There are a myriad of qualities that form effective leadership. It may never be agreed upon whether leadership arises from a set of innate characteristics ("leaders are born") or, rather, from observable actions ("leaders are made"). Some basic leadership qualities, however, seem almost universal, no matter the leader or type of group they head: Good communication skills, the ability to constructively deal with a variety of personalities, and the mental toughness to shoulder responsibility and weather criticism. Certain personality traits are also required, such as, having a sense of humor, trustworthiness and general good people skills. The traits of a good leader, and the common thread in any leadership model, is that the traits of a leader are the product of one of three broad bases of knowledge: First, knowledge of the group; next, knowledge of the goals of the group; and finally, and perhaps the most important, the leader's knowledge of his or her self.
"Leaders must have knowledge of the group's members (Happy Atom, 2003). There's no way a leader can get a team to work together without first learning how to work with each person as an individual. Leadership is a one-on-one sport". In any group, all of the members have different personality traits, job skills, and opinions that they bring to the table. While it is the responsibility of each team member to contribute to the common goals of the team, it is the leader's task to assess the strengths, and weaknesses of each member to see how they would best contribute to the goals at hand. An effective group leader will take time to learn about each individual, in an effort to maximize each member's contribution to the group. Being an active contributor to the group's goals allows each member to experience a genuine sense of accomplishment when they are able to use their talents, as well as respect toward their leader for respecting them and recognizing their abilities. This element of respect is important, even more so than group members liking their leader: It isn't important that people like you. It's important that they respect you. They may like you but not follow you. If they respect you, they'll follow you, even if perhaps they don't like you." (Smith 1996)
Closely related to the idea of knowing one's team well, is to know the goals of the team. All groups have common goals they set out to achieve; this is the purpose of a collective effort rather than a solitary one. The effective leader must have a clear sense of these goals and what is expected of the team. If the goals are not clear, the team leader is responsible for clarifying the goals in order to give the rest of the team direction. Once the goals are clear or agreed upon, the group can then focus on formulating a plan of action to attain these goals. Leaders often utilize methodologies such as brainstorming to help a group gather ideas. Leaders have the responsibility of being able to prioritize group goals and organize methods to attain them once a group process, such as brainstorming, has occurred. With so many potential ideas, suggestions, and solutions being offered up by the group, the leader must maintain focus in order to prioritize what needs the most immediate attention (Aldrich 2003). Leaders constantly feel the thrill of the challenge to achieve goals. They must operate with a "constructive spirit of discontent" to constantly elicit new ideas and fresh perspectives from the rest of the group. (Smith, 1996)
Finally, and the key to the success of any individual, leader or otherwise, is a strong understanding of who he or she is. Self-knowledge, especially in terms of personality strengths and weaknesses is essential. A group leader must be thick-skinned and mentally tough. He must be willing to criticize and be criticized without becoming discouraged. A group leader must have the respect of his or her peers (Smith, 1996). Smith goes on to say, "Peer respect doesn't reveal ability, but it...
References: Leading Teams -effective team leadership. (2002). Retrieved September 23, 2003 from www.happyatom.co.uk.com
Smith, F. (1996). Leadership Qualities. LEADERSHIP JOURNAL, XVIII, Page 30.
Aldrich, C. (2003). Power, balance, tension cited as leadership qualities, Issue 3110,4. Retrieved September 20, 2003, from EBSCO Host Research Databases.
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