The Criteria Of Effective Leadership

One of the subjects that has always fascinated and caught my attention (ever since I was a little boy following the example and influence of my three older brothers) has been leadership. Whether we realize or understand it or not, every one of us has been influenced and affected by leadership of some sort in our lifetime. From the cradle to the grave, people in various aspects of our lives have exercised oversight, influence, and even authority over us. In a nutshell, this is exactly what leadership is all about. It is about being led or influenced by another, whether in a good and legitimate enterprise and endeavor or one that is illegal and detrimental. Throughout the course of history in every aspect of human interaction and social intercourse, leadership – whether good or bad – has proven to be the catalyst that motivated and moved the masses. This has been the case politically, religiously, philosophically, academically, militarily, scientifically, and even in the marketplace. I am going to present to you and comment briefly on a few of the qualities of effective leaders.

They Learned How to Lead by First Learning How to Follow
Perhaps the first stage of development of anyone who became or is becoming an effective leader in any profession or field of pursuit is that they learn how to be a good follower. One of the essential principles of leadership preparation is simply this: Those who refuse to follow as a subordinate will never develop into a good and effective leader regardless of their abilities, skills, and potentials. Many have flunked out, dropped out, or been put out of the school of leadership development because they would not submit to the oversight and instruction of their superiors.

Leads from the Front and Not the Rear
In modern military battle field formation, the higher field officers (like Colonels on up the rank) lead and strategize from the rear. That was not the case in many of the ancient armies of history, like the Israelites, Greeks, and Romans. Their leaders led from the front or tip of the spear or formation as long as they were strong and skilled in battle enough to do so. Leading from the front, as it applies to non-military tactics, equates to leaders taking the initiative to show their followers and subordinates how to be effective and proficient in doing their job. Great leaders do not say to their subordinates, “Do not as I do, but as I say do.” Instead, they say and demand that their followers follow their example and lead. More than anyone else on the team, they epitomize unity and loyalty.

Takes Blame and
Shares Credit
A very rare quality that is extremely hard to find in most human beings is one of the glaring qualities that all effective leaders possess. They will take the blame when their team fails or suffers defeat. Though I am not an admirer of the cause General Robert E. Lee fought for as the Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate Army during the Civil War, I admire the leadership quality he had. He took the blame when his army lost decisive battles, like the one at Gettysburg. Perhaps as equally important as the quality of taking the blame is that of sharing the credit with subordinates and others for success and victory, whether on the battlefield, the football field, the office, or any other environments and venues where teamwork is required to be competitive and win. Good leaders know how important it is to share the credit with others.

Delegates Responsibility and Authority
Since it is a proven fact that no one person can get the job done when it requires many working in concert, a wise leader will delegate both responsibility and authority to others under his oversight who have proven themselves worthy of such trust and task. Many leaders have failed when they refused to delegate some of their responsibility and authority to others who were ready and able to handle the assignment when the workload increased. Regrettably, this is one of the reasons why many churches who began to experience growth gradually loss their momentum and productivity. If God instructed Moses to delegate some of his responsibility and authority to Joshua before the congregation of the Israelites (Numbers 27:18-23), we would do well to follow this prudent principle and practice as primary leaders ourselves.

They Can Receive Sound Advice and Constructive Criticism
Though there are quite a few other qualities I could have included that effective leaders have, time and space will not permit me to do so. Nevertheless, I will conclude with this very important attribute that all great and good leaders must possess. They must be humble and accessible enough to receive sound advice and constructive criticism. Not all sound advice and constructive criticism comes from those who are over you in rank and authority. That kind of advice and criticism is quite easy to receive. Afterall, it comes from your superiors. The kind that poses a challenge to many leaders often will come from subordinates who see what you can not see from your position. They have a better perspective of problems that exist in the workforce with their peers. Effective leaders will listen to and seriously consider the sound advice and constructive criticism of their subordinates.