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What Makes a Great Leader?
A Guide to Effective Leadership in Business

What makes a great leader? See our guide.

What is Effective Leadership?

There are a myriad of definitions that exist to define what leadership actually means in the world of business today. This is because business owners, managers and experts all have their own ways to define what leadership means to them.

Ultimately, all styles of leadership have to be effective, whether it is in the world of business (as this guide is focused on) or other areas such as politics, or everyday life.

If leadership in the business context is the ability that a company’s Management has to make concrete decisions and inspire others to perform at their most productive; effective leadership is the ability to set and achieve challenging business goals, take decisive actions when faced with challenging business scenarios, outperform the company’s competition, take calculated risks and continue moving forward even in light of failure.

Types of Leadership Styles

According to Leadership Expert, there are four primary styles of leadership and each different style has a time and a place when it is most effective. A leader should demonstrate elements of each leadership style in order to be the most effective version of themselves.
Four leadership styles to look at when asking the question; what makes a great leader?

 

  1. The Charismatic Leader
    • Infectious energy with a passionate personality
    • Drives other people to please them, or to be drawn to them
    • Highly effective at kick-starting their team into action and solving problem.
  2. The Democratic Leader
    • Makes all team members feel valuable
    • Acknowledges individual input as part of the wider team
    • Creates a dedicated workforce by giving them ownership of the company’s business goals
  3. The Commanding Leader
    • Forceful personalities that are unapologetic in their approach which can cause conflict with the wider team
    • Demands strict adherence to rules and standards from their team
    • Absolutely vital in times of a business crisis
  4. The “Laissez Faire” Leader
    • Take a ‘hands-off’ approach to leadership
    • Gives little guidance to teams, allowing them to make most of the decisions
    • Successful in mature teams, but can be very unhelpful if a team needs a clear direction

 

Leadership Traits: Characteristics of Effective Leaders

According to the annual Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor, (KLCM) which measures the link between effective leadership and effective communication, the top five traits most associated with an effective leader are:

A horizontal bar chart showing the top five most effective leadership traits.

What Employees Want From Their Leaders

The bureaucratic top-down leadership style i.e. “The Commanding Leader” is increasingly less effective in the ever evolving digital age where people are more connected than ever. Employees want a more collaborative approach to leadership. 41% of employees say they want their leadership to come from the company that they work for as a whole and from all employees. They want a ‘leadership-by-all’ model. This is much more than the 25% who say that leadership should only come from the company CEO, according to the KLCM report. Interestingly, Millennial employees have higher expectations of leadership from CEOs and those in Senior Management. Only 35% of Millennials prefer the ‘leadership-by-all’ model, which is 6% less than the general consensus.

How Effective is Business Leadership?

Business leaders have put themselves in a better position to being more effective by adapting to volatility and to the demands of the ever evolving styles of leadership. The good news is, business leadership effectiveness ranks higher at 31%, compared to the global average for all forms of leadership effectiveness, which stands at 24%. It is also higher when compared to other forms of leadership, according to the KLCM report.
A vertical bar chart comparing leadership effectiveness rates.

Effective Communication: A Key Leadership Skill

Strong communication skills are vital to effective leadership in today’s business world. By association, the areas that employees associate most with leadership also have strong communication elements. These include owning up to making mistakes, encouraging the most productive versions of the employees that they lead and handling crises well by remaining calm.

Communications Channels on the Rise:

  • Company blogs
  • Company social media / community sites

Employees, company stakeholders and the wider business community want their leaders to be “personally present”. As a result, the communications channels which a leader chooses to utilise have to reflect this in order for their communications to be effective.

Circular icons depicting the top five communications channels for leadership where communication is a key leadership skill.

Expert Opinions on Communication and Leadership

“Communication is the most important skill any leader can possess”
Richard Branson, Billionaire and Virgin Group Founder

“Leaders don’t always have the luxury of speaking to individuals in an intimate setting. Great communicators can tailor a message such that they can speak to 10 people in a conference room or 10,000 people in an auditorium and have them feel as if they were speaking directly to each one of them as an individual”
Mike Myatt, Leadership Author and Forbes Contributor

“Leadership is influence, and the ability to connect with other people is how we influence others”
John C. Maxwell, Leadership Expert, Speaker and Author

Examples of Leadership Skills in Business


Real life examples of leadership skills in business can be seen in this Forbes video.

Industries That Are Exhibiting Effective Leadership

When it comes to public perceptions of great leadership, certain industries are highly regarded. The hotels, leisure and tourism industry is currently topping public perceptions, swiftly followed by business technology and professional and business services.

What industries are exhibiting effective leadership? See the top ten.

Bottom Five Industries for Perceived Effective Leadership

Other industries do not fare as well with public perceptions of effective leadership and rank at the bottom.
These include;

  • Utilities
  • Banking
  • Oil
  • Gas
  • Telecommunications
  • Insurance

Ask Yourself: What Makes Me a Great Leader?

In order to be a truly effective leader, you need to take stock of your personal characteristics and skill sets and assess your strengths and weaknesses. Further education in leadership and management coupled with continued professional development of your skills are key. In this age of digital enlightenment and rapidly evolving workplaces, the definition of effective leadership is constantly evolving and to keep up, leaders need to continuously ask questions of themselves.

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