CEOs are responsible for 45% of a company’s most significant moves, according to McKinsey & Company. That’s not surprising considering that CEOs are tasked with steering the proverbial ship that is their company, with the support of executive leadership and management.
When considering effective corporate leadership, names such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs come to mind due to their companies’ success and their lasting impact. More recently, Whitney Wolfe Herd of the dating app Bumble has redefined the leadership archetype by becoming the youngest female CEO to take a company public. What qualities do Jobs, Gates, and Herd share? How does a person become an effective leader?
Effective communication, strong management and motivational skills, and a solid business foundation are all key to good leadership. A program such as Maryville University’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) can help current and aspiring leaders cultivate those skills.
The importance of an effective leader
Successful companies have a few attributes in common. Their teams are motivated and personally invested in the company’s mission. Communication is clear throughout the organization. The business culture is one of encouragement, constant self-improvement, and diversity of thought. Company values and purpose are clear and demonstrated through the organization’s actions.
Successful leaders inspire this kind of positive culture by their actions. When a leader demonstrates integrity, solid core values, honesty, and a positive attitude, their actions are likely to encourage employees to follow suit. Conversely, if someone in a position of leadership demonstrates poor ethics, dishonesty, and hostility toward their employees, the company culture is more likely to become toxic.
Effective corporate leadership can go a long way to making employees feel personally invested in their company and more engaged with their work.
Skills and styles of an effective leader
Attributes of effective leadership can be broken down into two different categories: the skills that a leader brings to the table and the style of leadership they demonstrate.
Skills of an effective leader
Strong leaders employ several useful skills to ensure a productive, loyal workforce and efficient company operations.
Being able to communicate with employees is key to effective leadership. Workforces are composed of a diverse group of individuals of different ages, genders, backgrounds, education, and cultures. As such, managers should cultivate a communication style that works for multiple audiences. Good communication goes both ways, which means managers and executives should also be active listeners who seek out and act on their employees’ input.
Executives do a considerable amount of work and make big decisions, but they also need to be skilled delegators. This means handing off tasks and responsibilities to employees with clearly defined expectations. Those in leadership who don’t effectively delegate can wind up overwhelming themselves with tasks that they should have handed off.
Effective leaders find ways of inspiring and motivating their workforce. Some examples include leading by example, publicly recognizing employees, offering incentives (bonuses, gift cards, additional vacation days, etc.), facilitating team-building exercises, setting reasonable personal and team goals, and practicing other forms of positive reinforcement.
Effective leaders are agile in their thinking and creative in their problem-solving when things don’t go to plan. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic completely shifted how modern companies do business. Company leaders collectively had to figure out how to allow their employees to continue working and collaborating while also ensuring their safety. Innovative leaders discovered early on that video conference platforms such as Zoom would allow them to do just that.
The five styles of leadership
Different contexts and companies can require specific styles of leadership.
Under authoritarian leadership, those at the top of the corporate ladder make all key decisions with minimal external input. Business leaders lay out clear expectations to employees, with clear outcomes defined. While authoritarian leadership can lead to increased efficiency, it can stifle innovation and collaboration.
Participative leadership operates under the principle that every employee should have a say in the decision-making process. Managers and executives look for active participants to pitch their best ideas, suggest innovations, and contribute to the company’s direction. This style of corporate leadership helps employees feel heard and valued, which can make them more invested in their jobs.
Delegative leadership, which involves assigning decision-making and other key tasks to team members, is ideal for leaders who have a keen eye for finding talent. Finding the right VP of sales or marketing director and empowering them to make their own business decisions is delegative leadership in action.
In transactional leadership, corporate leaders lay out clearly defined goals for their employees, with specific rewards and punishments contingent on performance. One advantage of this type of leadership is that everyone clearly knows their responsibilities and expectations. High-performing employees tend to thrive under transactional leadership.
Transformational leadership is perhaps the most emotionally based leadership style. Leaders rally their teams with inspirational speeches, passion, and a company vision. They are viewed as role models, which means employees are invested in them personally as much as they are in the company. But if that relationship sours, leadership can fail.
How to become an effective leader
Becoming an effective leader is an ongoing process that requires constant learning and readjustment. Therefore, leaders should be committed to lifelong career self-improvement.
The right education is a crucial step, and aspiring business leaders can learn leadership tactics, interpersonal management skills, and operational expertise in a strong MBA program. But the best leaders continue developing through self-examination (analyzing their own performance), self-improvement (taking action to correct mistakes), and lifelong learning (continuing to increase knowledge in their field).
Growing leadership through education
The right combination of education, skills, and style can help you become an effective leader. Graduate degree programs offer many benefits, from working with renowned business leaders to networking opportunities that can lead to exciting careers.
For those interested in working toward a role in corporate leadership, Maryville University’s online Master of Business Administration can provide the education and skills you’ll need to pursue your professional goals.
Take your first brave step to becoming an effective leader today with Maryville University.