What leaders need to learn and do to be effective


I’ve heard many individuals bemoan and complain about a lack of leadership at their place of employment. Not every person in a leadership role is truly a leader, whatever title they may hold. Leaders are not born, but can be developed. Many individuals born into humble means have risen to significant positions in business, government, academia and other fields of endeavor by taking the time to learn how to lead and then applying the lessons they learned.

One common thread today is that many business owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs want more leaders to emerge from within their organizations. For this to take place, those now leading have to find mentees to mentor.

Not everyone wants to be a leader; certainly not everyone should be a leader. But if you volunteer or are selected, understand that you must learn, and practice, some basics to be a successful leader.

Here’s a brief review of what good leaders need to learn.


In my opinion, the most important quality of a leader is the ability to communicate. That doesn’t mean communicating in a manner that suits the leader, but in a manner that suits the led.

Leaders have to over-communicate. It may seem and in fact be exhausting to keep sending out the same message, but it is only through repetition that the message first is understood, and then accepted by those that hear it.


The other side of the communication coin: listening. Leaders need to listen and then, listen even more carefully.

Listening is a highly sought after skill that sadly is in short supply. If there is one thing to learn, it is the ability of an individual to keep their one mouth closed while they hear through their two ears.

Be humble

It is virtually impossible to be an effective leader without strong self-esteem. However, a good leader checks their ego at the door. An ego on overdrive will kill the spirit of those around them.

Stick to it

Tenacious is a word that defines leadership. Individuals that possess this keep going until something stops them, and even then they keep going. Tenacity, however, is not stubbornness elevated to the level of stupidity. It means knowing when to change as well as when to quit.

Take a long view

Those in leadership positions understand that accomplishing things takes time. One quality that clearly separates leaders from followers is that leaders take a longer-term view. Quick fixes are often more appealing than taking the more difficult route. Avoiding that temptation is critical to effective leadership.

Improve yourself

Being capable of continuous personal improvement is essential. Leaders understand that they have to become better tomorrow than they were today, because the world in is in constant flux. A good leader will listen to the advice of others. They devote ample time to learning and talking to a wide variety of people. They start within their own organization, by walking around and asking questions.

See the impact

Leaders understand the concept of emotional turbulence and wake. Simply stated, this means that a leader must understand the impact of change, motion and movement on the organization and the stakeholders impacted by it. They understand they must be able to answer the “question behind the question” that followers are sure to ask. Today’s followers are the best-educated work force in the history of humankind, and they should be treated as such.

Set the standard

Leaders set the standard for those that they lead. Leaders find better ways of doing things. They ask, “Does it improve things? For whom? How does it improve things? How can I adapt that idea and take it just one step farther? And, when I do that, what will the impact be?”

Who are the individuals in your organization that are candidates for leadership? Spend some time with them this week to see what you can do to begin the mentoring of your organization’s future.

Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies, and greater profitability. Please contact him at [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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