What Qualities Make an Effective Leader?

February 29, 2016 | Jennifer Goodwyn

People come to positions of leadership in different ways. Some work for years climbing the corporate ladder, putting in time and hoping they'll get the chance to contribute in a more meaningful way. Others take a leap of faith based on little more than an idea and an opportunity and start their own company. Regardless of the circumstances, when people find themselves in a position of leadership for the very first time they often wonder what qualities make an effective leader.

Much has been written over the years about the specific qualities of leadership. There would be little value in trying to summarize all of the literature about leadership because there are so many different philosophies and approaches, not all of which would be productive in your situation or match your individual personality. There are, however, a few qualities which can be considered universally beneficial for anyone in a leadership position.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is one of the most important qualities for any leader. A successful leader is able to clearly communicate his or her expectations, recommendations, and feedback. Without clear communication, very little can be properly accomplished. You may have the most talented team in your field, but no team can read your mind. One way to improve the quality of communication within your team is to make sure it's a two way street. Honesty and openness should be encouraged among your team members, because if they're not clear about something and they are unwilling to come to you, the entire project could suffer. Regularly engaging members of your team in conversation will help them to feel more comfortable being open with you and will help you tailor your messages to them individually.


One size fits all is great for hats, but makes for a lousy leadership strategy. You'll find that being a considerate leader is more constructive than expecting the members of your team to submit to your authority as their leader based solely on your title. The best way to engender positive feelings and earn the respect of your team is to show them the respect that they deserve, which includes respecting their individual differences. Tough love might be constructive for one team member, while it causes others to feel demoralized. Knowing what works for the individual members of your team will ensure that your projects run more smoothly, while contributing to a more enjoyable working life for everyone involved. 


While it's important to be decisive and firm in some situations as a leader, it's also important to keep an open mind. If someone on your team offers an insight or an alternative to one of your directives, you should consider it rather than seeing it as a challenge to your leadership. For one, it shows that the team member is engaged with the project. It also shows confidence in your ability to communicate because the team member is trusting you to listen. Finally, the idea might simply be better than yours. If so, then the whole project is better for it, and you have a better idea of who on your team is contributing to its overall success. If the idea isn't going to work, calmly explaining why the original idea is better shows that you've given their idea the proper consideration before making the choice that is objectively best. Everybody wins because your team members will be encouraged to give you their best ideas and they'll also trust your ability to recognize what works and what doesn't.