Defining Effective Leadership

As an executive coach, I am often asked to define effective leadership. It’s a complex topic, based on the challenges of human behavior—that varying, uncontrollable and often mysterious element that makes leading far more than following guidelines. Short answer: effective leadership compels people to follow a vision.

Maybe the real question is, what makes an effective leader? There are many ideas on leading that need to be “un-learned” and replaced. Let’s start with a high-level understanding of what effective leadership is, and what it isn’t.

I see many people embark on the leadership path with an unfortunate mindset about leadership. Historic self-serving mindsets have contributed to the high degree of employee dissatisfaction and disengagement today. Some experts argue that this trend hasn’t changed much in several generations.

Unfortunately, a majority of leaders don’t receive leadership training, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey. This could explain, in part, the many years of data that reveal the flaws in traditional leadership thinking.

Contrary to old-school thinking, leadership does not succeed when leaders focus on “what’s in it for me.” Leadership prospers only when it aims to benefit the organization; the people they lead. This bashes the notion that leadership is about the four Ps: Power, Prestige, Perks and Privileges.

True leadership is not about titles, seniority, authority or compensation packages. It’s not about promotions, accolades or being admired. These self-centered behaviors alienate employees and cause multiple dysfunctions throughout the organization.

Leadership author and speaker Kevin Kruse defines leadership as, “a process of social influence which maximizes the efforts of others toward the achievement of a goal.” In other words, leaders employ skills to unify people and guide them along a plan that offers a prosperous future.

Most experts regard leading as the ability to deal with people, visions and ideas, while managing is the ability to coordinate things or tasks. Effective leadership requires a blend of:

  • Leadership skills
  • Management skills
  • People skills

What do you think? How do you define effective leadership? You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here, or on LinkedIn.

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