Reflections on effective leadership

Most of us have read numerous articles and books about leadership. Organizations collectively spend billions of dollars on leadership development. By now we likely think we know all about what leadership is and what leaders do. But in this time of great change in many industries, let’s take a second look at defining effective leadership.

Qualities of great leaders

Great leaders are never satisfied with traditional practice, static thinking, conventional wisdom or common performance, writes Mike Myatt in his 2011 Forbes article. Having a mindset focused on pursuit (of excellence, of truth, of change, of value, of knowledge and service) is so critical to leadership that lacking this one quality can sentence one to mediocrity or even obsolescence.

According to McKinsey, four kinds of behavior account for 89 percent of leadership effectiveness:

  • Supporting others through building trust and inspiring action.
  • Seeking different perspectives.
  • Solving problems effectively.
  • Focusing on achieving results.

An evolving workforce

The following statements highlight an important change needed in approaches to leadership effectiveness:

“Our emerging workforce is not interested in command-and-control leadership. They don’t want to do things because I said so; they want to do things because they want to do them.” Irene Rosenfeld, immediate past CEO, Mondelēz International.

“Whether you are the president of a country or a CEO, your title does not make you a leader — all the title does is make you a senior executive. Leadership happens when people allow you to influence their lives. You become a leader when your influence causes people to work towards a shared vision.” George Ambler, Gartner Executive Programs partner and blogger (Helping Leaders Grow).

These comments are pertinent given the results of Deloitte’s study Global Human Capital Trends 2016, The new organization: Different by design, which concluded that today’s digital world of work has shaken the foundation of organizational structure, shifting from a functional hierarchy to a “network of teams” that must be coordinated and aligned with shared values, transparent goals and projects, and a free flow of information. The team-centric model of work places a new emphasis on learning and skills development, rewarding employees for their contributions, not their “position.”

According to the report, positional authority, which is based on title and rank, is giving way to earned leadership based on skill sets, including the ability to collaborate across generations, geographies, functions, and external and internal teams.

Robin Sharma, author of “The Leader Who Had No Title” and founder of a global consultancy, tells us: “Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire teammates and customers.”

Smart organizations will succeed with teams built and sustained by collaborative and inclusive leaders at all levels who are rigorous about self-development, care deeply about the work and are grateful for the opportunity to serve.


Becky S. Cornett is a member of WELD Impact Committee, and Barb Smoot is president and CEO of WELD. Women for Economic and Leadership Development desires to increase the number of women in business and government leadership in Central Ohio.