What Makes an Effective Leader?

Leader sharing ideas with coworkers

Quality of leadership can make or break a team. Effective leaders know how to lead in such a way that their followers want to work with them and help create their vision. Acquiring good leadership skills and practices takes effort and time. However, it is worthwhile because the results increase the chances of success for you and your team.

Characteristics of an Effective Leader

Certain characteristics differentiate great leaders from mediocre ones. Developing these character traits can help you hone effective leadership practices. Great leaders are:


Collaboration is very important for leaders. Leaders must be able to work with others to bring ideas and projects to fruition. An open-minded leader recognizes the potential and value in other people’s ideas. People respond to such recognition by working harder and communicating better. To accomplish goals, effective leaders must cooperate with others, including employees, other teams and even clients.


Making good, timely decisions showcases the skills of an efficient leader. Leaders often have multiple options and must choose the best course of action to take. Sometimes these decisions must be made under pressure or in a time crunch. Leaders must also make hard decisions when employees or other colleagues have conflicting opinions.

Consider these tips for making good decisions:

  • Don’t let little decisions cause you stress: When you are a leader, chances are you need to make many decisions on a daily basis. Many of these decisions are probably of minor significance. Try not to waste too much time or energy on them.
  • Practice confidence: Showing confidence in your choices is very important for a leader. If you do not believe in your decisions, it is unlikely other people will either.
  • Resist overthinking: When a decision becomes overwhelming, it can be easy to overthink it. Streamlining your decision process can save time and reduce stress.
  • Pursue insight: Recognize that some decisions may benefit from seeking the insights of other team members or individuals who may be affected by the decision.


The effectiveness of leaders and employers depends crucially on the respect of the people who work for them. It is very difficult to get people to follow someone they do not respect. Maintaining a consistently professional appearance and attitude helps foster respect.

Beware of being hypocritical with your words and actions. Employees do not readily respect leaders who fail to follow their own advice or meet the standards they hold employees to.


Transformational leaders model what they expect from their team members, inspiring the team to follow their example. Transformational leaders have a vision of their end goal and are good at communicating it to their team members. However, they care about more than achieving the goal. They also care about those they work with and are interested in their contributions.

Successful in Communicating

Being able to communicate successfully is advantageous for professionals in all kinds of fields. Provide clear instructions and explanations so employees understand how to accomplish their tasks efficiently. Consider these communication tips:

  • Be clear: Clarity can help team members know exactly what the expectations are. Including detail and reasoning in your communication can help people understand directions better and know how to adapt to exceptional cases.
  • Answer questions and address concerns: Asking if an employee or colleague has any questions can clear up issues in advance. If someone is confused about the process or the steps to take, things will proceed more efficiently if you address this promptly.
  • Listen and keep an open mind: Most people appreciate it when their ideas are heard in a professional environment. Listening to what your employees have to say not only increases their engagement but also augments your pool of potentially useful ideas.
  • Give feedback: Providing feedback and follow-up communication is essential to keeping things running smoothly. If someone is not meeting the expectations for a project, a pointer in the right direction can work wonders. If a colleague is doing something well, consider acknowledging that to encourage more of the same.


The goal of many leaders is to instill a vision in the minds of their followers. Being able to see what could help your company or organization in the future can set you apart as a leader. Bringing new vision and ideas to the table is greatly beneficial.

Creativity plays a part in being visionary. Leaders must have the creativity to solve problems. They must devise solutions and plans that bring their visions to life effectively.

How to Become an Effective Leader

You may wonder how these skills and characteristics of effective leaders are developed. It takes time and effort to realize your leadership potential. The following are some ways that you can work toward becoming a more effective leader.

Earn a Degree

Pursuing a leadership degree can help you gain the skills you need to lead people successfully. One option to consider is a communications degree. The coursework for this degree focuses on developing the communication skills to share ideas effectively. Career opportunities for individuals with this kind of degree include:

  • Account specialist
  • HR manager
  • Public relations specialist
  • Journalist

If you want to advance your education beyond a bachelor’s degree, you may consider a Master of Science in Leadership. The coursework for this degree provides a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a good leader. It teaches how to lead others with positivity and solve problems that can arise for leaders. This degree opens the door to leadership positions such as:

  • Regional manager
  • Supervisor
  • Chief executive officer
  • Corporate trainer

Evaluate and Practice Your Skills

Another way to develop your leadership skills is through practice. If you struggle with being decisive, you can practice making choices. Practice will render decision-making easier for you as a leader. If collaborating with others is a challenge for you, consider committing to a project or taking a class that requires collaboration.

Learn From Other Leaders

Learning from other leaders can also help you develop your leadership skills. As you observe the style of other leaders, you can incorporate what impresses you into your own leadership style. Asking for other leaders’ advice can also contribute to your understanding of leadership.

Grand Canyon University’s Colangelo College of Business offers degrees that give professionals the advantages they need to become leaders in their field. If you would like to learn more about a communications degree or a master’s degree in leadership at GCU, click on the Request info button at the top of your screen.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

Loading Form

Scroll back to top