An effective leader needs to have a couple of qualities that are nonnegotiable.
First, leaders need to be credible in their profession. You don’t necessarily need to be the best, although this certainly doesn’t hurt, but you need to be respected professionally for people to follow you. No CEO, coach, team captain, teacher or any professional leader will be effective in getting others to follow unless they’re respected for the work they’ve accomplished in their profession. Although circumstances may dictate who you work for, it doesn’t mean you will follow that person.
Additionally, leaders should strive to motivate those around them. Not everyone can be famed basketball coach John Wooden, Gen. George Patton, commander of the Seventh Army in the Mediterranean and European theatres of World War II, or Abraham Lincoln. Their circumstances played a large role in their legendary leadership. They were able to motivate those around them. It’s not too much to ask a leader to make an effort to motivate those around him. Honesty and enthusiasm are both contagious and play a huge role in motivating others.
A leader must also follow. There are very few people in leadership positions who don’t answer to someone else. The team captain must listen to the coaches, the CEO must answer to a board, and leaders in the military serve the chain of command. If you want people to follow you, then you must show them how you follow.
Leaders must care about those they work with. This gets increasingly more difficult for leaders as they move up the ranks, but it shouldn’t. For followers to know their leader cares, leaders must get to know their people and even befriend them.
I strive to be a servant leader in any leadership position I find myself in. If I lead by serving those who follow versus trying to make them serve my interests, then they will know I care about them and the team becomes stronger.
Finally, leadership is hard work. It takes constant effort. The most difficult thing about being a good leader, like being a good father, husband or fighter pilot, is the job never stops.