We’ve all experienced good and bad leadership from bosses, professors, and project managers. Leaders use different styles, and many are good at what they do. Some are bad. A rare few are exceptional. There are many reasons that certain leaders are remarkable, but four specific qualities can make leadership stand out from the good, the bad, and the ugly styles out there. Effective leaders inspire, influence, and improve others. They have integrity, and they care about people. According to Drs. Reilly, Minnick, and Baack (2011), “Leaders inspire, provide emotional support, and work to guide and rally others toward organizational goals and group goals” (p.128). Combining these leadership truths, leadership is about positive influence; effective leaders inspire the hearts and minds of others. Apply these four qualities into your everyday coaching to become the effective leader people desire to follow.
Great leaders are optimistic and consistently look for the good in all successes, failures, and challenges. These leaders encourage us to look for the "silver lining" when things might have not gone as well as expected. They teach that there is always something to learn. Timely encouragement is a ritual. Independence to learn and grow from our experiences is a gift. Leaders search for solutions and set goals to improve. According to Joseph Weiss (2011), “Optimism refers to having a positive outlook or thinking positively; optimistic leaders tend to see the good in people and organizations and believe in favorable results. This does not mean that leaders are blind to the negative; they are simply able to see possibilities and seek opportunities” (p.25).
Strong leaders are passionate about servant and transformational styles of leadership, which value quality, innovation, and caring. Their strong sense of passion and purpose is felt by many. According to Hudson and McLean (2006), “Passion is a sense of energy for something. Your passions are your internal energy source, the fire or determination you have for reaching some destination up ahead. They tell you why you are on this journey and what you want from life. They are your push and pull” (p.67). Passion and optimism can lift others beyond self-perceived limitations, which can then lead to team success during times of challenge, change, and even disappointment.
Effective leaders envision success and possibilities. They consistently paint a clear and positive picture of the future. A leader’s vision provides decisive goals for team success; an exceptional leader shows you the way to the objective. A clear vision helps the team see what it will achieve and ultimately become. Vision grabs attention, pulls people together, inspires, influences and focuses people on the central mission: the team. Vision creates action and morphs followers into leaders. Leaders with vision are truly transformational and demonstrate self-confidence for the road ahead. They are not paralyzed by fear or anxiety. Leaders with vision understand the context and culture of the leadership situation. They desire to make things better. Always dedicated and committed, these leaders understand the grand design; stay aligned to achievable goals, strategies, systems, leadership, and culture. They focus on improving their people and results.
Effective leaders are competent, skilled, secure, and considerate. These leaders find time for everyone; they are genuine and authentic in their communications and actions. People matter to them, and they openly demonstrate this fact to their employees. They care about them and their success. They want their employees to know that they are valued; these leaders look out for their workers' well-being and want them to feel good. Maintaining high morale throughout the workforce is important, and especially so to effective leaders who stay engaged, attend one-on-one meetings, initiate dialogue, share information, build trust, establish respect, and care for their teams. Effective leaders work to achieve positive relations and results (Nahavandi, 2000). The five key business drivers may include cash, profits, growth, asset utilization, and people, but strong leaders know people are the most important resource (Cope, 2012).
Whether you find yourself in a formal leadership role within your organization, ad hoc, or in your personal life, inspire others and pay it forward. Exceptional leaders are optimistic and passionate, lead with an inspiring vision, and consider others in the process. They are effective communicators, stay engaged, and work to help people achieve optimal results. To learn more about effective leadership, explore the BA in Business Leadership program.
Written by Bill Davis, MA, CM, Core Faculty and Faculty Senator in the Forbes School of Business and Technology™, and Martin McAuliffe, JD, Assistant Professor in the College of Liberal Arts.
Cope, K. (2012). Seeing the bigger picture – business acumen to build your company, credibility, career and company. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group
Hudson, F.M, & McLean, D.P. (2006). Life Launch, A Passionate Guide to the Rest of Your Life. Santa Barbara, CA: Hudson Institute Press.
Nahavandi, A. (2000). The art and science of leadership (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Reilly, M., Minnick, C., & Baack, D. (2011). The five functions of effective management. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Weiss, J. W. (2011). An introduction to leadership. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.