“What is leadership?”

This is often one of the first questions I ask participants on my leadership development programmes. In small groups, leaders huddle together to consider the question and share their thoughts. There is usually an initial silence whilst the question lands, then a gentle buzz begins as ideas begin to flow.

Feedback from the groups can be quite varied. While some focus on positional power and hierarchy, for others the line is blurred between management and leadership. Eventually we start to tease out some of the traits that make a  real difference.

Traits of Effective Leaders

I have distilled some key traits under three headings… for leaders to be effective they:

  1. Inspire
  2. Engage
  3. Evolve


Great leaders inspire!

Importantly, leaders driven by purpose know why they are motivated to take action. They know they are making an impact to further a belief or cause they care about. This sense of purpose provides leaders focus and is their source of energy and motivation, like a clarion call attracting others to contribute. Whilst purpose ignites enthusiasm, great leaders also need vision and clear outcomes, to communicate the direction in which they are travelling.

Fostering an environment that inspires, requires values to be established. A guiding set of values, that are lived and modelled by the leader, provides a moral compass. Values establish “how we do things around here”, determining how we behave and guides decision making.


With inspiring foundations in place, leaders engage people to perform and contribute to further the purpose of the organisation. Individuals thrive when given autonomy. Effective leaders recognise this by coaching, rather than telling, encouraging their team to think for themselves and take responsibility for their actions. Theses leaders let go of controlling behaviour, knowing the team are equipped with the necessary information to take the lead for their own projects and actions.

Effective leaders provide support in the form of coaching to provide stretch and challenge. They are curious, making time to listen to the stories and challenges arising and provide opportunity for reflection. Effective leaders value relationships and get to know people well, knowing strengths and when individuals need the support of others. They can listen and respond, without the need to rescue and provide solutions. Whilst this approach may take longer in the short term, longer term it generates deeper relationships that foster trust and resilience. Individuals grow in confidence knowing they are supported and equipped with the skills to find their own solutions to everyday problems.


To evolve as a leader requires time to reflect and develop a greater sense of self awareness. Recognising the impact they make and being conscious about the kind of leader they want to be.

Effective leaders recognise leadership is happening all around them and encourage growth in others. Patience may be required, whilst supporting others to grow. Persevere and be rewarded by developing a high performing environment where individuals flourish.

Pause for thought…

What kind of leader are you?

How do you inspire, engage and evolve those around you?

If you are curious about leadership and how organisations are evolving sign up for Teal Fest 2018 and join the conversation.




Karen Mason inspires leaders to define and align with their purpose, whilst fostering engaging workplace cultures, where people matter. Karen is known for her passion and expertise in coaching and facilitation, the impact of which has a positive influence on the way leaders lead within their organisation.

One last step...

Please enter your details below and wait for the next page to load. Here you'll get access to the private Facebook group to view lives and check in each day.

You have Successfully Subscribed!