Effective Leadership Attributes

Not so long ago, teachers ran their classes; generals ran the army; policemen were feared and obeyed; college presidents were respected figures; and countries were ruled by powerful figures. It has surely become apparent that all this has changed.


Is it possibly the result of a long process, the consequence of our fear of power or authority. Generations have turned against the very idea of power. Power, it is felt, has led to abuse. Therefore we could do without it …. not only could but must.

Everything must be subject to the will of the people, expressed in the open debate.

A lack of trust in leadership has a tremendous bearing on all types of group relationships. It is conceivable that this distrust of authority figures has spread into many areas within our community.

The Principle of the Leadership Umbrella

Imagine an open umbrella held by a hand – the hand of the leader of the organisation.

Under the protection of that umbrella are all the departments of the organisation. The success of each department can never, will never, rise any higher than the level at which the leaders holds the umbrella.

Leadership sets the standard, whether the organisation be a business, a church or a family.

The higher the standard, the more effective the leadership.

What is effective leadership according to effective leaders?

  • President Harry Truman: “A leader is a person who has the ability to get others to do what they don’t want to do and to like it”.
  • British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery: “Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence”.

Just where have all the leaders gone? Generally speaking, the emergence of good leaders conforms to the law of supply and demand. Difficult times produce men and women who will rise to meet the crisis.

Leadership is influence – this is a simple but profound statement. A person may have a position of leadership, but if he is not affecting the thoughts and actions of others, he is not a leader.

We learn that true leadership comes from serving others. Times have changed and there is no longer an unquestioning loyalty to those in power.

Although you and I may never attain the height of being a renowned world leader, we each have an area of influence. We are leaders within our homes, businesses and offices. As such, we should strive to be the most effective leaders we can be.

I believe there are five non-negotiable characteristics that every effective leader must have:

  1. A sense of calling
  2. An ability to communicate
  3. Creativity in problem-solving
  4. Generosity
  5. Consistency

1. An Effective Leader Must Feel A Sense Of Calling

True leaders feel an inner urge to take their positions; they feel a sense of responsibility. I believe that the moment a father and mother sees their newborn child they experience a strong calling to be the best examples to that precious new life. There is an urge to rise to the challenge, to take the helm and move forward.

People who experience this deep inner urge to discover something bigger than themselves: a challenge, a goal or a movement that draws them into the arena.

When a person feels set apart to lead, he should sense a strong feeling of victory. The leader experiences an assurance that he/she will be adequate for the work. This foretaste of victory enables them to continue on to achieve their goals and overcome obstacles that are in the way.

A leader will always find his or her time. There will come times when a leader’s particular skills/talents are necessary to meet a crisis. Leaders try to use and exercise their talents.

There is a strong desire to achieve, I call this the “have to” feeling. I feel a sense of “having to” declare something, point in some direction, lead others to a challenge or goal. I do not feel a sense of choice in the matter. In fact, there are times when I would prefer to sit back and let someone else take on the challenge. But this “have to” feeling compels one to keep going.

A man may feel compelled to begin a business, for instance. He knows that he is putting his money, his credit, even credibility right on the line. There is something within that drives him and compels him to further achieve goals.

Perhaps you are wondering if a person can be a great leader without this sense of calling.

I believe a person can be a good leader but not a great one. However, these leaders can cultivate and enhance their leadership skills.

Excellent leaders have a lasting quality, they don’t quit and couldn’t even if they wanted to. There are many voices in a crowd but an excellent leader stands out among others. He or she rises above the normal, the typical, the usual.

The “called” leader tends to reproduce other leaders, there is fruit in their leadership. These leaders are relevant and speak to the times and issues.

2. An Effective Leader Must Be Able To Communicate

Great leaders have the ability to visually communicate their message to people. Good communicators are able to convey a strong belief to their people and there is a very high trust factor.

Every asset that you’re entrusted with – whether its money, procedures, materials, technology – is depreciating. All of it is becoming obsolete. Human assets also can depreciate in value. It’s literally true that in some organisations, the people are worth less – and in some cases worthless – compared to a year ago.

But human assets can also appreciate in value. People can become worth more. Those who are powerful in leadership understand that one of the key tasks of management is to find ways to grow people.

Thomas Edison said it well, “You can’t do it all yourself. If you really want to be an uncommon leader, you’re going to have to find a way to get much of your vision seen, implemented and added to by others. The leader sees the big picture, but he also sees the necessity of sharing that picture with others who can help him make it a reality.”

A great leader needs to be able to translate the vision into a simple agenda with clear priorities that can be easily understood.

How do you transfer a vision?

  • You must see it yourself very clearly – you cannot transfer something you cannot see yourself.
  • You must be able to say it creatively so that people understand it and grab hold of it.
  • You must be able to show it constantly. It must be continually placed before the followers as a reminder of the goal.

Great and effective leaders have self-confidence and therefore, the confidence of others. Confidence in oneself is the cornerstone. People who do not believe in themselves have trouble believing in others. Others have trouble believing in them too.

Self-confidence in a leader elicits the confidence of his followers, which gives him the freedom to be a risk taker and a change agent.

3. An Effective Leader Is Creative In Handling Problems

Everyone faces problems. The ability to creatively find solutions will determine the success or failure of each difficulty.

The Chinese symbol for crisis means danger, It also means an opportunity for change. You will never succeed if you throw your hands up and surrender.

The Greek poet Homer understood the value of a crisis. He wrote, “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”

Creativity is a trait not always admired by those who don’t have it. They interpret creativity and inventiveness as stupidity and impracticality. If they see the creative person as salvageable, they will try to pull him/her back into the mainstream of thought.

He/she will be told to stay busy, follow the rules, be practical and not make a fool of himself/herself. Traditional thinkers don’t realise that creative thinkers are the geniuses of the world. Had it not been for someone’s creative inventiveness, they might not have jobs.

4. An Effective Leader Is a Generous Contributor

The measure of a leader is not the number of people who serve him/her but rather the number of people he/she serves. Real leaders have something to give and they give it freely.

Remember these truths:

  • A person must soon forget himself to be long remembered.
  • He must be empty himself in order to discover a fuller self.
  • He must lose himself to find himself.
  • Forget yourself into greatness.
  • Empty yourself into an adventure.

5. An Effective Leader Acts Consistently

I put this last because there are many people who are consistent but are not leaders, yet no one has ever been an effective leader over the long haul without being consistent.

The moment people learn that we are not dependable or responsible is the moment they will not recognise our leadership. A leader must be consistent in three areas:

  1. People – this builds security.
  2. Principles – this provides direction.
  3. Projects – this builds morale.

The call to be a leader is a challenging one. The need for strong leadership has never been clearer. The price of leadership has never been higher. The temptations of leadership have never been greater.

Did you find this blog post helpful? Here’s another informative read about using your skills to inspire others to excellence.

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