6 Ways to Be an Effective Leader: Maximize your strengths and empower your team
Co-authored by Janice Dean Alferez, Research Intern | RC Warner Consulting, LLC
Leadership is an essential component to the success of an organization. Leaders can drive, motivate, and influence followers to achieve their common goals. Leadership can come in any form: from the inspirational and impactful, such as Mahatma Gandhi, to the malevolent and ruthless, such as Adolf Hitler.
Mahatma Gandhi promoted and applied non-violent methods to achieve his and his followers’ common goal: independence for India. He is widely recognized as one of the 20th century’s admirable leaders. Up to this time, he is still a source of inspiration to many people in achieving equal rights. On the other hand, Adolf Hitler had ruled by fear that carried a host of conflicting emotions and feelings to many people. As a leader, he used his influence to convince his people to wipe out an entire race of innocent people for selfish reasons. He and his people wanted this common goal, and he led them to carry it out. Such distinctions can be crucial as various types of leadership behaviors can be recognized as appropriate by certain individuals and/or groups. This becomes problematic, as certain followers may have difficulty recognizing their leader as he or she really is. If a leader is flawed, the followers may not be able to perceive that instantly and may continue to follow his or her lead, as in the case of Hitler. This can be a dangerous undertaking for the organization, individually and collectively.
What makes a leader effective?
Effective leadership is an ongoing learning process. Effective leadership is defined as a phenomenon that involves a process that is not a one-way event, but a bi-directional interaction that makes leaders not just teachers, but also learners who actively engage with their followers. To become an effective leader, it is necessary to practice self-awareness to learn about certain behaviors and characteristics that may positively or negatively impact the organization.
According to researchers, leaders can be highly effective by adhering to the basic tenets of leadership effectiveness.
1. Think and act strategically.
An effective leader must accept responsibility for molding the organization’s future by starting with a vision and defining the essential tactical ways to achieve it. This vision must align with the mission and values of the organization and should be created using a collaborative process with all key stakeholders. During this process, an effective leader will recognize the strengths of the organization, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that may interfere with growth to promote long-term success.
2. Understand and demonstrate the elements of teams and teamwork.
Teamwork is essential to take on new challenges and perform strategic tasks. Effective leaders create a culture of empowered members where everyone feels that their voice is heard, no matter their position or role. Effective leaders are the stimulants for materialization as they ignite productive actions, while also supporting a culture of inclusion and wellness among their members.
3. Define roles and relationships clearly.
Expectations of the leader and roles of team members must be clearly defined early on. It is important to note that a role has two important features: what the specific responsibilities of that role are, and how the individual who occupies the role is expected to behave and fulfill the assigned responsibilities. Clearly defining the team’s roles, behaviors, and practices can empower organizational members to do better and be more productive. When members clearly understand their responsibilities to the team and individual obligations, there will be less confusion, less duplication of tasks, and fewer conflicts as there is ownership and mutual accountability in one’s job.
4. Allocate leader time/energy appropriately.
Leaders cannot be everywhere all the time. The truth is that many leaders feel pressed for time and may often feel overwhelmed with responsibilities. They are usually expected to work at a fast pace and be exceedingly productive. However, there can be a lingering sense of less-than-excellent work performance from time to time. A leader’s ability to manage his or her workload effectively has a consequential impact on others. Therefore, it is necessary for a leader to allocate his or her time and energy accordingly.
5. Set clear rules and procedures for meetings.
One way to manage time more effectively is to set clear rules and procedures for meetings. According to a recent study surveying 182 senior managers in a range of industries, 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work and 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Therefore, using time and effort wisely is crucial to enhance productivity and meeting outcomes. Effective leaders do not allow their meetings to rattle on with a lack of clarity, superfluous comments, and never-ending discussions. Instead, they cover important items early on, ensure that a particular agenda is focused and is being followed, assign responsibility to promote engagement and collaboration, and keep meetings focused within a short specified time period.
6. Continuously learn and develop.
Highly effective leaders are aware that they do not know everything; thus, they exploit their strengths and capitalize on their weaknesses. They seek continual feedback and always strive to learn and develop. They know that self-improvement is a journey, not a destination. As a leader grows, so does the individual and collective performance within the organization.
Now more than ever, leaders must know the relevance of attentively analyzing how they are performing and engaging with others to determine if they are contributing to the success or failure of an organization. Effective leadership is a lifelong learning process. Anyone can be highly effective to empower and maximize the potential of their team members. To do so requires constant focus and discipline in adhering to the fundamental tenets of leadership effectiveness. Best of luck to you on this journey.
Hitt, D. H., & Player, D. W. (2019). Identifying and predicting effective leader practices: Examining principal experience and prior roles. Leadership and policy in schools, 18(1), 97-116.
Perlow, L. A., Hadley, C. N., & Eun, E. (2017). Stop the meeting madness. Harvard Business Review, 95(4), 62-69.
All Rights Reserved.