Six Essentials for Effective Leadership©

by | Mar 28, 2021 | Leadership


Everyone has experienced effective and ineffective leadership.  Both are easy to identify, even to feel, in most settings.  Understanding why leadership is effective or ineffective is tougher.  Occasionally there are obvious strengths or weaknesses.  But most of the time, the “why” is complex or even mysterious

During my four decades in business, I’ve noticed six factors always present with effective leadership.  No matter my role – consultant, team leader, manager, vice president, president, COO, CEO, business advisor, management system implementer, and executive coach – they were always visible around effective leaders.  Conversely, several were missing around ineffective leaders.

Even though my perspective changed over four decades and a variety of roles, the fundamental, mission-critical importance of these six essentials was constant.

They were not the only keys to success.  Effective leaders must have other skills and priorities in addition to these.  But I noticed that every effective leader demonstrates these essentials on a consistent basis.  When one or more of these “essentials” are missing, leadership is ineffective.

  1. Focus – The need for focus on strategy, markets, and product/service offerings is obvious. But there must also be focus on hiring and retaining staff, on new technologies, on relevant trends, on internal processes and standards, on critical partnerships in supply and distribution chains, and on capital sources. Not only on WHAT to do, but also on HOW to do it.  While focus across these areas must be integrated and consistent, it must also adapt and evolve.  Focus can’t be frozen.
    QUESTION:  Is there clear focus on strategy and its operational requirements throughout the organization?
  2. Execution — Results are the currency of leadership. Without results, the leader will not keep his leadership position for long.  This is most visible in the sports world.  Coaches with consistently losing records don’t survive long.  It’s also true in business, and increasingly, even in the not-for-profit sector.  It’s the simplest, most easily understood answer to the question, “Why should anyone follow you?”
    QUESTION:Is execution a driving value in this organization, proven by consistent achievement of results?
  3. Discipline – There is a critical need for systems and processes to achieve consistent and high-quality results. Organizational discipline is reflected in the development and constant use of proven processes, available tools, and appropriate staffing levels.  Lip service is easy – lining up all the critical components is proving it.  Individual discipline is reflected in unvarying attention to detail, a willingness to hone skills, and a commitment to “doing it right every time.”
    QUESTION:Does the organization foster and support a commitment to process, tools, and discipline?
  4. Communication – Everyone in an organization should understand the “what, why, and how” of key priorities for the overall organization, for the department or team, and for the individual. Only rarely are the answers to these three simple questions consistently shared and clearly understood – at all levels.  Especially today, the “why” of an organization is critically important to attracting, retaining, and motivating staff.  Occasional presentations are good, but constant “micro-reinforcement” is necessary, too.
    QUESTION:Is there complete awareness and understanding of key priorities, at all levels of the organization?
  5. Collaboration – Spontaneous teamwork, without any obvious direction or “orders,” is the best example of collaboration. It’s why sports without the biggest “stars” can prevail over the teams that are loaded with them.  Individual achievement and statistics are secondary to team results.  In too many organizations, leaders exhort their teams to “work together” without demonstrating collaboration at the leadership level.  Or by sharing staff, budgets, or other resources.  This is an area for which “leadership by example” is critical.
    QUESTION:Do the senior leaders in this organization collaborate well, providing examples of teamwork for results?
  6. Clarity – Many organizations are unclear about current conditions and challenges. Without clarity on those factors, how can there be an effective plan (including operations, resources, and finances) for achieving the organization’s goals?   An important aspect of achieving clarity is consistency, too.  There can’t be major weekly shifts in strategies, priorities, and everyone’s “to do list.”  True clarity means more than simple awareness of strategy and priorities.  It must include understanding, embracing, and consistently executing.
    QUESTION:Does the daily, weekly, and monthly activity across the organization clearly reflect goals and priorities?

Use this 2-page document to evaluate your personal “six essentials” or those of your organization.  Start a dialog on how to strengthen the items that may be falling short.  On a weekly basis, pick a leadership situation or challenge that has already occurred and evaluate its handling across the six essentials.  Better yet, use this list of six, in advance to optimize your preparation for effective leadership

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Mark Capaldini is President of Opportunity into Revenue (, and he can be reached at at

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