SOME PEOPLE are born with leadership qualities—others acquire it through experience. Leadership is the ability to lead and motivate a group of people such that you all achieve a common goal. The following are some qualities of an effective leader:
  • Ability to listen to your followers. Active listening goes hand-in-hand with action and it includes effective interpretation of both verbal and nonverbal cues communicated by your followers. Promptly reply to concerns aired by group members. If a stalemate develops in the group, address the matter before it grows to uncontrollable heights, and don’t expect that it will ease off by itself if you don’t take any action. Also, remember, if a stalemate develops, as the leader, it is up to you to make the decision and to stick to it.
  • Avoid taking sides or giving special attention to particular members of the group. An effective leader should be impartial when dealing with group members. Don’t support those who like your ideas and reject those who oppose them. Furthermore, avoid showing more concern to people who share the same background as you while opposing ones who are not related to you in any way in terms of political, religious, cultural and racial affiliation. Arrange a meeting with dissatisfied group members to establish a common ground for both sides. Don’t suspend or expel dissenting voices as they may decide to take legal action against you.
  • In addition, proper communication skills and vast intercultural knowledge can also help in understanding your group members. Leaders should be able to understand the cultural dynamics of each member in the group. What is considered acceptable by a culture may be rejected by another, and the way one culture expresses its ideas may be foreign to the next culture. By knowing this information, one can develop skills of bringing together various cultures for a common good. Communication skills have to do with how effectively a leader can pass his/her message to the group. Radiate confidence and have proper understanding of the words you are putting across to the group. Where necessary, use relevant examples to express complex ideas, but don’t forget to use words that can be interpreted by the majority. Communication is a two way process of giving and receiving feedback; don’t just speak nonstop without reading the group’s mood. If you don’t give the group time to respond to your statements, they will view you as domineering and get bored with your speech.
  • An efficient leader should know how to delegate duties appropriately. It is advisable to appoint a co-leader who can carry on with duties in case the leader is absent. Delegation of duty should not be done by favor but rather on merit.
  • An effective leader should ensure that elections to appoint key figures are done in a free and fair way. Elections are the main tool used by group members to bring change in how the group is run and should be taken with a lot of seriousness. If a leader is removed from his/her position, he/she should relinquish power without causing unnecessary commotion.
  • An effective group leader should also be able to form a group constitution that will stipulate how things should be done. A good constitution tells the criterion used to select people who show interest in joining the group. Furthermore, it shows the minimum and maximum amount of people required to make the group eligible. The amount of people required to fulfill a particular agenda depends on the kind of group. Business and self-help groups have different requirements, thus contrasting amount of membership.
While making a constitution, the leader should not do it alone as that amounts to dictatorship; such a constitution will not reflect the true needs of members and will constantly be broken. Borrowing ideas from other similar constitutions will help broaden the leader’s perspective on constitution-making. However, a leader should not make the mistake of passively adopting a foreign constitution because it will be irrelevant when it comes to addressing group issues.
Finally, a good leader should invite experts and other resource persons to take members through constitution-making processes.
  • Rigidity should not be present in an effective leader. Rigidity is unwillingness to adopt new ideas proposed by other members and always thinking that what you have is the best solution to all people in a group. Ability to change with time will make sure that your group lasts. Don’t be afraid to try out new technology because if you continue doing things the old fashioned way, very soon the products will be rendered inefficient and obsolete.
  • As a leader, avoid looking down upon fellow group members. Remember that they are the ones that gave you your position and still have the power to bring you down. You should always be available to converse with group members on an equal basis and not pretend that you are always busy so as to avoid them.
  • Leading by example is also mandatory in quality leadership. A leader should follow all rules stipulated by the group constitution if he/she expects other group members to abide by the same. Remember that a leader is still part of the group and not above the law.
  • A leader should seek partnership agreements that will benefit group members by exposing them to the outside world. A group is not a self-sufficient ecosystem and, every now and then, outside intervention may be solicited.
  • Transparency should not be put aside by an effective leader. Always make sure that you inform fellow group members before signing any contract with an outside party. If changes are to be made on the group constitution, always make sure that it is done hand-in-hand with fellow group members. Financial resources should be shared equally by all members of the group, according to the constitution. Don’t make the mistake of denying some group members their due wages because they may follow-up with the law. The key to appropriate leadership is creating rapport with group members. Rapport is a condition whereby there’s mental repossession between a leader and his/her followers.
In general, if you find yourself in a leadership position, you will do well if you make decisive, holistically beneficial decisions, treat your fellow members with respect—how you would want to be treated, and keep a positive, creative, adaptive and flexible attitude.