THE 6 KEY CHARACTERISTICS of Effective Leadership
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair famously said, “The art of leadership is saying NO. It is very easy to say yes.” Leadership shines during times of adversity because that is when the courage to take an unpopular stance is most needed. Being honest and making tough decisions does not always make people feel good. Leadership is not for the meek. People often claim positions of leadership, but then do nothing when the tough times arrive, abdicating responsibility, throwing their hands up and saying there was nothing they could do.
Leadership requires discipline – a consistency in values, actions, and language. To be a leader, one must practice the behaviours required for effective leadership. The key word is “practice.” For example, the average manager receives five days of training per year with little or no follow up to establish the skills taught in these sessions. There are few, expectations that managers will actually apply these skills on the job. These managers are about as likely to be leaders as someone who takes a weeklong guitar class is to be a musician.
#3 Interpersonal Abilities
Leaders use their interpersonal capabilities to influence those around them. They do not force anything, but rather ask the questions that allow people to think differently about the topic at hand. Interpersonal abilities are revealed in many ways — for instance, effective listening instils trust, strong written and oral communication establishes credibility. Being able to read people and adjust one’s style based on the body language of others creates an environment of openness. All of these skills allow for solid ongoing relationships, which in turn provide partnerships and the foundation by which work gets done.
#4 Making It Happen
Leaders have a reputation of doing what they say they will do. This is the evidence, the proof, and the baseline for trust and credibility. Someone who does not get the work done does not have credibility as a professional. At the same time, the occasional spot of incompetence is not necessarily a bad thing. People need to take risks, learn new skills, try new things, or start new jobs. The important thing is to keep a firm grasp on one’s limitations and acknowledge them. People who are expanding their abilities or making transitions can avoid damaging their credibility by being careful about making promises regarding new areas of expertise.
Leaders do not harbour a desire to shine beyond all others. A leader must be willing to point out the direction of future success and then get out of the way so those who have the skills and abilities can accomplish the goal. A desire for stardom will only thwart this essential goal. A big ego is dangerous in a position of leadership.
Humour, creativity, and fun are both allowed and encouraged. While leadership is often serious business, a leader who has a sense of humour and fun fosters an environment of innovation and creativity. Serious times require serious behaviour and joy should be as much a part of leadership as focus and discipline.