The essence of effective leadership


The term “leader” connotes images of powerful and dynamic individuals who command victorious armies, direct corporate empires, or shape the course of nations. The wide-spread fascination with leaders may be because leadership is such a mysterious process, as well as one that touches everyone’s lives. Why did certain leaders (e.g.  Gandhi) inspire such intensive fervor and dedication? How did certain leaders (e.g. Julius Caesar) build great empires? Questions about leadership have long been subject of speculation, but scientific research on leadership did not begin until the twentieth century. The focus on much of this research has been on leadership effectiveness. I would like to share 10 essential steps from Yukl’s (2006) research on improving your own leadership.

1.) Help interpret the meaning of events. Effective leaders help people interpret events, understand why they are relevant, and identify emerging threats and opportunities.

2.) Create alignment of objectives and strategies. Effective performance of a collective task requires considerable agreement about what to do and how to do it. Helping build this consensus about these choices is especially important in newly formed groups and organizations that have lost their way.

3.) Build task commitment and optimism. Effective leaders increase enthusiasm for the work, commitment to task objectives, and confidence that the effort will be successful.

4.) Build mutual trust and cooperation. Effective performance of a collective task requires cooperation and mutual trust, which are more likely when people understand each other, appreciate diversity, and are able to confront and resolve differences in a constructive way.

5.) Strengthen collective identity.  In this era of fluid teams, virtual organizations, and joint ventures, boundaries are often unclear and loyalties are divided. Effective leaders help to create a unique identity for a group or organization, and they resolve issues of membership in a way that is consistent with this identity.

6.) Organize and coordinate activities. Effective leaders help people organize to perform collective activities efficiently, and they help to coordinate these activities as they occur.

7.) Encourage and facilitate a collective learning. In a highly competitive and turbulent environment, continuous learning and innovation are essential for survival and prosperity of an organization. Leaders must encourage members to collectively learn better ways to work together towards common objectives.

8.) Obtain necessary resources and support. For most groups and organizations, survival and prosperity require favorable exchanges with external parties. Effective leaders promote and defend unit interests and help to obtain necessary resources and support.

9.) Develop and empower people. Relevant skills must be developed to prepare people for leadership roles, new responsibilities, and major change. Effective leaders help people develop their skills and empower people to become agents of change and leaders themselves.

10.) Promote social justice and moralityMember satisfaction and commitment are increased by a climate of fairness, compassion, and social responsibility. Effective leaders set an example of moral behavior, and they take necessary action to promote social justice.  



Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in organizations, 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


One thought on “The essence of effective leadership

  1. Pingback: Women and leadership: Understanding and navigating the labyrinth | Leadership Archways

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