Effective Leadership: Definition and How to Apply It

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 28 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Leadership allows an organisation or company to set strategic visions and missions and allocate resources effectively to achieve short- and long-term goals. For a business to leverage leadership to accomplish its vision, it requires effective leaders who can create a roadmap and execute its plans. Knowing how to use leadership effectively can help a company understand its strengths and weaknesses and motivate its staff to remain committed to achieving its objectives. In this article, we define what makes leadership effective and explain how it works and how you can apply it as a professional.

What is effective leadership?

Effective leadership is the ability of a leader to execute a company's vision and create a work culture that allows employees to contribute meaningfully to the achievement of their employer's goals. An effective leader typically creates strategic plans for an organisation, and also helps improve the company's vision, secures and allocates resources and tracks performance to identify weaknesses and leverage performance and efficiency.

To be an effective leader, it's important to have several personal attributes and professional skills to motivate and influence people and get them to support your vision for the company. Such attributes include decision-making, communication, interpersonal relationships and strategic planning.


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15 ways to apply effective leadership as an individual

Here are ways to apply effective leadership to create positive change in your role:

1. Communicate effectively

Strong communication includes being able to speak clearly and listen actively. In a leadership role, your work is going to involve providing instruction to team members, delegating, tracking performance and giving and receiving feedback. All these activities require you to be adept at communicating effectively in verbal and written form. Communication is also essential for motivating your team and helping them to visualise your goals for the company so that they can remain dedicated to achieving collective aims.

2. Demonstrate self-confidence

To be an effective leader, it's essential to have self-confidence. Being confident allows you to set clear visions and roadmaps to help the company achieve its strategic objectives and convince your teams to support those initiatives. Self-confidence can give you a firm conviction in your ability to achieve set goals with available resources. Being self-confident can motivate your team to believe in their skills, experience and talents.

While self-confidence is important for leadership, being overly self-confident can make you less approachable. This makes it essential to maintain an open-door policy and be receptive to differing opinions regardless of your confidence in your vision or plans.

3. Leverage other people's strengths

Effective leaders understand how to leverage the strengths of their team to solve problems and achieve goals. As a leader, one way to boost your effectiveness is to use the skills, experience and personal qualities of team members to improve the productivity and efficiency of the organisation. This can involve delegating authority and matching individuals with roles and tasks that align with their training and expertise.

Leveraging other people's strengths not only increases the performance of these individuals, but it can improve their leadership skills and help the company meet its production and revenue goals. Giving employees positions of authority and responsibility can also make them feel valued by the employer and increase their loyalty to the organisation.

Related: What Is the Importance of Leadership? (Plus Purpose)

4. Be an active team member

To be an effective leader, it's important to play an active role in the activities of your team. Rather than simply providing instructions for team members to follow, demonstrating an in-depth knowledge of the tasks and making yourself available during project execution can motivate your team to dedicate themselves to achieving optimal performance and efficiency.

Working directly with your team can help you gain their trust and respect and allows you to learn about their challenges, reducing the time required to provide feedback and resolve issues that can delay project delivery. Being involved in team operations can also boost the group bond and enhance collaboration.

5. Take responsibility

The best leaders take responsibility for their team's achievements and failures. Being an effective leader requires leading by example and taking responsibility for the outcomes of your decisions. When results are desirable, such leaders give the entire team credit for the success. If the results are unfavourable, these leaders take the blame rather than their team for the outcome and use the opportunity to learn how to improve future performance.

Read more: Responsibility at Work Example and Why It's Important

6. Maintain a positive attitude

To succeed in a leadership role, it's essential to maintain a positive attitude in every situation. Competent leaders know it's not always possible to achieve success consistently. When results are below expectations, they handle their failure with optimism and motivate their teams to see the positive side of the situation. By being optimistic and using setbacks as growth and learning opportunities, efficient leaders can keep their staff's morale high and use challenges as a motivating factor for boosting dedication, performance and results.

7. Practise patience

The ability to be patient and remain composed when problems arise is a vital attribute of an effective leader. During difficult times, effective leaders are calm, patient and dedicate themselves to understanding the causative factors that led to the results so they can avoid future occurrences. Being composed helps reduce panic and keeps team members positive and motivated to solve the problem.

8. Trust employee's abilities

Effective leaders trust their employee's abilities to deliver positive results, so they don't micromanage their staff. To achieve positive results as a leader, it's important to provide your team with the resources and enabling environment they require to deliver the desired results. Demonstrating your confidence in their skills and experience can improve trust and boost their morale.

Rather than micromanage, it's better to assess each individual to identify their strengths and weaknesses and pair them with tasks they can do competently with little or no supervision. Then provide suggestions and feedback to help them achieve optimal results without being overly intrusive.

Related: Leadership Skills vs. Leadership Traits: With Examples

9. Be transparent

As a leader, it's important to be transparent with your team members. Transparency involves being honest and upfront about decisions with your team and creating an atmosphere that encourages conversation and feedback. Being transparent can help you gain employees' trust and respect and allow your team to provide valuable insights that can improve your decision-making and leadership skills.

10. Practise core professionalism

Being an efficient leader requires you to practise professionalism in the discharge of your leadership duties. Professionalism requires you to be ethical and create a positive company culture. It also involves being a person of integrity and practising empathy in your interactions with colleagues and junior employees.

11. Think critically

A major function of a leader is to make decisions on behalf of a company. To be a good decision-maker, it's essential to be able to think critically about the different factors that can influence the outcomes of a project or plan. Before taking weighty decisions, effective leaders evaluate different plans, understand the risks associated with each plan and weigh the pros and cons of each before choosing the one that's most likely to succeed.

Read more: What's the Importance of Critical Thinking in the Workplace?

12. Develop people

The best leaders understand that developing their employees is an investment in the company's ability to achieve its goals and retain its competitive advantage. Such leaders give their employees the chance to grow through coaching, mentoring and effective delegation of duties. Developing your staff means you have more capable individuals to support the actualisation of your vision and the company's goals.

13. Build relationships

Leading a group of people requires building a mutually beneficial relationship with them. As a leader, one way to improve your effectiveness is to improve your interpersonal relationship skills, including building rapport, practising empathy and listening actively to the concerns of your team members. Having a personal connection with people makes it easier to motivate and persuade them to dedicate their skills and experiences to achieve common goals.

14. Inspire your staff

The best leaders are adept at inspiring team members to share their vision and passion for company goals. Being an inspirational leader can give employees a purpose and make them believe their contributions matter to the company's development. When people have clarity on their duties relative to company objectives, they may have a higher motivation to dedicate themselves to achieving those aims.

15. Set a high standard for yourself

Because leaders create visions for organisations, it's important for them to set high standards for themselves. Committing to a higher standard of performance, productivity, efficiency and work culture can help a company to grow consistently and remain competitive in its industry. Being able to hold yourself to higher standards means you can assess yourself and your vision critically and identify ways to improve and reposition the organisation for more ambitious goals.

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