Whether you consider yourself a directive leader, a facilitative leader, or a proponent of any other leadership styles, certain basic elements of leadership are essential across the board. These defining principles help to ensure that your message is effectively communicated, that your team is engaged, and that you’re able to maintain the type of rapport that inspires and motivates.
The art of communication is the most important element of leadership. You may have the best vision in the world, but if you can’t effectively communicate it to your subordinates, it won’t make much of an impact.
You’re always communicating whether you realize it or not. Your words, your inflections, your body language—they all play a pivotal role. Your job is to ensure that you’re communicating the right message with a broad appeal. Effective communication requires the following:
- Having a clear, concise goal to present
- Tailoring the message according to your audience
- Providing a clear, focused, organized delivery that’s easy to comprehend
- Listening and soliciting questions and feedback on a daily basis
- Appealing to the emotions of your audience
- Being mindful of what your words, inflections, and body language might be sub-communicating (does your own presentation belie your intended message?)
If you can use stories or visuals to connect, that’s even better. Your end goal is to present a message that motivates and sticks with your audience long after the words have faded.
True leaders are adept at reading the room. They know the strengths and weaknesses of everyone on their team, they can sense when someone is confused or struggling, and they can anticipate potential conflict before it arises. And while a good leader is insightful, an outstanding leader is proactive, using their insights to preemptively address conflicts, coach their subordinates, and keep operations running smoothly.
Of course, it’s not all about physical observation. A real leader will use any resources available to assess the health of their organization, their projects, and their team members. A company culture platform like PERKS makes this easy.
In addition to equipping employees with their own personal dashboard where they can earn and cash in on valuable rewards, PERKS also offers employers with valuable insights about each team member’s progress, level of engagement, and overall satisfaction. There are team management tools and a culture report card that employers can use to gauge the success of their leadership efforts. It’s the most comprehensive people support service available.
As previously noted, true leadership requires clear direction. That means that the leader needs to have a precise vision of the objectives, goals, and benchmarks. That’s not to say that there’s no room for creativity or innovation on the part of the individual team members. It simply means that the general expectations (whether broad or narrow) must be clearly defined and communicated.
It also means that an effective leader must be quick on their feet. In any business environment, there are going to be times when the person in the leadership position must take swift action or provide a quick turnaround. They can’t waffle when it comes to important issues like how to address an insubordinate employee or how to save an unsatisfied client who’s on the verge of leaving.
Consider military leadership as an example. Acts of leadership from a general can quite literally mean the difference between life and death, but these authority figures must act boldly and without hesitation, lest their entire unit be ambushed. And while the stakes might not be as high for you, the rules still apply. If you’re inconsistent or indecisive, it will have wide-reaching ramifications for your organization and also compromise your team members’ faith in your leadership abilities.
As a leader in a high-stakes business environment, you obviously can’t share every detail with the people on your team. Some information must be maintained in confidence and shared only among need-to-know members of the organization. With that said, however, it’s still important for any leader to maintain transparency with the people they lead.
A transparent leader is one who:
- Keeps their team members in the loop about important business decisions and developments
- Sets honest, realistic goals and expectations
- Is open about the company’s goals, wins, challenges, and shortcomings
- Welcomes honest feedback from team members
A lack of transparency can contribute to a lack of trust, which leads us to our next point.
Trust is another of the essential elements of leadership. Without it, effective leadership is impossible. As noted by one expert, “Trust is the glue that binds the leader to her/his followers and provides the capacity for organizational and leadership success.”
Establishing and maintaining trust requires transparency, open communication, decisiveness, and leading by example.
Effective leaders are honest, supportive, and consistent. They also lead with integrity. If you set an example of being dishonest or unreliable with clients or customers, your team members will note this general lack of trustworthiness and keep you at arm’s length. The behaviors of leaders are always being observed. What do your behaviors and words indicate?
As the leader, you’re the one steering the ship. Your team is counting on you to lead with confidence and authority. You may not always have all of the answers, and you may struggle with uncertainty or anxiety at times, but you need to believe in the message you’re delivering and know how to articulate it with assurance.
Having confidence as a leader is also about standing firm in your decisions and accepting the outcome of those decisions, course-correcting where necessary but always trusting your insights. False confidence is easy to spot, and a lack of confidence in the leader promotes a lack of confidence in the subordinates. As Forbes notes, fear is contagious, and that’s just one reason why confidence is one of the most important leadership components.
One of the most important leadership skills is the ability to persuade. It’s about equipping your team members to become confident, informed leaders in their own right. Charismatic leaders are natural motivators. They understand how to connect directly with their employees and appeal to their emotions.
Anyone can exude the qualities of charisma. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or extrovert. In the best-selling book The Charisma Myth, author Olivia Fox Cabane outlines the definition of charisma as the culmination of power, warmth, and presence.
If you lead with a combination of communication, confidence, and decisiveness, you probably already have the “power” component somewhat mastered. If you can lead with authority while also being supportive and present with your employees, you will be a leader of real charisma and persuasion.
Mastering the Key Elements of Successful Leadership
No leader is perfect. But working effectively in a leadership role is less about personality and more about delivery. You might have proven strategies and a tremendous vision, but if you can’t effectively guide your workforce to carry out that vision, nobody is going to get with the program.
If you can master the most important core elements of a successful leader, you’ll be able to build the kind of workforce that works more autonomously, more productively, and with greater long-term loyalty—no matter which form of leadership defines your personality or organization.