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Effective Leadership: What it is and What it is Not

World LeadershipHow do you define “effective leadership?” How does your organization define effective leadership? Would you consider your local and national politicians to be effective leaders? Does an effective leadership style in one field mean that it would be effective in another field? Often we hear the term “leadership” and we naturally think we know what it is. We make the assumption that everyone has the same definition of leadership.

There are numberous questions about what leadership and what a leader does. There are also many questions about which leadership style is most effective. New leadership styls are being created almost daily. It appears that we are still trying to develop a concrete definition is what leadership is, what are the core compentencies of leader or what a leader should or shoul not do.

In an attempt to define effective leadership I have developed a grid of “what leadership is and what it is not.” This list is not written in stone. It was developed to be expansive. Given the fact that new styles of leadership will be developed and even the potential that the definition of effective leadership could change in the future I encourage each of you to consider what is effective leadership.  Please examine the list of below and see if traits on the list is applicable. 

Effective Leadership

Is . . .

Is Not . . .

Selecting competent people.

A "revolving door" hiring/firing policy.

Thinking as a solution seeker while developing others to do the same.

Expecting people to develop on their own. Always putting out fires.

Distinguishing between people and processes and maintaining an equal

balance to achieve desired results.

Treating people as just another part of the process, as expendable as

any other piece of used or obsolete equipment.

Recognizing and celebrating individual and collective accomplishments.

Focusing on and blaming and shaming others for their failures.

Creating a continuous learning environment for self and team.

Believing that “I know it all”, then not sharing it.

Empowering self and others.

Controlling self and others.

Practicing the principles you preach.

Taking a “do as I say, not as I do” approach.

Establishing mutual trust and respect.

Demanding respect while remaining closed.

Being flexible enough to be able to practice whatever leadership style

the situation demands.

Expecting others to behave according to your moods . . . or in spite of


Always seeking innovation and creative input.

Practicing a “We’ve always done it this way" attitude.

Being a paradigm pioneer. Spirit Driven

Being a paradigm prisoner. Ego driven

Leaders need to ask themselves if they possess these traits. These  “soft skills” are crucial to the success of all leaders. These are the skills that enable leaders to accomplish their goals by inspiring and motivating others.

Whether you are a leader who seeks to become more effective or you seek to develop effective leaders these characteristics are a must for “effective leadership.”

Terry Jackson, holds a Ph.D. in Leadership and Organizational Change.  He is a member of and managing partner for WEpiphany.

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