What is Effective Leadership?

Effective leadership can make or break your business. Are you an effective leader?

A few months ago, I wrote a post entitled “Are You an Effective Leader and Why You Should Care” Since that post, one of my Mastermind groups discussed each of the 23 aspects of leadership outlined in this post. This discussion revealed some very valuable nuggets of information! I took a lot of notes during these discussions and the key points I captured are shown below:

Mastermind Discussion on the 23 Elements of Leadership

  1. Avid practitioner of MBWA (management by walking around)
    • Read at “Skin in the Game” and get involved in your business.
    • Tata Steel in India has over 35,000 employees. The leader of Tata had a reputation of walking around and talking with all the employees. He had a great feel for the organizational health
  2. Fierce listener
    • Fierce listening is about what is being said and what is NOT being said!
    • This requires intentionality. Schedule one-on-one meetings every 6 weeks with your staff. Remember, listening takes priority!
  3. Expert questioner
    • “Why” questions can activate the negative or flight and fight response. Rephrase your question to something like “how come?”
    • The person who is asking the questions is in charge” – Italian saying. “Why” questions are definitely challenging. Proper questions improve your knowledge of the marketplace needs and allows you to propose a proper solution.
    • Fierce listening allows you to ask intelligent questions.
  4. Master of social media
    • This is a double edged sword – it can become an addiction!
    • Social media is critical for marketing in today’s world. It gives direct access to your customers. Markets are conversations! Social media allows you to have these conversations and to gain a deep understanding of your market and customers. The CEO must understand social media like he understands marketing. This allows him to leverage all the tools in the business as efficiently as possible.
    • It is a great way to get direct, real time feedback, good or bad, from your customers. Marketing is not a department . . . it is a vital part of the business.
    • Social media must have boundaries so that it is used productively. Pick your social media channel as some are more effective than others depending on the business you are in.
  5. Expert at helping
    • People notice when you are willing to listen, help, and roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. This trait is very contagious with your staff!
    • Try replacing “help” with “support.” This can be viewed more positively.
    • “Help” may be perceived as negative similar to a “why.”
    • “Support” is more empowering as opposed to “help” which infers an intervention.
    • “Help” could be replaced with “work” or “partnership.”
  6. Fanatic about clear communications that acknowledge individual differences
    • Diversity encourages creativity. So, individual differences must be encouraged to encourage creativity. We need to be intentional about clear communications!
    • Acknowledging differences creates a culture of openness.
    • Leaders need to understand communication styles to reach all people and involve everyone equally and effectively.
    • Cultural diversity is critical for creativity.
  7. Expert at building matchless first-line management
    • The higher you get in the organization, the further you get from the front-line staff. You must have great working relationships with front-line staff so they feel safe to report back to you for advice and events. They keep the business afloat and you must be an expert at managing them.
    • This is a challenge that all managers face as they advance in their career. You must develop these skills to be effective.
    • One best practice is using the existing team members to meet and interview a potential candidate in the second round of interviews. This gets relationships established early and gets buy in from the whole team for the new hire.
  8. Expert at holding productive conversations
    • Fierce listening is a big component of this. Ask productive and relevant questions to properly engage the person. Hear the person out and work to understand the other person rather than trying to make your point.
    • This depends on how you approach people. Understand their communications styles and adjust your approach to each person
    • Properly and productively handle conflict and check your ego! Take a step up and don’t get engaged in the conflict but work through the conflict. Understand what emotion is driving the conflict. Passion is good! A leader just has to direct this passion productively!
    • A huge part of this is body language. The leader is to absorb all the drama and emotion in the room and use this to properly direct the meeting or the conversation.
  9. Master of or obsession with acknowledgement
    • Simple acknowledgement means the world to people around you.
    • Some leaders do not care about getting acknowledged so they must remind themselves to acknowledge those around them
    • We all need to become deliberate at acknowledging people. We need to understand people’s styles to ensure that we acknowledge people appropriately. Even people asking you for help can be a form of acknowledgement.
    • Acknowledgement can come in the form of simple acceptance that what you are doing is going in the right direction. It does not have to be a huge event!
  10. Effective at fast, proactive apology
    • This is absolutely key but it is also very hard. We must do this to have credibility with our teams. People connect through being vulnerable which is a deep psychological need!
    • We must acknowledge our mistakes and take ownership for them. This sets the stage for open communication throughout the organization.
    • Being vulnerable is one of the hardest things we can do. A by-product of being vulnerable is a sense of relief or even joy! This builds trust, camaraderie and support.
  11. Excellent presenter
    • This goes hand in hand with being a great persuader. You must present and persuade – you must get your ideas and vision across. For others to trust us we must show ourselves as capable and presenting helps with that. It shows our full personality and level of openness.
    • You must be comfortable standing in front of people and communicating. This builds your reputation as a strong leader. It forces the leader to organize their thoughts in a way that influences others effectively.
    • Presenting fosters trust. It forces you to consider your topic from many angles and viewpoints.
    • It is an opportunity bring our passion forward.
    • “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to get something done because they want to do it.” ~ Eisenhower. It takes a great leader and communicator to deliver on this quote. Invest some time and money into public speaking like Warren Buffett did.
  12. Conscious master of body language
    • This relates back to the presenter and the passion of the presenter. People see through fabricated body language or passion. A video call rather than a conference call is very helpful as you can see everyone’s expressions and body language.
    • Keep your hands out of your pockets and above the table but don’t be waving around so much you are distracting!
    • Spend time reading everyone’s body language and use this to adjust your communication.
    • Full circle engagement – using your body language and read the audience’s body language to adjust your own communication.
    • Your body language gives you away if your message isn’t in alignment with your true beliefs
    • Non-verbal communication is responsible for over 60% of communication effectiveness. Fierce listening is a critical component to this.
    • Be aware of the signals you are giving off and ensure that you are open to receiving feedback.
    • Videoing yourself presenting can be an extremely valuable tool to improve your presenting skills
  13. Master and a student of hiring
    • Get the right people that fit your organization. It is so painful when you hire someone who doesn’t fit your values! Hire slow and fire fast! Hiring the correct people is so rewarding!
    • We must learn a lot from our mistakes and adjust our approach. You never regret getting rid of bad people quickly.
    • The first mistake a leader makes is hiring the wrong people. The second mistake is not taking action quick enough on personnel issues.
  14. Master of evaluating people
    • We are evaluating people all day long but do a poor job of providing constructive criticism.
    • People need to be treated the same on one level and then have custom treatment based on their unique needs, strengths and shortcomings. This requires correct and effective evaluation of staff. Feedback must be based on fact and grounded feedback.
    • Check out John Maxwell’s 360 Degree Leadership
    • This is one of the most important qualities for leadership. This is a constant activity and you must call out the good and the bad continually.
  15. Time manager par excellence/vigilant regarding overscheduling
    • This is tough when you have poor leadership.
    • Shutdown smart devices and time slice. Set aside time for emails and other communications.
    • Implement an email free zone where you as the leader do not send or respond to emails. Calendar block rigorously.
    • If the company culture is not supportive of personal time, then perhaps you must move on to another company.
  16. Avid student of the process/psychology of influence
    • This is obviously a continuous learning exercise. Influence happens in so many ways and, in many ways, we are influenced unconsciously. We must study to understand this and be aware of what you are being influenced by. We must know how to persuade and lead through the persuasion process. This is a vital skill!
    • Be aware why things happen in the organization. Study business and psychology to understand.
    • Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini – read this. It is one of the best books on persuasion there is!
    • Winning others over is critical.
  17. Student of organizational politics
    • 360 Degree Leader. Understand the organizational structure and the way the organization works so that you can navigate it positively and constructively.
    • You must study these things. Peter Drucker is a great author. Read the case studies and understand how to deal with the internal politics and situations. Leverage the work that has already done!
    • Work your way through politics but do it in a positive and ethical way. Take the high road.
  18. Student of decision-making/student of cognitive biases that derail decision-making
    • You need to know your biases and you need to know when you cannot stay neutral and need some unbiased outside help.
    • Overconfidence based on past successes is one of the most common biases that trip people up! Social Proof is also another bias that trips people up. Read “The Undoing Project” or “Thinking Fast and Slow.”
    • Being a student is critical so you understand the biases and surround yourself with diverse people and not like minded people. Be comfortable with people who will challenge you!
  19. Brilliantly schooled student/practitioner of negotiation
    • Read “In Business as in Life You Don’t Get What You Deserve, You Get What You Negotiate.” Look for all the areas where you can negotiate. It is not always about price . . . there are always a lot of factors in play!
    • Chris Voss has a new book out and many podcasts on negotiating.
    • Negotiations are interesting when you understand what you want and what the other side needs, so you can land on a win-win solution.
    • You can’t want it more than the other person or the negotiation will fail.
    • Trump is always one sided and heavy handed and there is no negotiation. You can do this successfully for a while until everyone stops doing business with you!
  20. Fanatic about employee development for 100% of staff
    • Read “Situational Leadership.” Some people don’t want to be challenged and just finish their career! Company culture helps set a positive environment for training.
    • Leaders need to help their people create a learning mindset so they continually improve rather than just randomly sending people for training. Some people are super motivated to learn and others are not.
    • Support the staff that want to learn. It is situational and there should not be a “peanut butter” approach where everyone gets the same training budget.
  21. Student of the power of diversity on any and every dimension you can name
    • Diversity of culture and backgrounds make for an interesting and creative workplace with lots of ideas. It strengthens the business.
    • Having office potluck lunches to showcase cultures builds company culture and showcases diversity.
    • Diverse cultural environments tend to help employees understand each other better as they are more aware of the differences in the workplace.
  22. Aggressive in pursuing gender balance
    • This is very important. A gender unbalanced workplace is not healthy and is missing a certain level of creativity.
    • You need to build an environment that allows the competency for a proper gender balance.
  23. Insistent on instilling business sense in one and all
    • Have clear goals and constantly communicate them and their current status.
    • Everyone needs to understand basic finance and where the business is at in achieving these targets

Take Action

Spend some time this week and evaluate your leadership capability against each of these 23 leadership elements. Spend some time discussing these with your peers, leadership team, or mastermind group.

Then determine where you have the biggest gaps and take some specific actions to improve. Pass these leadership lessons on to all of your staff by teaching them and by leading by example!

Finally, review these posts for more information:


Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.” John C. Maxwell


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