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Jeff Boss, Contributor

Effective Leadership Depends On How Well You Carry Out These 5 Things


Everybody wants to have a positive impact. Everybody wants to matter and to belong. People also recognize a difference between effective leadership and, well, leadership wannabee’s who have no idea how to lead because they’re leaders by competence only, not by character. Effective leadership requires both. Subject matter expertise will only get you so far, and trust and integrity will only get you so far if you don’t have the capacity to learn or the skillset to execute.

Of the leaders I’m lucky enough to coach to become even better leaders, I can’t think of one who has said that having an impact as a leader isn’t important to them or to the people or teams they lead.

While effective leadership means different things to different people, there’s one thing that real leaders do that wannabee-leaders don’t: they grow their people. Here are five things effective leaders do better than the rest:

Explore what’s missing.

Strong leaders know how to not only connect the dots but discover which dots are missing from the get-go. Everybody is missing something—a lack of passion here, an unclear purpose there. However, a lack of purpose or passion doesn’t define you but rather guides you to find them.

Stuck in a job that bores you to tears? Good. Now you can find something that drives you so you can optimize your impact. Complacent in your role as a project manager? No problem. Pass the torch and grow those around you. You’ll be surprised at how rewarding it is.

What’s missing is oftentimes exactly what guides us. Perhaps it’s not the absence of purpose or passion that slows us down and hinders our progress, but the process by which we see.

Create “line of sight.”

Effective leadership helps people connect the dots. This is called creating a line of sight. A line of sight exists when employees see the connection between what they do and what they receive. To keep employees performing and teams thriving, people need to know three things that you, as the leader, are responsible for connecting:

  • Clarity. People need to understand what you want out of them, why it’s important and how their performance will be rewarded—a reward based on their needs and interests, not yours.
  • Feedback. Everybody wants to know two things: the effectiveness of their efforts in making progress and how that progress impacts the larger mission they serve.
  • Influence authority. To what degree can people make decisions or have influence that impacts the outcome?

When you create line of sight, people have a clear pathway for people to follow void of roadblocks or obstacles (okay, not completely void but certainly reduced).

Pose a question.

Effective leadership challenges the status quo. Asking why is one way but more than anything, impactful leaders lead with curiosity because they know that questions reveal insight, they excavate hidden truths. Think of it this way: if it weren’t for questions, there would be no answers. Keep in mind that that the hard part isn’t asking questions but asking the right questions in the right manner at the right time.

Show up 100%.

Leaders don’t have the luxury of showing up to work anything less than 100%. If they do, then people will assume it’s okay for them to do the same. If attitude is contagious then a leader’s attitude is…well…I can’t think of a word here but you can bet it would indicate something that spreads faster than “contagious.”

If you want to get the most out of your people, start by getting the most out of yourself. They’ll see your efforts and do the same.

Lead by being.

Effective leadership has always been associated with leading by example—doing the deed, whatever that means. The thing is, there are plenty of phony leaders out there who “do” good things because they’re in the public spotlight but their inner rottenness gets revealed as soon as they leave the social stage. Politicians come to mind here.

The old adage of leadership by example is outdated because it’s too easy to fake doing the right thing. What matters is being right–not by winning arguments or telling other people how smart you are, but by living in a way that’s consistent with your core values.

Of course, if you really want to know what effective leadership looks like, just ask the people being led.

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