the better you learn to manage complexity and become, unwillingly, unwittingly, a complexity manager.