Top 3 Qualities of Effective Leaders

The first 50 days of 2021 have been punctuated by the swearing in of Kamala Harris as the first female, first Black and South Asian Vice President of the most powerful nation on earth; Ngozi Okonjo Iweala took the reins of the WTO, becoming the first Black and first female to do so. Against this epic backdrop will arise many opportunities for Black female voices to be amplified in spaces and on stages that matter.

If success is what happens when opportunity meets preparations, then there are indispensable habits Black female leaders must develop to be ready to shine when the spotlight eventually lands on them.

#1 Authenticity

Moulds are powerful. Being authentic is defined as being one’s true self, not a false copy or imitation of another.

Dion Johnson, the Womanologist, powerfully describes her journey of unmasking and learning to ‘show up for real’ in all spheres of life. In her powerful book, ‘Influential Woman’, she discusses how women in leadership often “struggle to show up as [their] real selves, as different and distinct, and instead [are] obsessed and preoccupied with blending and fitting in.”

According to Goffee and Jones (2005), “leaders and followers both associate authenticity with sincerity, honesty, and integrity. [Authenticity is] the real thing—the attribute that uniquely defines great leaders.”

#2 Decisiveness

After much research and debate, the buck always stops with the leader to make a decision. It is important to find a balance between consensus building and taking necessary steps to execute decisions.

An effective leader is one who is willing to take on the risk of decision making and the accountability that comes with it when the outcomes are not as expected. Trying to escape the possibility of failure by avoiding difficult decisions will only limit your progress as a leader.

In a research into the impact of decisiveness, Joseph Folkman found that leaders who scored highest on the decisiveness index (the ‘High Potential’ group) were most likely to be promoted in the future while those lower down in the decisiveness index were ‘good performers’ but not likely to be promoted.

#3 Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Leaders who take the time to understand the needs of their colleagues or employees are better equipped to propose effective solutions.

Empathetic leaders are excellent listeners. They spend more time listening than talking, shifting the attention away from what they think to the actual needs being presented to them. Empathy is a valued currency in the marketplace, facilitating trust building and inclusion.

In summary, an effective leader is: true to themselves, doesn’t pass the buck and a good listener.