Qualities of Effective Leaders: Born or Developed?

Categories: Leadership

What qualities make a leader effective? Are effective leaders born with these qualities, or can they develop them? This paper aims to address these questions and delineate the requirements for becoming a truly effective leader. Initially, we will examine the precise nature of an effective leader, and subsequently explore the attributes necessary to embody such a persona.

Leadership can be seen in various professions, such as teachers, welders, students, laborers, and managers. According to Lussier & Achua (2013), leadership is the process of influencing both leaders and followers to achieve organizational goals through change.

In other words, anyone who influences someone else is already a leader. Parents are leaders to their children, and teachers are leaders to their students.

So what qualities make a leader effective? Hourston (2013), Drucker (2006), as well as DeKlein & Penstone (1997) have opinions on this matter. Drucker (2006) suggests that for executives to be effective, they must take responsibility for their actions and prioritize tasks for the organization. Effective executives develop action plans and focus on opportunities rather than problems.

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They also emphasize teamwork over individual work and conduct productive meetings.

However, these eight practices mentioned by Drucker are just the beginning. Being truly effective as an executive involves much more than these simple practices according to Drucker (2006). Effectiveness is achieved when the right things are accomplished.

Hourston (2013) suggests a series of steps to become truly effective, such as being bold, understanding your strengths, and stretching your leadership style. According to Hourston, it is important for individuals to have the courage to speak up, apologize when necessary, and forge their own path.

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They also recommend identifying your strengths and further developing them using resources like Keirsey & Bates' book "Please Understand Me" (1984), which helps determine personality types and how they influence strengths and traits. This book also offers insights into how different temperament types perceive rewards and punishment. Furthermore, Hourston emphasizes the significance of expanding one's leadership style. It is beneficial to use leadership styles that may not come naturally or are challenging for you. By becoming a well-rounded leader, it becomes easier to adapt your approach based on different situations. Leading laborers in a task might require a different leadership style than leading a group of accountants in completing a task. Therefore, it is crucial to learn various styles and understand when and how to apply them in different circumstances. Additionally, having a clear vision and effectively communicating it to others can inspire them to follow you towards achieving the vision. A truly effective leader focuses on their followers and acknowledges their contributions rather than seeking all the attention for themselves. Moreover, an effective leader should be attentive to their followers' needs as caring for them is essential. Lastly, striving for balance and considering the impact of your actions on those around you before implementing them are key aspects of being an effective leader.It is important to acknowledge that no single leadership style is completely effective or that certain styles cannot be utilized. Although a particular style may not be entirely suitable, there are always elements within it that can be honed through dedication and hard work. It is crucial to have self-assurance in one's skills and consistently strive for enhancement. Furthermore, having an openness to learn and explore new approaches is vital.

Peter Economy’s article in Inc. magazine, “7 Traits of Highly Effective Leaders” (2013), outlines several similar traits and a few new ones. According to Economy, highly effective leaders inspire action, maintain optimism, have integrity, demonstrate confidence, communicate effectively, make decisions decisively, and support their followers. Hourston (2013) agrees and adds that optimism and integrity are essential qualities in leaders.

Hourston emphasizes the importance of working with people who uplift rather than drag down. Maintaining a positive outlook is crucial as it attracts individuals to successful endeavors instead of failing ones. People also strive for opportunities that can propel them to great heights.

Furthermore, another critical trait mentioned is integrity; leaders should be honest and forthright with their followers. Telling the truth from the beginning helps preserve trust as lies eventually catch up with individuals. Integrity aligns with the Golden Rule: treating others as you want to be treated.

In conclusion, aspiring executives should prioritize integrity above all other qualities in order to become effective leaders.

The original question asked was whether leaders are born or made, and the answer is that it is a combination of both. Some individuals naturally possess charisma and effective leadership qualities, while others have to work hard to develop their skills. According to DeKlein & Penstone's Canadian factsheet "How You Can Be an Effective Leader" (1994), they emphasize that everyone has the potential to be a leader, just like singing or dancing. Some people, like Celine Dion in singing, have natural ability, while others, like Martin Luther King Jr., are born with leadership qualities. However, some individuals, such as Adolf Hitler, had to work hard at becoming leaders. Despite his evil purposes, Hitler demonstrated undeniable oratory skills and developed leadership abilities later in life. Before discussing further, let's briefly examine charisma. Webster's dictionary defines charisma as a personal magic of leadership that arouses special loyalty and enthusiasm or a special magnetic charm or appeal. Charisma is a defining characteristic of exceptional leaders - those who come to mind when we mention "Effective Leadership". Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Adolf Hitler, and John F Kennedy possessed a remarkable level of charisma. This ability to captivate others often overshadows any flaws they may have had.In addition, individuals can gain charisma by learning and practicing. Lussier & Achua (2013) highlight multiple methods to cultivate charisma. The text underscores the significance of diverse strategies for personal advancement and improvement. These approaches involve seeking guidance from a speaking coach to improve speech and public speaking skills, acquiring knowledge to foster a visionary mindset, practicing open communication while being considerate of others' emotions and needs, and nurturing an enthusiastic, optimistic, and energetic attitude.

The Factsheet by DeKlein & Penstone underscores the significance of strong organizational skills and well-developed thoughts and ideas for a leader. It also stresses the importance of leaders being aware of their own skill set, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and recognizing areas for improvement to enhance their leadership abilities. According to DeKlein & Penstone (1997), successful leaders actively seek opportunities to acquire new skills. Having a deep understanding of the organization they lead is crucial as attempting to lead without knowledge can be challenging but not impossible. Leaders must possess solid knowledge in their areas of involvement as a lack of knowledge may discourage followers regardless of their leadership abilities. In Drucker's 1967 publication "The Effective Executive," team-based leadership theories were considered an idealistic concept. However, nowadays most companies incorporate some form of team-based leadership within their organization (Lussier & Achua, 2013). The notion that a leader is solely an authoritative figure has been abandoned as even modern CEOs perceive themselves as part of a larger mechanism. Without their teammates, leaders are simply individuals standing alone. Office politics play a significant role in determining project funding and support.Having the support of a team or coalition of office supporters is crucial for the success of an organization. An effective leader is someone who is willing to take risks and make necessary changes, being innovative and willing to go out on a limb. The Wright brothers exemplified this by taking a risk on flight innovation, becoming leaders in their field. A leader must learn from both success and failure and be willing to take chances. Additionally, a good leader recognizes and appreciates the work and achievements of others through gestures like a pat on the back, handshake, or verbal recognition such as saying "job well done." Acknowledging followers' achievements is essential, as is offering encouragement when needed. According to DeKlein & Penstone (1997), demonstrating genuine concern and respect for work, people, and the community is an effective strategy for achieving outstanding leadership.

The effectiveness of a leader is determined by different qualities. The question of whether leadership is innate or can be developed has been answered. While some individuals have natural leadership abilities, others can acquire them through hard work, a willingness to learn, and an openness to new experiences. Our capacity to lead is similar to our ability to sing; it may come naturally to some but require effort from others. An effective leader possesses qualities such as the ability to influence others, a clear vision, and the motivation for personal growth. Additionally, effective leaders not only communicate their vision but also acknowledge and appreciate the accomplishments of those they lead. They have the capability to identify and prioritize tasks and then successfully execute them, inspiring those around them to strive for improvement and achieve more.

Annotated Bibliography

DeKlein and Penstone (1997) present a comprehensive factsheet on effective leadership. The authors highlight the inherent leadership abilities in every individual, aligning with the views of Economy and Drucker. They proceed to outline four situational leadership styles: "Directing/Telling" for when group members are unwilling and unable to perform a task, "Coaching/Selling" for when group members are willing but lack the necessary skills, "Participating/Supportive" for when group members are unwilling but capable, and "Delegating/Trusting" for when group members possess both the skills and willingness to complete a task. Additionally, the article features captivating leadership quotes that emphasize the importance of remaining open-minded and receptive in the face of future challenges.John H. Anthony (1989) stated that in order to be successful, we must be attentive and inclusive, providing guidance and nurturing growth. Additionally, we should empower and inspire others while being willing to take risks and acknowledge their achievements. Moreover, it is important to show empathy and convey our worries, while also sharing moments of laughter, particularly when it comes to our own mistakes.

Drucker, P. (2006). The Effective Executive. New York, NY. HarperCollins Drucker offers an abundance of knowledge on the topic of what makes an executive effective. It doesn't matter what kind of organization it is, the executive is expected to accomplish the right tasks. In the opening paragraph, Drucker eloquently sums up the measure of an effective executive. Furthermore, Drucker explains that effective leaders can be developed through acquiring necessary habits. He delves into these traits and habits, highlighting how to acquire skills for enhanced effectiveness. This includes running meetings efficiently, extracting maximum value from them, and recognizing when too many meetings are not productive. Though it was written before team-lead leadership styles gained popularity, Drucker's book still holds significant relevance today. It is widely recognized that Drucker has had a profound influence on modern leadership styles.

In his article "7 Traits of Highly Effective Leaders" (Economy, 2013), Peter Economy offers a concise guide for becoming an effective leader. Drawing inspiration from Peter Drucker's The Effective Executive, Mr. Economy outlines essential traits for leadership success. These include the capacity to inspire and motivate followers, maintaining a positive attitude, demonstrating integrity, supporting and empowering the team, instilling confidence, and promoting effective communication. The article underscores how these traits are crucial in enabling leaders to drive action, cultivate a positive work environment, and empower their team to attain success.

Hourston (2013) presents seven steps that she believes will help individuals develop an effective leadership style. Her approach aligns with the perspectives of Lussier, Drucker, Economy, and DeKlein. She begins by identifying three types of leaders to avoid - the Mushroom, who keeps everyone in the dark; the Seagull, who swoops in and dumps; and the Kipper, who is two-faced and gutless. Hourston emphasizes that leadership traits and habits can be learned and that success as a leader requires both desire and knowledge. She then explores these traits and offers strategies for acquiring them, drawing from insights shared by emerging leaders in various industries. Following each step, Hourston poses questions to stimulate reflection on how to apply the concepts discussed.

In their book Please Understand Me: Character & Temperament Type (5th Ed., 1984), Keirsey and Bates illustrate the uniqueness of individuals and how different personalities possess varying leadership styles. The book commences with a questionnaire to determine one's personality style, followed by an exploration of distinct personality traits and their combination to form specific personality types. Keirsey and Bates also assist individuals in identifying their strengths and areas for potential excellence. This book complements other resources that highlight the learnability of leadership skills since understanding one's personality type aids in aligning skills with personal characteristics, thereby facilitating the development of individual leadership abilities. Furthermore, knowledge about diverse personality types is valuable for effectively leading individuals possessing these various traits. Despite its age, Keirsey and Bates' work remains a source of valuable insights.

The text discusses the book "Leadership: Theory Application, & Skill Development" by Lussier and Achua (5th Ed., 2013). The authors delve deeply into the theory behind leadership skills and explore a wide variety of different leadership skills and their application. They also discuss how leaders can develop their skills. The authors share similar views with DeKlein and Penstone regarding Path-Goal leadership styles and description, but they provide a more detailed analysis of these styles and offer suggestions on how to implement them effectively. In addition, Lussier and Achua agree with certain aspects of Drucker's views on what makes an effective executive. They emphasize that leaders are not necessarily born, but can acquire and develop their skills over time.

Updated: Feb 16, 2024
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Qualities of Effective Leaders: Born or Developed?. (2016, Feb 24). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/what-makes-an-effective-leader-essay

Qualities of Effective Leaders: Born or Developed? essay
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