Effective leadership basics

Managers and parents, educators and CEOs, all have one thing in common: They influence others. What do really good leaders do that ineffective leaders don’t do? Why do some people inspire others to greatness while others promote little if any positive influence?

by: Carol Carter

Or worse, why and how do some people negatively influence others, bringing down entire organizations, companies and profits? While books and lectures on this topic abound, the most effective leadership comes down to a few basics:

Do you have integrity? As a leader, if you are not a person of your word you can’t motivate others. Or you may inspire them initially, but they won’t be with you for the long haul. If you’re a parent of teenagers, you’ve probably experienced how quickly they can let you know when you’re being a hypocrite. Educational consultant Joe Martin of Let Your Leadership Speak writes, "Even if you’re the hardest-working and most gifted person on your team, no one will follow you unless they first trust and like you."

Do you bring out the best in others and yourself? The best leaders understand the strengths and weaknesses of others, as well as their own strengths and weaknesses. They leverage the best qualities of those around them in ways that promote the personal growth of that person while meeting the goals of the organization.

Do you have people on your team who offer different perspectives? Research shows that successful companies, as well as strong families, allow for differing points of view. Do you have people around you who think differently than you do? Do they challenge your point of view to help you make more thorough decisions?

Are you visionary? Do you have an idea of where your company can go and what your team can do to bring about wild successes? What tolerance do you have for teachable failures? What climate does your vision promote? A true vision will reflect your most basic values and beliefs. If it does not, you cannot communicate the vision to your people with integrity and expect that they will share in carrying it out.

Do you manage the details? People tend to be strong in details or vision, but the most skilled leaders are also good managers; they learn to do both well. The devil is in the details. Just ask any busy parent or president of a company.

Do you temper idealism with practicality? Some gifted leaders are sages and can have a roomful of people hang on their every word. Others lead in a more quiet way, with just as much strength and effectiveness. Whatever your work or parenting style, are you casting a long-term vision for your company and/or family, while focusing on what needs to be done in the here and now?

Do you lead by example? Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, says his mission to stop hate crime through litigation and education grew out of the example of tolerance and compassion that he saw at home. "It all began, I believe, from my having very special parents. … They were small cotton farmers, and they taught me some important lessons."

Are you someone who sees yourself in an exalted state while those who work for you are busting their tails? Do you establish equanimity in your relationship to others, whether they are employees or family members? Or, are you someone who doesn’t ask more from others than you are willing to give yourself? As someone has said, "I’d rather see a sermon than hear one." The most effective leaders have the ability to maintain their authority while providing an example of leadership built on trust and respect.

Carol Carter is co-author of the book, "Stop Parenting and Start Coaching" (LifeBound, $16.95). Contact her at [email protected], 303-542-1811 or visit,1713,BDC_2462_2320894,00.html

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