Top 10 traits of effective leaders – part 1

The world needs more leaders like you! Well, there are leaders, then there are effective leaders.  Leaders who inspire trust and loyalty, who provide clear direction and purpose. Without effective leadership in every sphere of society, there’d be chaos, confusion or complacency, resulting in little momentum or growth. Yes, we need effective leaders. Are you one?

In Part 1 of this two part post, we’ll look at the first top 5 traits of effective leaders. But firstly:

What is leadership?

Leadership is simply INFLUENCE. The capacity to influence others. (John Maxwell coins this best.

In this day and age, where the word “influencer” is used so commonly,  for eg “social media influencers”, “influencer marketing”, we could say that  these ‘influencers’ are leaders because in many ways, they’re influencing followers to follow them and their preferences.

But, being an “influencer” doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an effective leader. A leader does influence their followers, but effective leadership is so much more, as we will see with the top 10 traits of effective leaders revealed in this post and the next.

Now,  what exactly is influence? It’s defined as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself” (

What’s capacity?

The great thing about capacity is that it isn’t something you’re born with, it’s something that you can grow, through education and equipping as well as through ‘on the spot, or ‘on the job’ training.

Additionally, capacity is a skill that is honed by talent or gifting or simply by the natural outworking of it.  As an example, I learned how to lead by jumping in to meet a need of a youth group. That need forced me to grow and exercise planning, organisational and communication skills and so much more.

Would you agree that you can influence people towards good or evil, depending on your heart – beliefs, values and convictions?  When we take a look at history, we know this to be true.

Leadership & people are inseperable.

Essentially, leadership has largely to do with how you relate to and treat people. Because it’s through people that things get done and from where opportunities come. Growth just doesn’t happen by accident, nor do deals fall out of the sky!

If you’re in business – blogging or whatever industry you’re in – you definitely need to cultivate leadership skills. Why is this so important? Because growth is required for success and effectiveness.  Healthy growth should happen to the people and organisation, when effective leadership takes place.

Are leaders born or made?

Leadership traits…this begs the question, ‘are these traits in-bred or made’? They’re made. As you will see, you can develop all of them, if you so desire.  

Of course, some people have a bigger capacity to learn and change faster than others, but it’s really up to you, how intentional you are and how much you want to learn and change.

Do you want to be an effective leader? Remembering it’s not a role, title or status, it’s more of a responsibility and accountability that you take on. Are you ready for more responsibility and accountability? Because, there’s always a price in exchange for something worthwhile, and worthy of your time and effort (life).

Perhaps you’ve already cultivated some of these traits, or you’re ready to learn and grow. That’s great, the world needs more leaders like you!

Let’s check out the first 5 of the top 10 traits of effective leaders:

1. Character driven

Everything they do flows out of who they are on the inside: this is character. Their character is made up of their heart values and convictions which closely aligns with their faith or beliefs.  Because of their strength of character, they are secure in who they are.

Essential character traits of effective leaders are:

  • Integrity

They do what they say they’ll do, or promise.  Their word is their word. People can count on them therefore they trust them.  They’re the same person in private and in public. That’s because they have non compromising values and convictions.

  • Transparency

They’re open and honest, and not afraid to admit they fall short, are fearful, have doubts, am uncertain or made mistakes.  They’re human too and have nothing to hide.

  • Accountability

They know that it’s not about them alone, that they’re not the hero or the martyr, that they’re answerable for their decisions and actions for the good of the organisation. So they keep their leadership and work accountable to others.

  • Responsibility

They always carry a sense of responsibility for the people and organisation, even if they weren’t directly involved in the results/outcomes.  They’ll take it on their shoulders the decisions and results the people/organisation arrive at and handle it accordingly.

  • Non compromising of values & convictions

Strong leaders always follow their values and convictions in their decision making, to the point of saying “NO” more than YES, even if it displeases some people.  They focus on the outcome while wisely navigating the process.

2. A visionary

There’s always an impossible dream or big hairy goals a passionate leader posseses! Without this, a leader can expect low momentum or growth. A vision consumes the leader and they live, eat and breath it. Steve Jobs?!?

  • Passionate & energised

With a big dream, this passion inspires energy in the leader. Their passion is viral, and attracts others who have passion. Passion breeds passion.

  • Intuitive

That gut instinct, that’s often not logical or reasonable. They sometimes go by gut instinct and end up being right on target, or selected the right person for the right job.

  • Perceptive

Possessing that sixth sense, the leader can see or sense what the real issue or root problem is, or they have a radar like feel for the right or wrong person/thing. Or they can see the bigger picture, where others only see parts of the puzzle.

  • Creative

Out of the box, left field  ideas and solutions often come to their mind.  They’re constantly open to what’s trending, new, the latest, that’s relevant to their turf.  Their imagination and solutions can often be creative, or created from seemingly ‘nothing’.

3. A mobiliser

Because of their core values, vision and goals, the leader, combined with their personality and character, is what forms the culture from the ‘top down’.

The leader knows how to impart and disseminate this culture or dna throughout the organisation: mobilising people in this and from this, is a well honed skill of the leader.

  • Imparts culture and dna

By talking, teaching, communicating and outworking this, the leader makes sure that the organization’s culture is embedded into every area, essentially all staff, right through to the branding.

  • Inspires trust, confidence, loyalty

Partly due to the personality of the leader and largely due to his character and his example – how he treats & speaks to the people in his organisation –  he instills confidence, loyalty and trust.

  • Persuade others to buy- in and into action

The leader knows that without his staff/members/team buying into the vision, they won’t take whole hearted action. So he has learnt how to motivate, inspire and challenge others, towards buy-in and action.

  • Organisational skills

Superb organisation skills, although often delegated, mark an effective leader. They get things done well, done right, on target and on time! And everyone on the team is clear on what they’re responsible for.

  • Planning

Strategic planning, preparation, pre-empting problems and road blocks are what they’re good at. If nothing’s planned, nothing will happen as planned!  Effective planning means knowing the big picture and how to get there, step by step.

  • Empowering others

This is the execution part of the planning – largely done through empowering and entrusting others – delegation.  They know they can’t do all things, and will delegate out to others who are more gifted or capable in that area – everyone has a part to play.

4. An effective communicator

The #1 skill of communication is listening –  with patience and understanding. This skill is absolutely needed as an effective leader. People have the solutions, suggestions, answers and what’s needed for the organisation, so the leader needs to listen!

  • An excellent listener

As above, listening more than talking is essential as a leader. That is how connection with people is built, it’s how people relate to each other. It’s how the leader develops empathy and compassion for people. People come first, then the task.

  • Articulate

Since there’s a limit on time and people need to understand the leader clearly, they are articulate and to the point with their communication. They cut out babbling and long drawn out explanations, as people lose concentration and energy!

  • Able to teach, to equip and train

People are not able to take on their roles properly if they’re poorly taught or trained. They are more effective in their work/responsibilities if they receive thorough, clear, relevant training and equipping. The leaders knows this is an investment into his people and will pay out dividends in the future.

  • Effective written and oral skills

Effective communication is a huge necessity of a leader. They need to develop effective written and oral skills, knowing how & what to say and how to convey their ideas, instructions etc.  Sometimes they’ve learnt the hard way by receiving reactions, or criticisms. Sometimes their communications are delegated out to staff or team members.

5. Highly disciplined

Reaching goals, making forward progress, keeping the momentum moving and meeting targets, is what disciplined leaders do.  Discipline means maintaining intentional consistency, pace, and focus – on what’s important. This is key to staying on track.

  • Self controlled in thoughts, speech, actions

A highly disciplined leader is one who has learnt to master self control. They’ve learnt to be disciplined in their thought life, intentionally dwelling on what’s positive and helpful and to weed out negativity, or hindrances in their beliefs. This takes intentional effort and pain!

  • Discerning with priorities and time

With limited time and resources, the leader prioritises firstly, what’s important, then tackles what’s urgent. Sometimes it’s both at the same time. They discern suitable allocation of resources that go into certain projects/tasks and try to optimise people and resources.

  • Decisive, clear decision making

One thing that can hold back an organisation’s progress is indecision or too many people in that process. Therefore a leader needs to be clear and certain enough to sometimes make tough, unpleasant but necessary decisions for the good of the bigger picture. This can result in an unpopular opinion of them, however they accept this as part of the job.

  • Hold high standards

There are some certain ideals and standards that the leader doesn’t compromise in, and they make it clear to everyone.  Compromise can result in losses, failures or a dilution of the original intention, so effective leaders always hold their ground when it comes to certain non-negotiable factors or core values, in spite of protests or resistance.

So, that’s the first top 5 out of the top 10 traits of effective leaders. Which one/s do you identify with? Which ones/s do you think you could work on?

Let’s continue on to Part 2 of 2 here.

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