Leader-3For an organization to succeed, it needs quality products or services, engaged employees, and effective leaders –  at every level.

But what makes a leader effective?

In the work I’ve done with leaders over the years in both corporate roles and as a consultant, I’ve identified five common characteristics among those whom I consider to be effective leaders. That is, whose employees are engaged and loyal, whose teams are high-functioning, and whose organizations are thriving.

Effective leaders communicate often and well. One of the key causes of poor employee engagement is the lack of communication from leadership. Effective leaders share information and knowledge on a regular basis with their teams and individual employees. Through town halls, one-on-ones or casual conversations, they keep employees in the loop. They share successes and they share problems (and their solutions) openly and honestly.

Effective leaders are good listeners. They know that to build trust and loyalty communication needs to be a two-way street. They seek feedback from employees on issues and they solicit ideas for solutions. They provide opportunities for employees to express concerns, share ideas, ask questions and they listen to and, whenever possible, act on employee input.

Effective leaders are inspirational. They create and communicate a vision and inspire others to follow. They articulate how each employee’s role ties to the vision and to the overall success of the organization. They recognize the achievements of individuals and teams on a regular basis. They create a culture that is diverse, inclusive and that encourages employees to take risks and learn from mistakes.

Effective leaders are emotionally intelligent. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is made up of four core skills: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management. Emotional intelligence is the foundation for critical skills like empathy, stress tolerance, decision making, anger management, flexibility, social skills and others.

Effective leaders grow their people. Jack Welch said: “Before you are a leader, success is about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is about growing others.” Effective leaders know that to keep their employees engaged and happy, they need to help them learn and grow. They need to provide employees with opportunities that build on their strengths and that nurture new skills and capabilities.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams