10 Traits of an Effective Leader

by | Jan 23, 2020

These top 10 traits are according to us here at The Shuler Group, and that work has come from decades of working with companies, businesses, organizations, associations, executives, managing our own teams, team building, leadership development, and really seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Four of these traits are internal, and six are external.  See the graphic at the bottom to see how these ten relate to each other.

  1. Deeper Why – As far as being an effective leader, the Deeper Why is crucial because people are wired for meaning. They want to feel they’re part of a larger purpose. As the leader, it’s on you to provide that purpose and Deeper Why. First, it’s the organization’s Deeper Why. Then, it’s your Deeper Why as well as individual team members’ and staff’s Deeper Why. It’s important for all of those to manifest and be acknowledged, because where there is alignment between the individual’s Deeper Why and an organization’s Deeper Why, employee engagement soars, productivity increases, and people thrive. Which results in companies thriving.
  2. Landscape View – The ability to look at the current situation, fold in the big picture and goals, and adjust as necessary. This is why the leader is the leader; they’re leading in order to inspire and motivate other people to do what’s necessary, whether that’s to meet a goal, start or complete a project, or meet objectives. Understanding the landscape view and how every piece of the puzzle fits together is crucial.
  3. Clear Understanding of Others’ Gifts and Skills – An effective leader places people in appropriate roles, and then motivates them appropriately. When you as the leader understand someone else, their values, their strengths, their motivations, you can better inspire and motivate them. This is not a one-size-fits-all philosophy. It’s valuing the unique individual and maximizing them appropriately.
  4. Directness – The ability to say the truth, and say what’s really going on, not stepping over stuff, not ignoring things because it might be uncomfortable or cause conflict. When a leader is direct, she says what’s working and what isn’t working. Yes, sometimes people may be uncomfortable by that directness. But in almost every situation (one that is functional, as opposed to a dysfunctional situation or relationship), people appreciate that directness. Most people would rather know the truth than a run-around.
  5. Clearly Communicate – It is the leader’s job to ensure goals, roles, and expectations are clear for everyone, give updates when you have them, be available for people to ask more questions. And if people have constant questions, then that might be a sign that there’s more that needs to be communicated on a wider basis.
  6. Allow People to Do Their Jobs – Don’t major in minor things. Don’t micromanage; give people autonomy.  Let them shine and feel empowered. And then as part of that relationship, co-create and collaborate.  You may have heard the saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”  On a team (staff, department, organization) everybody’s working together to help raise that tide. So the more you allow people to do their jobs (because you understand their gifts and their skills from #3 above) and you’ve got the right people in the right seats, then they should be able to do their job without you interfering.
  7. Confidence and Presence – You have to be confident. Otherwise, how or why will people follow you? Some people seem naturally confident, where confidence oozes out of their pores. Other people have to work on it. Realistically, it’s a work in progress for all of us. There are areas where I’m absolutely confident, and I’m confident enough to say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll find out.” That confidence is something you need to feel from within, because others can sense it if you feel inferior.
  8. Vulnerable and Transparent – Be approachable. If you’re perfect, the unconscious reaction from others is that you’re not trustworthy, because nobody else is really perfect, so what are you hiding? If you never make a mistake or you never admit to making a mistake, nobody else can live up to that.  So anything you ask them to do feels impossible, because they’re not as good as you.  You need to create trust by being vulnerable. That doesn’t mean you have to be overly emotional; it’s about admitting your mistakes, where you feel inferior, and need work. “I thought we were on this trajectory, and I didn’t see this other thing coming.  We’ve shifted later than I would have liked, and I apologize for what that’s done for our project, etc.”  People appreciate when you’re honest, first, and second, when you own up to your mistakes because we’re all human. Sometimes we all need reminders that we’re not the only ones who make mistakes.
  9. Take Responsibility – Be responsible for what is yours to be responsible for. There are two parts to this: 1) don’t blame others for something that is your responsibility, and 2) help other people to responsible for what they are responsible for and don’t take that on yourself.  Empower others to be the best.
  10. Forward Motion – All meetings, actions, collaborations, team efforts, projects, communications, interactions should always be moving toward an end goal.  An effective leader knows when to stop the spiral down effect and focus on the problem… to shift it to the focus on the solution, and keep things moving forward.

Here’s the graphic of our 10-Point Leadership Model.  We employ this as the basis of our Leadership Assessments we use in our trainings.  If you’re interested in learning more about our services in employee engagement, leadership training, team building, and communication, please reach out for a complimentary consultation.


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