Four Examples of Effective Leaders

Many leadership gurus debate whether leadership is an art or whether it is a science – or a combination of the two. But, no matter where you fall in that debate, when the rubber meets the road, understanding the theories behind leadership counts for nothing without practical application.


As I’ve had the opportunity to work with effective leaders (and some not so effective), I’ve noticed some recurring themes. I’ve worked hard to imitate the good examples in my leadership roles. And, although effective leadership takes a lot of time and emotional energy, the positive impact is a lasting one.

Let’s look at four practical applications of effective leadership.

An Effective Leader:

1.      Admits fault rather than shifting the blame.

You must be honest, which may be the single most important characteristic of a leader. Perry Noble said, “Character and integrity will take you further than any system, structure, or creative idea.”

Let’s admit it – we all make mistakes. Making a mistake provides us with one of the most impacting choices that can be made: admitting or shifting. The lasting impact of the mistake won’t be the mistake itself; it will be whether we admitted fault or shifted blame. If you don’t want to shift the blame, don’t ever throw anyone under the proverbial bus. In fact, get that bus out of the building! (That’s my way of saying don’t let shifting blame be an option in your leadership.)

2.      Leads by example rather than by hypocrisy.

You must demonstrate action instead of simply dictating action. (Click here to tweet that.) While both leadership styles will probably get the job done, simply accomplishing a task is not the goal of an effective leader. If you want to be an effective leader, instill inspiration and vision in your team. Excellent work will become a natural by-product of your leadership.

Hypocrisy is like an acid – it corrodes away inspiration and vision until they are no longer recognizable. Conversely, just like rebar is used to reinforce and strengthen concrete, leading by example reinforces the vision and inspiration. Remember the old adage, your walk talks louder than your talk talks.

3.      Communicates intentionally rather than impulsively.

You must carefully guard your communication. This doesn’t mean that you can’t communicate frequently or with confidence. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Only intentional communication is truly effective communication, which means that you must intentionally choose the message, time, place, medium, and recipient(s) of your communiqué.

Because words are the most powerful assets we possess, they should not be a free-flowing commodity. Words should be carefully crafted and delivered out of the utmost respect for the listener. It was Abraham Lincoln who once said, “I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it.”

4.      Promotes collective success rather than personal success.

You must be humble and place your team’s success ahead of your own. It helps if you understand the power of synergy. (Warning: this gets a bit technical.)

Synergy: the interaction of elements that when combined produce a
total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements.

Did you know that synergy is naturally inherent in many areas, including physics, genetics, and toxicology?

Generally, teamwork is no exception. In her book, Smart Tribes, thought leader Christina Comaford details how a change in leadership behaviors can significantly increase a team’s potential for success. Remember what our high school coaches always told us? There is no “I” in “TEAM.” Yep, it still applies today.

Question: what other practical applications have you seen in leaders that you respect? You can contribute to the conversation by clicking here

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4 thoughts on “Four Examples of Effective Leaders

  1. Derrick, I’m looking forward to more posts. Thanks for the reminders. These four applications bring to mind the servant leadership model taught/lived by Dan Cathy that I greatly admire (and try to emulate).

    • Hey John. I just listened to the EntreLeadership podcast with Dan Cathy a couple days ago. I love his outlook on his leadership position – although he is COO, he considers himself to be in customer service, because he is serving the 60,000 employees of Chick-fil-a. Amazing!

  2. I love the point about communicating intentionally instead of impulsively. Impulsive communication is reflective of reactionary leadership. When that happens, I’ve found the culture eventually dismantles into a “squeaky wheel gets the grease” situation, and everyone is relegated to raising a fuss or putting out fires.

    Great thoughts, Derick. I really hope you write more!

  3. Excellent stuff! I found myself increasingly determined to be this kind of employee and leader while reading this blog! You can never underestimate the value of great communication in ANY personal and/or business relationship. Thank you!

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