Traits of Effective Leaders

It is a well-established fact that only a few managers are able to lead the organizations successfully. A large majority of them, often, fail to deliver the goods. Some believe the answer can be traced to the inner characteristics of a leader such as drive, originality and tolerance of stress, which they say are universal among successful leaders. If you possess these qualities in adequate measure, you will be able to lead others quite successfully. If you lack them, you may fail to perform the assigned leadership role.

Others argue in favour of certain physical traits such as superior mental ability, emotional maturity and problem solving skills. They forcefully state that there is no universally agreed list of leadership characteristics so we must look into certain personal features that interact with one another to produce the desired outcomes. Only through a proper understanding of how such physical features influence managerial effectiveness can we really understand the nature of leadership.

Personality traits, abilities, and social skills most frequently associated with effective leaderships:

Adaptability – Intelligence and ability to enlist cooperation.

Adjustment (normality) – Judgment and decisiveness and Administrative ability

Aggressiveness and assertiveness – knowledge and Cooperativeness

Dominance – fluency of speech and popularity and prestige

Emotional balance and control – Sociability (interpersonal skills)

Independence (non-conformity) – Social participation

Originality and creativity – Tact and diplomacy

Personal integrity (ethical conduct)


Effective leaders tend to possess superior intelligence than those of the followers. They have the necessary mental skills to formulate and communicate information; process input from subordinates, examine work related problems and arrive at decisions quickly. This, in a way, suggests that there is a minimum level of mental ability below which we are unlikely to find successful leaders. It also means that above a particular point (intelligence quotient or IQ) we may find it difficult to trace effective leaders.

Research has indicated that IQs from 120 to 135 are the ideal range for managerial success. Individuals with IQs from 115-119 are acceptable in some managerial positions but seldom in top companies with strong competition for promotion. Managers with IQs below 115 are at a distinct disadvantage when competing with other managers, except at the first line supervisory level.

A leader must hold his emotions, well in control especially in situations of a crisis nature. He should be neither crushed by defeat nor over-elated by victory. He should have high frustration tolerance. He should be free from bias, logical in his actions and refrain from any demonstration of emotions such as impatience, anger or contempt for any of his followers. Effective leaders do not lose their balance when subordinates commit mistakes. Instead of taking the subordinates to task, they use the opportunity to change and improve the behaviour of the person by focusing attention on the problem rather than the person. If the problem crops up again, that’s the time to reprimand or dismiss the subordinate. But for the present, the focus is on teaching the importance of doing things right.

Motivation / Inner Drive: An effective leader should be a self-starter. The desire to become a leader should come from within the individual. He should have an intense urge to keep accomplishing and scaling new heights. He should work in a focussed way and set an example for others. He need not be complimented, praised and rewarded at every turn to stay motivated. As he reaches one goal, he sets his eyes on another. One success becomes a base for taking up tougher and more challenging ventures in future.

Effective leaders try to measure their progress in quantitative terms also i.e. how much money they are earning how far they have scaled the career ladder, how many subordinates they control etc. Interestingly, highly motivated superiors tend to attract or develop highly motivated subordinates also.

Energy: Good leaders possess mental and physical energy in ample measure. They often work long hours at difficult tasks and so must have the stamina to withstand such ordeals. Perhaps the wish to be and to remain a leader motivates a person to put such energy into his role as a leader. Managers in actual practice take practical decision, know their subordinates capability very well and properly plan and guide their team to complete the task in time. This clearly proves their leadership qualities.

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