Eight Leadership Keys


There are many definable leadership characteristics that can be identified as being critical to effective leadership.  I believe that there are a few that are the foundation within any great leader, without which they simply cannot lead people and attain goals.  Here is my "short list".


With competence comes understanding of the overall enterprise and the functions under the sphere of influence.  There is simply no substitute for competence.  Without it, the ability for the leader to have credibility with the organization will be severely undermined.  Competence is often hard work and a willingness to keep learning until a level of mastery has been established.  Intelligence alone does not comprise competence.

Achievement Orientation

Great leaders have a burning desire to achieve.  The reward that the leader seeks is an achievement of a worthwhile goal and very often it is not monetary. The "fire in the belly" is driven by the need to achieve something of substance and purpose fuels the desire to attain.  Alignment to the purpose that the leader has in achievement drives others to share the same passion to achieve.

Future Orientation

Leadership is counted on to establish and maintain proper direction for the organization.  The organization needs a forward view that is clear and understandable.  There is substantial ambiguity in the daily life of an employee... and great leaders help to mitigate a good portion of it.  Leaders also spend little or no time in the past, a modest amount in the present and a significant amount of time and attention to future.  They see a compelling future and can describe it to the organization.  Leaders anticipate and help guide the change needed in the near term in order to be in the right spot down the road.


The is a funny one to add to the short list.  Pun intended.  But my sense is that great leaders are self-effacing, not too serious and keep everyone smiling.  This is not to be confused with cheerleading, joke telling or glad-handing.  Making it a grind is not the way true leaders lead.  It is about everyone not taking themselves or the job too seriously, having fun and winning.  Great leaders do this well.


Leaders have the ability to get the work done and ensure that all aspects of the enterprise are held to their agreed-upon goals.  The tricky part that great leaders do well happens when results are not attained and action must be taken to rectify.  They handle it.  Accountability is contagious in top performing companies and becomes a badge of honor that top performers wear proudly.


Okay.  Here is one that probably makes everyone's list... but it is surprising the amount of failures that we see in the world of those that just simply had it... and lost it.  It requires a constant vigilance on a very personal level to maintain this piece of the bedrock for the individual and the organization.  It is continually being tested and retested.  In addition, when leaders can be counted on to respond in a fair and consistent manner, it has a stabilizing effect on the organization and sets up the environment for sustained levels of performance.

Situational Style

In the HBR article that I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Goleman makes a great case for situational leadership style.  He cites 6 specific styles of leadership: authoritative, affiliative, coercive, democratic, pacesetting and coaching.  Not all styles are necessarily positive but most can be effective at times.  Goleman's big point is that a great leader uses a number of them, particularly when the situation calls for the given style.  The leader does not have to be someone that they are not, but they need to understand the needs of the moment and alter their manner in such a way that it is most effective.


Effective communication takes many forms and relates more to the time, place, audience and subject.  Leaders motivate through communication of ideas and by placing the vision of the business in a framework that can be understood clearly by the organization.  Effective leaders make their communication and interaction with others enjoyable, exciting, constructive and continuous.