• Barb Mayfield

4 skills for effective leaders


A block tower illustrating characteristics of leadership

What does it take to be an effective leader?


Well… it depends. There is no one formula or sequence of steps to follow but rather a skill set to put into practice. Leadership situations vary by many factors: who is involved, the task or problem to tackle, the situational environment, and much, much more. An agile leader, as described in a previous post, possesses the leadership knowledge and skills needed to bring about the desired outcome for a specific situation.

The act of leadership implies a relationship between you as the leader and those you are seeking to lead. How are you “related”? Are they your friends, family, coworkers, fellow members of a group or organization, etc.? Are you equal in “rank” or are you at a different level on the social hierarchy? Also, are you leading one person, a small group or team, or an entire organization or community?


The first skill you need as a leader is the ability to understand the person or people you are leading. This requires supporting skills in listening and observation, assessing needs, demonstrating empathy, finding common ground, and creating connections. People follow a leader who understands, listens, and accounts for their needs and concerns in making decisions.


What is needed next? Because leadership is called for when a situation or task arises that requires problem-solving, decision-making, or change, to be an effective leader, you need the ability to gain a deeper understanding of the situation at hand. This requires skills in gathering the facts, anticipating change, comparing and contrasting options, determining the desired outcomes, and selecting a course of action.


Thirdly, an effective leader is able to not only understand the situation and the people involved, they are able to put the situation into context and help others see what needs to be done and the role they can take to bring about the desired outcomes. In other words, effective leaders are skilled at vision casting. When the people you lead can visualize the destination desired, the changes that need to be made, and the steps that will take them there, they are well on their way to overcoming a problem or achieving their goals.


All of these leadership skills rely on the fourth and ultimate leadership skill: communication. Every other leadership skill – understanding people, researching a situation, and casting a vision – all rely on mastering communication skills. Communication is your superhero leadership skill.


Which skill set do you need to work on most?

  • Understanding people skills

  • Researching the situation skills

  • Vision casting skills

  • Communication skills

Would you like to become a better communicator and leader? May I recommend one or more of the following routes to grow your skills:

Effective leaders are constantly growing and developing.


"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." ~ John F. Kennedy


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