8 Traits of Effective Leaders

Effective Leaders Have These 8 Traits


In this issue we'll examine traits of effective leaders, with a particular view to millennials and leaders of millennials.  Kimberly Fries, herself a millennial, reports that younger people entering the world of work, more than ever, commonly change jobs several times early in their careers.

The days of "cradle to grave" employment certainly have been left in the dust of history for many reasons. In this issue, along with Kimberly's article, we'll look at the role leadership quality plays in that culture shift.


What Defines an Effective Leader?


In this article Kimberly discusses the importance in leaders of

  • Commitment to the organization's mission - genuine enthusiasm for it
  • Integrity
  • Ability to communicate well
  • Loyalty to the team - and, I would add, to the company and to the customers
  • Decisiveness
  • Managerial competence
  • Empowerment
  • Charisma

I'm not a big fan of labeling people - it's my contention that we're all individuals. My first-hand experience with members of the generation characterized as "millennials" is limited. From what I've read, some of these leadership traits may rank proportionately higher in importance in working with these young people than they might have with previous generations. Loyalty, empowerment and charisma may be relatively more important in today's environment than they were 30 years ago.

To that last comment I would add that 30 years ago many leaders would have been a lot more effective than they were if they'd exhibited more loyalty, empowerment and charisma. It just wasn't as much in vogue.

Having said all that, it's my experience (and I have quite a lot of it!) that every leader of whatever generation needs these skills, in spades, to truly succeed.

It isn't clear if Kimberly's intent is to list these traits in any order of importance. My guess is it's just a list without an attempt to prioritize. Anyway, I'll take on the task of attaching a little ranking to this list.

First, for me, would be integrity. Without integrity, nothing else matters.

In a second place group I would place loyalty and commitment to mission - very much related, especially considering the company aspect of loyalty. And of course loyalty to the team goes right along - a leader can expect loyalty from the team only if he's loyal to the team and its individual members. Also loyalty to customers is essential if one expects to continue selling to them - pretty important to the company's health, wouldn't you say?

Next I would list empowerment (largely a partner of team loyalty). I expect some might disagree with that choice. There are many people in leadership positions who attempt to do their business with a command-control M.O. I would argue that they're a lot less effective than they think they are. They're often high energy people and they wind up personally doing a lot more of the work than their teams. And they work doubly hard because their techniques bring them a lot of headaches: Employee turnover, making decisions others are capable of, morale issues (union intervention in their business?). They could  accomplish much more with much less of their own effort, if they'd let go and let the team's talent run.

The other four I would rank about evenly. They're all very important to a leader's effectiveness. A couple of points here:

  • These four go pretty much hand-in-hand with each other.
  • Most leaders are relatively stronger in one or more of these, and can to some degree substitute strength in one for less strength in another.

However, without the first three I discussed, they don't matter much. All the skills of communication, etc. are wasted if integrity, loyalty and commitment are missing.

Many writers, including me, never tire of examining the nuances of what constitutes good leadership. Seems to me it's always a worthwhile exploration and, for me at least, a fascinating topic. I hope you agree.

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