Knowing how to be an effective leader is a calling card for success. After all, no one wants to be thought of as ineffective, but the hard truth is there are plenty of “leaders” who don’t have the skills to lead a meeting, much less a department or a company. We’ve all worked with people who were genuine and seemingly effortless leaders – charismatic and inspiring – that made us want to work harder.
And then there were those that we struggled to respect and counted the days under their tenure until they moved on (or we did). But for those that aspire to be better, you may be interested in a research paper from St Leo University on “Five Dimensions of Effective Leadership: A Meta-Analysis of Leadership Attributes & Behaviors.” The author, Professor B. Tim Lowder, is a professor of Management and Organizational Behavior.
The author proposes broad attribute categories of effective leaders that I found of great interest. I’ve shared these below along with specific traits that are prevalent under the umbrella and some commentary based on my experience of leaders that have either mastered or maligned each dimension. See if you’ve observed any of these traits in yourself as a leader or those you work with or for:
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- Ethical – Ethics bleed from the top down in companies (both good and bad) so this is a must have for any leader. You can’t expect good choices from staffers when you’re not making them yourself!
- Self-motivated – If a leader isn’t a person of action, the team will take their cues from that, so this is critical. Marching out boldly to conquer the hour, day and week will inspire others to act as well!
- Goal oriented – We’ve all had leaders who ask us to set goals, but they should also have goals independent of ensuring that you meet yours. This makes sure they have skin in the game and are accountable.
- Effective time manager – Again, this sets the tone for all who work for a leader, but can be a delicate balance as they carry out work and find time to interact with those around them to stay in touch.
- Sets priorities – I’ve written before about bosses that think everything is a crisis, so a leader that’s aware of what’s truly critical and time sensitive can be a treasure to work for!
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[title size=”2″]Interpersonal Relationship Effectiveness Dimension[/title][checklist]
- Trust – As mentioned above, leaders operating without trust are not operating effectively. No matter what lip service staffers give, if they don’t trust you, they will never perform optimally for you!
- Compassion – This is not a sign of weakness, although some may feel that it is. You can still make effective business decisions and operate with compassion. It’s all about timing, communication and being genuine.
- Fairness – I’ve written before about fairness and level playing fields and this is critical. Playing favorites and rewarding inconsistently are all attributes of ineffective leaders.
- Objectivity – The ability to operate with empathy and compassion while bearing in mind business goals is the heart of objectivity. This critical skill is a tough one to learn.
- Guiding/Motivating – Effective leaders operate as casual mentors to everyone they interact with and it’s important that they realize that every encounter is an opportunity to guide and motivate
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[title size=”2″]Managerial Effectiveness Dimension[/title][checklist]
- Team Spirit – A little joie de vivre on the job is always a plus and leaders who can inspire this are a force to be reckoned with and ones that I’ve always appreciated working for!
- Delegates Authority/Empowers Others – Once a leader has power, it may be something they struggle to share. By delegating and empowering others though, you show that you trust them. The worst of micro-managers jealously hoard power.
- Effective Communicator – If you can’t talk to people in a way they will appreciate and respond to, you can’t lead. Communication is a skill you must master if you want to engender trust and inspire your staff, this is key.
- Demonstrates Candor – This skill is lost on many that are on auto-pilot to “sell.” People appreciate direct honesty in most situations but it can be difficult to let go of the desire to sugar-coat, polish or make gentler what needs to be said.
- Constantly Improving the Company – Effective leaders look to improve their employees, their teams, departments and themselves. By doing this, they can improve the company as a whole.
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[title size=”2″]Operational Effectiveness Dimension[/title][checklist]
- Relationship Building – Effective leaders must be able to build relationships at all levels from staff, customers, vendors, stakeholders and potential ones in all of these categories. This ties back to many of the previously mentioned attributes.
- Understanding Customer Needs – If you don’t know what your customer needs, you can’t give it to them and this can result in misaligned goals and dissatisfaction on every level. This is key! Without understanding this, you’ll struggle to create effective marketing messages and equip your employees that deal with customers!
- Instilling Organizational Vision – Knowing what needs to be done is one thing, but communicating that is another and getting buy-in and participation is still another. There’s a difference between being told what needs to happen and being convinced that you are a vital part of how it will happen – that’s instilling vision!
- Ensure Stakeholder Satisfaction – Whether you work at an SME that’s family owned or has just a few investors or a publicly traded corporation that has actual investors to answer to, you’re accountable to someone. Ensuring their satisfaction without sacrificing any other party is a balancing act only the most accomplished leaders master!
- Ensure Workforce Satisfaction – You can succeed without this – but not in an ethically sustainable way. Sweatshops are no doubt profitable, but are clearly wrong. Your workforce should be utmost in your considerations!
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[title size=”2″]Societal Effectiveness Dimension[/title][checklist]
- Focused on Community Involvement – Effective leaders recognize that their company is part of a greater eco-system that they should be positively participating in. Leaders that themselves participate in – and encourage employees to participate in – community activities that give back are more effective and better perceived.
- Interested in Environmental Stewardship – As part of the greater eco-system, great leaders understand we leave a legacy that can be financial but also environmental and can be bad or good. As a leader, caring about the environment has exponential impact as it trickles through to your staff and into their homes, to your customers, vendors and to their companies!
- Invested in Public Relations – Effective leaders shouldn’t just call on PR to mediate disasters and mitigate damage, but also to brag about what you’re doing well, single out departments or staffers for extraordinary accomplishments and generate good will for your firm – whether you need it or not.
Some of these traits may be naturally occurring, but it’s more likely that effective leaders will simply have an affinity for these traits but will still need to be trained to optimize and fully explore their capabilities. The paper recommends establishing training initiatives early on and I concur. It’s not enough to wait until someone is put into a leadership position to offer training. Rather consider training as an opportunity to develop skills in all employees and as a tool to identify those who may be excellent candidates for management!
If you’re a leader, are you performing within this spectrum? And if you’re an HR pro, which of these traits do you recognize in yourself and in managers across departments in your company? It’s your job to facilitate training and encouraging your company to offer leadership development courses is a great avenue to pursue. But where will you find the time? Simple – offload administrative tasks that can easily be automated and devote your time to your true calling – putting the human back in human resources! Find out more about Jobscience workforce management, recruitment and onboarding automation tools now!