Effective Leadership Means More Than Just Being The Boss

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In February of 2015, I wrote an article on LinkedIn titled, “Are you a Boss or are you a Leader?” Given current world events, as well as some disturbing trends in business today, I thought that this would be a great time to revisit some of my key points from that article and share some research I’ve done since publishing my original article as well as my current thoughts on the topic.

Some of my key points in the article dealt with:

  • Why title alone doesn’t make you a leader
  • The differences between being a boss and being a leader
  • The seven habits of highly ineffective leaders
  • Eleven characteristics of successful leaders

According to Sandra Larson, former executive director of MAP for Nonprofits, an effective leader is a person with a passion for a cause that is larger than they are: someone with a dream and a vision that will better society or, at least, some portion of it.

Sandra shared her thoughts on what makes an effective leader, which include:

  • Passion
  • Holding values
  • Vision
  • Creativity
  • Intellectual drive and knowledge
  • Confidence and humility combined
  • Good communication
  • Planning/Organization
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Strong financial acumen
  • Human resource awareness
  • Technological proficiency
  • Sales and marketing savvy

In July of 2017, Ed Krow, a fellow member of the prestigious Forbes Coaches Council, wrote an excellent article titled “Five Qualities To Improve To Be An Effective Leader.” It is well worth the read. To give you a quick preview, Ed’s five tips were:

  1. Be approachable/trustworthy.
  2. Surround yourself with people smarter than you.
  3. Acknowledge mistakes.
  4. Delegate effectively.
  5. Serve selflessly.

In the 1970s, Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard introduced us to their Situational Leadership Model (SLM). The leadership styles they identified were:

  • Directing. One of the oldest styles, directing is frequently described as autocratic. Someone using this style tells people what to do and expects them to do it.
  • Supporting. The manager is not so interested in giving orders and managing every detail as she is in giving employees the tools they need to work themselves.
  • Coaching. Coaches develop people for the future. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Try this.”
  • Delegating. The leader transfers decision making power to one or more employees but remains responsible for their decisions.

Their premise was (and still is) that the effectiveness of the leadership style is dependent on the situation and the maturity of the leader and their team. Ken Blanchard has also been quoted as saying, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” I couldn’t agree more. I interpret his quote to mean you’re not a leader because of your title or position but rather because you can build collaboration and/or consensus with your team.

From my perspective, there are six influencing styles that I think can help anyone in a supervisory or leadership position. They are:

  1. Involving (building collaboration)
  2. Inquiring (asking situational or behavioral questions)
  3. Leading (engaging people by telling stories)
  4. Visioning (“what if” brainstorming)
  5. Proposing (making recommendations)
  6. Persuading (building consensus)

When I think of the word persuasion, two quotes come to mind. Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” And according to Benjamin Franklin, “People are best convinced by reasons they themselves discover.” I interpret that to mean telling someone what to do won’t work as well as if you asked them questions to help them figure it out for themselves.

In closing, I don’t believe that you can consider yourself a leader until at least one person follows you. So, if you want to be an effective leader, have a clear vision of where you want your team to go, communicate early and often, fight for your team members, admit it when you make a mistake or don’t know something, ask for and receive feedback/input from your team on a regular basis and help individual team members reach their full potential.