How Do I Become a More Effective Leader?

By Ron Whitaker

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

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Relax, effective leaders. This isn’t going to be another preachy, utopian article about superhuman leaders and their unattainable effectiveness. It’s about taking a few simple steps, starting today, toward being a more effective leader by improving our leadership skills.

Buying in and adopting these straightforward actions will have immediate results.

Of course, there are some steps that are easier than others, but all it takes is a little effort, awareness, and introspection. Oh, and an open mind and a willingness to make a few changes are key. We’re not talking about leaping tall buildings here, just baby steps. Let’s call it making a few course corrections now that we know what we need to do.

Incremental change is the name of the game. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s very much like deciding to be healthier by making an effort to start eating right, exercising, and finding your ideal weight. You have good days, and you have days where you slip back into old habits.

The trick is to forget the times when you backslide and start each day getting back on track. It would be nice if we could just wave a magic wand and be new and improved.

Reality is, well – reality. We will slip. We will have to make adjustments. That’s natural. Making steady progress is what we’re after. Time is going by anyway, so why not start making a difference today?

This is all about you personally. Take an honest look at yourself. This is not about what other people (spouse, parent, boss, employees, kids, etc.) can do to make things easier on you.  It’s time for some good old introspection. So the question is, “What can I do to be the most effective leader I can be?

Be Open to Change

Change is the key. We have to start here. Without some behavioral changes, everything stays the same, which means we keep doing the same stuff over and over and over.

Since we want better results, meaning less stress, more fun, and some well-deserved recognition, we’ll have to do things slightly differently. If it was easy, we would already be doing it, so let’s decide right now that we are open to change.

Know Yourself

How do we show up in the morning – sad, mad, or just glad to be here? Let’s be honest. Are you moody? Are people walking on eggshells around you? Look at yourself from the perspective of the people around you. Are you the effective leader you want to be?

Make it a point to recognize how you come across to others on an hour-by-hour basis. This is called emotional intelligence. You want to be emotionally intelligent, right? Tune in to your behavior; it’s very interesting, and you’ll learn a lot about yourself. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get results.

Have a Sense of Humor

Suggestion: don’t take yourself too seriously. A big percentage of what goes on each day can be viewed in a humorous light. It sure beats having ulcers, and people like to be around people with a sense of humor. I know I don’t like to be around sarcastic people that always seem angry about something.  No one else does either.

Know Your Strengths

Here’s the caveat – An overused strength becomes a weakness. Example: be confident, but not overconfident. Too much confidence comes across as cocky and arrogant. Mix in some genuine humility, and you will become confident and poised.

Similarly, it’s great to be the negotiator that always gets the lowest prices and terms, but quality, dependability, or some other operational problems occasionally come up. The correct use of any strength is balancing. Look at your results compared to desired results. Make adjustments to get your preferred results.

Be the Example

What behaviors do you want from people? Make a list. Are you setting an example of those behaviors through the way you conduct yourself and interact with others? It is infinitely easier to inspire teamwork, trust, and performance when the leader sets the example of appropriate behavior.

The “do as I say, not as I do” strategy is a strategy and just doesn’t work! So, however, if you wish others to act, so should you. Follow your list, and others will too.

Let Others “In On” Things

Do you like knowing what is going on in your workplace, family, etc.? Do you like to have input in decisions that affect you? Sorry about the rhetorical questions, but they illustrate the point – people like to be in on things. People like to be a part of what goes on around them.

You can quickly get major results if you include others in decisions that affect them. You’ll get great ideas, learn things you didn’t know, and make better decisions, plus the added bonus of buy-in and enhanced teamwork. Simple but powerful!

Expect the Best

Be positive, stay positive, and give others the benefit of the doubt – always expect the best until proven wrong. You’ll be amazed at the positive behavior changes from others when you expect the best. People won’t be afraid to tell the truth. They will feel comfortable telling you bad news and admitting mistakes.

This is extremely important for everyone, but even more so where kids are concerned. They will prove you right, whichever you expect, the best or the worst.

This game plan is about things each of us can do today to make life easier and less stressful. You don’t have to change who you are or exercise 3 hours a day and only eat yogurt. Just take an honest, introspective look and make a few simple adjustments.

Better yet, prioritize which areas you want to work on and decide how and what changes you’ll make in each area. The final piece is to keep a score on your progress each day. Nothing fancy. just a simple letter grade or “Did I get better today?”  Yes or no.

How Can You Become a More Effective Leader?

If you have ideas about effective leaders that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Ron Whitaker
Ron Whitaker
Ron is an accomplished entrepreneur involved in developing multiple businesses from the ground up. He is the co-founder of About Leaders, an author, a start-up consultant, and investor. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
  • Elliot DeBear says:

    Andre de Waal, an industry specialist in High Performance Organization provides an overview of the cost of bad management, that may act as a valuable guideline for those concerned with the quality of leadership.
    de Waal says:

    “lf you’re looking to run a High-Performance Organization (HPO), you need
    to be able to be able to recognize the signs of bad management. lf non-HPO
    managers are not checked and dealt with, an organization will never be
    able to become excellent.”

    Bad managers clean up the mess of their predecessors – even when there
    is no mess.
    When appointed in a new position, the bad manager claims that the predecessor
    has made such a big mess of the department that it will take at least one year, if
    not more, to get everything in order, and of course the bad manager cannot
    possibly work yet on achieving the departmental targets this year.

    Bad managers are always busy, busy, busy
    They are involved in many, many projects; in fact, they’re so busy that there isn’t
    enough time to work on regular tasks! And because these projects are vital for
    the success of the organization (or so they say), bad managers cannot possibly
    be expected to work on their departmental targets. They will get to that when
    their other projects are finished which they never are.

    Bad managers know how to play the goals game
    They know that departmental goals should be loose, with lots of slack, which
    means the targets will be very easy to achieve. Bad managers will never get
    optimal results from their departments; but that doesn’t matter to them, bad
    managers would rather have low performance than run the risk of punishment for
    falling short of ambitious targets.

    Bad managers only manage from a distance
    Bad managers love to use performance indicators because these make it
    possible to practice hands-off management. This in turn makes it easy for bad
    managers to avoid the day to day department activities altogether, And of course,
    if anything goes wrong, they can dodge accountability.

    Bad managers make lengthy, impressive plans
    When writing up the latest game plan, bad managers know that expansive,
    wordy, and complex plans always impress top management because it gives the
    impression that they are on top of their game and have thought of everything’
    They also know that you can bury all kinds of assumptions and preconditions in
    these verbose plans, which function as safeguards when top management starts
    complaining that goals have not been achieved.

    Bad managers only communicate in one way
    Bad managers are all capable of holding an open forum for employees to voice
    concerns, questions, and suggestions. This sounds like the mark of a good
    manager, right? However, the bad manager only feigns interest in employee
    feedback, and won’t actually act on what he or she hears. lnstead, bad managers
    stick to their own plans, lf people complain, the bad manager will use open
    forums against the participants, claiming that any incompetency is the fault of

    Bad managers are real Machiavellians
    They have Machiavelli’s book, The Prince from 1513 on their nightstand and turn
    to it often for advice on how to practice effective “divide and conquer/’strategies
    in the organization: manipulating colleagues, employees, and bosses. As a
    result, the targeted members in the organization become preoccupied with
    guarding their backs instead of focusing on growing the department.

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