The Nature of Effective Leadership

Change is not merely necessary to life — it is life.” –  Alvin Toffler, Future Shock

“Weep not that the world changes—did it keep A stable, changeless state, it were cause indeed to weep.” – William Cullen Bryant

A guest post from

Effective leaders pursue personal growth and change.  They are not content to be who they are, choosing instead to be “personal growth entrepreneurs.”  As such they are continual learners, and sometimes voracious learners.  Whether they realize it or not, effective leaders live in a way that regularly challenges their own paradigms, sharpens their interpersonal, leadership, and life skills, and pushes them toward the growth edgy of life.

In the September 22 Adventure Blog post, leadership was identified as a consisting of a learnable skillset.   The skills of an effective leader are developed over time and by intentional action. This fact informs us as to the nature of the thinking of the effective leader.  First, effective leadership is based upon the nature of the leadership paradigm.  By this I mean the way the leader sees the world, the people, and the challenges around him or her.  How does that paradigm develop?  To be a good leader requires one to be alert to other leadership examples, and to always be learning from the skills, success, mistakes, and failures of others.

Second, to be effective in leadership, one must possess an accurate self-awareness, or what is called in the counseling world, accurate insight.  Besides learning from other leaders, personally and through more structured learning, the leader is constantly aware of their own leadership development and is indexing personal skills and values to those of other leaders and experts.  No amount of learning or watching others will be effective if the person cannot index their own behaviors to what they are learning or seeing.   One must be able to see their own actions and the impacts of them on others to understand what needs to change and where growth occurs.  Indeed, a person lacking insight almost by definition will not be able to rise to effective leadership of others.

Third, because effective leadership is values-driven an effective leader will be looking for more than simple skill development.  Pushing on into growth in personal values and in valuing people and relationships more than impersonal factors will require times of reflection and self-challenge. Leadership practices grow in response to thoughtful, mindful, intentional development, and effective leaders make personal growth into an aspiration and a hobby.

Fourth, underlying the growth and change that comes in the forms of learning, self-awareness, and values development is the development and maintenance of what is commonly referred to as a “growth mindset.”  The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset, which prefers status quo and resist growth and change in real terms.  Such a fixed mindset is antithetical to effective leadership, for it cannot readily be adaptive in leading or embracing of challenge and change.  The characteristics leading to growth and change in the leader – personal growth entrepreneurship, intentionally pursuing growth in personal skills, challenging personal paradigms, developing one’s values, and pursuing self-awareness – are key factors in a growth mindset.  The fixed mindset will not allow the person to go to these practices, for they will be disruptive to the status quo.  Only a growth mindset lends itself to the kind of development that will yield successful leadership values and skills.

Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”  —Vince Lombardi

Finally, as a result of the growth mindset and entrepreneurial thinking, effective leaders do not avoid challenge or resist change.  Rather, they embrace them as forces to be leveraged for positive growth and greater resilience at the individual, team and enterprise levels.  This is why most effective leaders are also adaptive leaders, for adaptive leadership not only rises to the challenge of change – it embraces it and leverages it for good.  How the leader thinks about adaptive challenges – opportunities, challenges, difficulties and disasters – is crucial, and both personal growth and leadership depend upon growth mindset successfully navigate these adaptive challenges.  Any person aspiring to leadership must identify the mindset they possess, and if it is present to replace a fixed mindset as soon as possible.

What impacts might the adaptive leader who possesses this growth mindset have on their own development, as well as on the team and the enterprise?  Clearly such a leader will consistently, in small ways and large, challenge the process where challenge is needed.  Whether it is a situation that needs to be corrected or an opportunity to be exploited, the adaptive leader will not let the status quo reign if better is possible.  Such leaders will also be willing to risk, perhaps even willing to take the big risk, if it is necessary to take the self, the team or the enterprise to the next level, or especially to stave off a serious setback.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

The next post in the Adventure Blog leadership series explores effective leadership’s impacts on individuals.

One thought on “The Nature of Effective Leadership

  1. Linda Johansen

    I like what you say here about a paradigm shift. When the Spirit is alive and moving in us, we may come to a place where our current paradigm is too small to hold what is waiting to born. To resist the shift is like trying to “pour new wine into old wine skins.” That was a good metaphor for the world 2,000 years ago. Today a more relatable one might be “the need for a software upgrade.” Otherwise our operating system may be inadequate to download a higher level of inspiration and illumination. How does a software upgrade occur? By suspending everything we’re certain about and leaving room for more to be revealed.


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