What It Takes to Become an Effective Leader

Updated 29 November 2022

Effective leadership is instrumental to organisational success. Organisations with strong and effective leadership can act more decisively, resolve complex issues more efficiently and anticipate and react to challenges better. Learning about effective leadership can help you hone your skills and improve your performance at work. In this article, we define what an effective leader is and share what it takes to become one.

Related: What is Leadership? (With Key Elements of Leadership)

What is an effective leader?

Effective leaders are visionaries who have a clear set of organisational, team and personal goals. They communicate their strategies clearly on how they work towards achieving these goals. They equip and empower each team member to maximise their productivity. Effective leaders create a shared vision, communicate it in a way that unifies the team, foster collaboration and influence change, resulting in higher employee retention, customer satisfaction and productivity levels.

Effective leadership requires cultivating and maintaining an environment that enables the people around you to thrive. To become an effective leader, it's necessary for you to acquire specific skills and qualities.

Related: 15 Leadership Qualities You Need to Be a Great Leader

What it takes to become an effective leader

Here's what it takes to become an effective leader:

Possesses self-awareness

Self-awareness is about understanding your strengths, weaknesses, emotions, beliefs, values, motivations and the impact you have on others. Leaders who can recognise and manage their emotions understand how their team members feel and know how to better motivate them. To gain self-awareness, you may actively seek feedback from your team and colleagues about your working style. With greater self-awareness, you can make better decisions and be more effective in conflict management and resolution.

Related: What Is Mindful Leadership? (Plus Characteristics)

Communicates clearly

An effective leader communicates concisely, clearly yet tactfully. You share important information, ask right questions to gather feedback and ideas, and regularly seek clarifications. By having good communication, you instil confidence in your team and motivate them to work towards shared goals. Knowing how to adapt the way you speak can strengthen trust and your relationships with others. But most importantly, be genuine in your communication.

Related: What Is Leadership Communication? (Definition and Examples)

Values team members

Effective leaders recognise and value the strengths and contributions of their team members. You may show this by publicly appreciating and acknowledging your team's contributions, or even simply by treating your team to lunch. This can create a positive work environment and encourage your employees to continue giving their best. It may also help you gain a strong and loyal following who can help you achieve the company goals. Be consistent and intentional in celebrating their team's achievements.

Invests in personal and professional growth

Effective leaders have a genuine interest in their team members' success and growth. Learn about the goals and aspirations of your team members and devise ways to help them grow. You can provide them with professional development and learning opportunities to acquire new skills or develop existing skills. Share with them that you support their growth so that they feel motivated to take steps towards their personal and professional development. You can be their advocate when they approach you regarding pursuing further education or gaining new certifications.

You may also create low-risk leadership opportunities so that your team members can practise their leadership. For example, you can ask them to lead a meeting or organise a team-building activity. Before they embark on the task, communicate your goals and deadlines clearly to them, encourage them to be innovative, set high expectations and give them enough freedom to make decisions. Provide feedback on what they did well and highlight areas of improvement after that.

Leads by example

To gain credibility and respect of those around you, it's important to be exemplary. For example, if the company decides to introduce new procedures, operational changes or policies as part of pursuing change and innovation, it's critical that you as their leader welcome these changes first. By doing so, you can then encourage your team members to support the company's initiatives and contribute to its success. Maintaining a positive attitude is key as your team is likely to be influenced by your mindset.

Effective leaders also demonstrate the behaviour they want their team members to follow. If you've set high standards for your team, it's important to ensure that you meet those standards as well. For example, if you're very strict on punctuality with your team, ensure that you're on time for work and meetings and meet your deadlines too. Aligning your words and actions strengthen trust and encourage your team to follow your example.

Related: How a Leader Can Be a Change Agent (With Characteristics)

Prioritises innovation

It's essential for companies to adapt to changes and innovate to outperform their competitors. Efficient leaders recognise the importance of experimentation to maintain the company's competitive advantage and encourage risk-taking and innovation within the company. You can create a culture that allows for failure so that employees feel more confident to propose unique ideas and test theories. You may also reward experimentation by offering incentives to those who dare to try on new ideas.

Related: What Is Disruptive Innovation and How Does It Work? (With Example)

Values ethics and integrity

As a leader, it's important to cultivate a work ethics in your organisation and demonstrate such behaviour at work. Ethical leaders are more likely to gain the trust of investors, clients, customers and employees. As a leader with integrity, you make decisions, behave and interact with others based on core values. Your team respect you for being principled, ethical and consistent. You keep to your word and communicate honestly and directly with them.

Has a positive attitude

Be it delays in the supply of raw materials or conflict between team members, an efficient leader maintains an optimistic attitude despite the circumstances and look for positive aspects of the situation. You help the people around you to react positively to the situation and work together to problem-solve. Such positive work environment cultivates a more engaged and productive workforce.

Related: How to Motivate (Plus Tips on Self Motivation and Leadership)

Acts decisively

In a fast-changing business environment, effective leaders don't hesitate when making important and impactful decisions. After making a decision, you remain firm and don't waver. You make decisions based on your understanding of the organisation's needs and according to the shared vision of your team. You balance upcoming opportunities with long-term goals and guide your team towards the most favourable outcome.

Commits to transparency

Part of building trust requires being transparent. Transparency entails being open and honest and many companies feature it as one of their core values. Effective leaders invite conversation and feedback, thereby building respect and trust for their leadership among their colleagues. By being open about the organisation's goals and challenges, you make it easier for your team members to understand the role they play and how they can contribute to the success of the company. Having such greater sense of value and purpose leads to better employee engagement and job satisfaction.

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