Developing leadership is not an easy task. Before one can help others to become leaders, it is necessary to define the concept – which is not an easy task, either. It is not a term one can apply to oneself, but a concept based on the perception of others. Managing others does not necessarily make someone a leader, either. There are many characteristics that make people successful individual contributors and team members, but leadership requires a larger definition of oneself and one’s place in an organization. People are perceived as leaders when their intentions and actions are informed by a desire to enhance the lives of others through individual relationships, business outcomes, community change, and so on.

THE 6 KEY CHARACTERISTICS of Effective Leadership

#1  Courage

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.

Effective Leadership

#2  Discipline

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.

#5  Humility

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.

Effective Leadership
#6  Having some fun

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.