November 23, 2022

Effective leadership is rarely simple and there are several characteristics you may wish to consider as you reflect on your leadership qualities and ability.

What does leadership mean to you?

In its simplest terms, I would describe Leadership as the ability to guide a group toward the achievement of a vision or set of goals. However, effective leadership is rarely simple and there are several characteristics you may wish to consider as you reflect on your leadership qualities and ability.  I will look at some of these characteristics in a bit more detail later.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge the five most common leadership styles and promise not to bang on about them:

1. Transformational - has a focus on change

2. Delegative - provides a free hand to the team with minimum intrusion

3. Authoritative - pursues a follow-me approach

4. Transactional - has an emphasis on structure and processes

5. Participative - involves the team in the decision-making process

There are many online tools that will allow you to identify which style is most closely matched to you, but my overriding belief is that you must be nimble and agile enough to adopt the style which is best aligned with the task, role, project, etc. that you are leading on. This may require you to deploy elements of each style at different stages or certainly blur the lines between styles to get the best from a diverse team and achieve the outcome you are looking for. There is no one size fits all.

Right, that’s the styles out of the way until another day and we can move on to talk about what leadership means to me and hopefully you.  I hope to take a different approach to the multitude of professionals offering advice on leadership and steer away from a stereotypical language such as bold, strong, determined, no-nonsense and fearless, etc.  Now, I will agree an element of these traits is often found in effective leaders but will contend that it is much more nuanced than these simple labels. To be an effective leader you must know yourself and have a clear appreciation of those you seek to lead.

Firstly, you should want to be an exemplar when it comes to leadership.  What does that mean I hear you ask.  An exemplar is someone who sets the highest standards for themselves and inspires and motivates others to achieve those highest standards. That’s leadership covered then, isn’t it?  Well, not really, as now we need to look at the characteristics I consider essential if you are to be that exemplary leader and thought of as such by your team.

So, here goes.

You should want to be authentic at all times, staying true to your personality, values, and beliefs irrespective of the drivers to behave otherwise.  You should remain consistent in your work ethic, desire to achieve, decision-making, and behaviours towards the team.  Authenticity and consistency will allow trust in you to grow in the opinion of others and this is hugely important. If you are awarded the label of trustworthy by those you lead you are certainly more likely to be considered a good leader and garner the support and confidence of others.  What comes next are subsets of authenticity and consistency and I will set them out as a series of questions intended to promote self-reflection. You may want to get a piece of paper and write down your answers and evidence as that will better show strengths and areas for improvement.

Do you demonstrate OPENNESS?

  • Are you accessible and sincere?
  • Are you clear about your expectations?

Do you value and demonstrate HONESTY?

  • Are you virtuous and honourable?
  • Are you willing to change your mind when the facts change?

Do you promote a SUPPORTIVE culture?

  • Are you loyal and encouraging?
  • Do you take responsibility for your decisions?
  • Do you empower others?
  • Do you promote a learning culture?

Do you always remain CALM?

  • Are you composed and not easily agitated?
  • Do you take time to reflect on the consequences of decisions?

Do you demonstrate DECISIVENESS?

  • Are you able to scrutinise options effectively?
  • Do you believe in yourself?
  • Do you seek the opinions of others?
  • Do you balance competing demands?
  • Do you demonstrate pragmatism where necessary?

Do you show FAITH in the ability of the team

  • Do you give others credit and show confidence in them?
  • Do you encourage a collective work ethic?

Do you COMMUNICATE clearly?

  • Do you understand what it is you are trying to achieve?
  • Is your strategy easily understood?
  • Do you clearly define roles and responsibilities?
  • Are you clear on performance measures?

I list these characteristics in no particular order but hope that this blog offers you something to reflect on and encourages you to be the very best leader you can.

Occasionally we get the right people together at the right time and in the right place and success is very nearly ensured but most times we must work hard and lead effectively to get the best from ourselves and others. It is for this reason alone that you should always strive for improvement in every aspect of your professional and personal lives.

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