A lot of time and research has been put into identifying the traits of successful people and successful leaders. There are a slew of books, TED talks, and other resources on the subject. But the topic continues to be talked about and debated. I think one of the reasons why it is such a popular topic is because leaders (well, good ones at least) want to continually develop their skill sets to be more effective. Likewise, organizations want the secret sauce to effective leadership as a way to increase profit. It is now almost a cliché for a company to say that they need to invest in their people in order to be successful. But what does that really mean?
To me, it means that organizations need to invest in and understand two key areas. First, they need to understand what types of people are successful in their environment and select people who possess the right skills. Second, they need to find ways to develop the individuals and leaders who may not currently possess that skill set.
For the past 10 years, I have been working with organizations help to answer these two key questions. I have learned a few things over this time. Although there are differences from one organization to the next and from one industry to the next, there are some clear and common themes that emerge as they relate to leadership effectiveness. The following five skills have come up in almost every leadership discussion I have had. It is clear that if a leader can do these things (and sometimes if they can do just three of them really well) they can be effective.
Ability to lead and influence others – So much of being a leader depends on if you can “rally the troops.” Having the confidence to lead a team and be influential is a tremendous asset. If the leader cannot influence others to become motivated around a common goal they will struggle to be effective.
Ability to relate and interact with peers, subordinates, and superiors – A strong leader needs to be effective and interact with individuals from all levels within the organization. We all know about the leaders who can manage up. These are the individuals who can convince their boss they are a gift from god, but they cannot fool their direct reports. Effective leaders have the ability to communicate and collaborate with individuals from all levels.Related: Why is Emotional Intelligence an Important Leadership Trait?
Ability to analyze information and make decisions – This one goes without saying, but this list would not be complete without mentioning pure intelligence. Leaders who are able to analyze information and make good decisions are more effective than their counterparts. However, this may appear to be simpler than it really is. The leader not only needs the mental horsepower to interpret information but they also need the personality and confidence to trust in the decisions they make and follow through with them. Read more: 3 Ways to Use HR Metrics to Create Positive Change.
Ability to execute and deliver – Organizations love the leaders who can just plain and simple get stuff done. After a decision is made or a strategic plan is set it needs to be executed or the strategy will fail. Leaders who have the drive to create urgency around projects and tasks also have the ability to get things done. It doesn’t have to be at the detriment of their employees, either. Effective leaders can get stuff done in a timely manner and ensure their employees are getting the work-life balance they need to stay energized.
Ability to adapt to changes and be innovative – There is one thing that organizations know and that is CHANGE is the only constant. For companies to stay competitive they need to be nimble and have leaders who are innovative. Furthermore, effective leaders need to be able to adapt their approach to meet the demands of an ever-changing environment. Leaders and organizations who refuse to adjust or adapt can be effective for some time, but they will inevitably become stale in their approach.
So there you have it. If a leader can manage to have at least 3 of these traits, chances are good that they will be an effective leader. If they have all 5 of these traits, then they're almost guaranteed to be a good leader. Fortunately for leaders everywhere, it is possible to develop these traits and improve your chances of becoming a great leader.