Attributes of an Effective Leader



There isn’t any definitive list of positive characteristics that gives a clear idea of the behavioral traits that an effective leader must possess. Even if such a list exists, it would be an over-generalization of what should be a very specific issue in relation to the type of organization and how it is run. For examples a leader of an educational institution needs a different set attributes from one of a military division, or that the head of a business organization should not be put in charge of an administration that governs the industry in which the company operates. Just because a leader is effective in any particular organization, it does not mean the same person will be equally effective in another.

 In spite of all that, it is not impossible to compile a simple guide on how leaders should conduct themselves; think of the following list as an assortment of requirements an effective leader is expected to meet.

 1.      Provides a sense of safety and demonstrates strong ethics

 Together those two attributes build the bridge to create a work environment filled with trust and comfort. Employees or subordinates feel and realize that they can rely on each other in almost all situations without sacrificing professionalism. In other words, a leader holds a crucial role to make the workplace feel like home where everyone has the peace of mind in collaboration and cooperation. High ethical standards ensure a safe environment for social engagement that encourages everyone to honor the role of each other and respect organizational rules. Safe professional environments have the power to invoke people’s capacity to develop ideas, share opinions, take criticism, and essentially work to their full potential.

 2.      Empowers and inspires others to perform proper self-management

 As important as a leader is to an organization, there is no way a single person can do everything without help from others. What a leader can do is to lead others in the journey to become more capable of self-management. Employees of all positions need direction to perform day-to-day organizational tasks, but put in mind that this is not synonymous with providing instructions (sometime repetitive ones) on daily basis. Proper distribution of power throughout the organization is crucial to bring about smooth operation despite various challenges. While employees rely on a leader to make decisions in difficult circumstances, empowered teams have the confidence to be more proactive. Employees are the people closest to the actions, and so they need their leader’s trust to make decisions as well from time to time.

 3.      Develops connections and a sense of belonging

 Humans are a social species. Everyone wants to communicate, get along, and sometimes develop relationships. People want to have the sense of belonging somewhere with others. From the perspective of evolutionary science, social species feel safer together and living in a pack improves the odds of survival in the face of challenges. Not only does the sense of connection induce emotional well-being, but it also has positive impact on productivity. The good thing is that developing good social relationship in a workplace is not really that difficult; a leader who smiles, calls employees by first name, and remembers their family members have better chances of developing good relationships with everyone. More importantly leaders have to communicate openly and let employees speak freely. Bear in mind that emotions are contagious. Unpleasant interactions with one employee can affect the emotions (and therefore productivity) of others.

 Of course, there are plenty more positive characteristics leaders can develop for example: openness to ideas or criticisms, willingness to learn something new, intention to mentor employees to become the next leader, and so on. At the end of the day, all leaders must be able to lead by example. If they want employees to deliver, they too must demonstrate the power to deliver and live up to expectations.

 Make good choices and have a great day! Only you get to choose how you feel about it!

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Dr. Paul Gerhardt is a skilled leadership and diversity trainer who builds customized workshops online or at your workplace. He is a tenured professor of management and a diversity and leadership well-respected and trusted trainer who helps organizations get amazing returns on their training investment. Visit for more great free articles and to learn more about leadership effectiveness. Dr. Gerhardt is the author of several publications available on, including Diversity at Work, The Diversity King; Leadership Lucy and the Leadership Handbook. Consider inviting Dr. Paul Gerhardt to do customized leadership or diversity training at your organization. Most organizations find that diversity and leadership training by the right trainer yields a significant instant return on investment.

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Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.