The past century has seen a huge volume of research on what it takes to be a leader.

As we step into the 21st century, it should come as no surprise that autocratic and hierarchical leadership styles and methods no longer work. Changes in organizational structure, workforce composition, technology and customer expectations have all created the need for a different approach to leadership.

Here are five key components that effective leaders all demonstrate. These five keys form a framework that will unlock leadership within an organization by developing existing and emerging talent.


Key #1: Begin with Yourself

It's been said many times, many ways: successful leadership begins with the individual. Successful leaders share a set of traits that include integrity, authenticity, courage, and curiosity.

Effective leaders are congruent: they know what they stand for and have the courage to convey it and the consistency to live it. Their followers can trust them because it's crystal clear who they are and what they stand for.

Successful leaders demonstrate and build courage through their willingness to take risks with visibility and vulnerability. Leaders learn to take complete responsibility for their decisions and actions, while sharing credit. Masterful leaders create confidence, respect, and loyalty by operating with integrity and authenticity.

This is more than a personality profile; it's a way of being and behaving based on core principles that work--and that can be developed.


Key #2: Shape and Share a Vision

Given the indisputable evidence on the significance of vision, what leader would try to operate without one? Navigating with vision is vital to effective leadership; those who seek to lead without one are crippled.

Organizational members need to know where the organization is going. Without direction, they flounder. To have direction and motivation, employees must see the big picture. Only a vivid sense of the future compels them to action. When they are committed to the vision and align it with their personal objectives, the resulting synergy lifts, fuels, and propels them forward.

Dynamic leaders consistently develop, articulate, and reverberate from a clear, concrete, inspiring, vision. They draw out natural desire and build unity and momentum through an exciting and colorful picture of possibility.


Key #3: Practice Partnering

The practice of partnering emerged in the last decade as a key to successful leadership. To partner means to actively align with others to achieve mutually desired results. Successful leaders think and talk in terms of "we," actively sharing information, power, involvement and responsibility for decisions that affect the business.

Effective leaders select partners with different perspectives, talents and interests, knowing that tapping a diversity of talents and perspectives provides a clear advantage. Leaders who fail to acknowledge and value each person as bringing a unique set of skills and experiences to the workplace lose a natural resource and damage the organization.

Partnering involves clarifying expectations and tasks and building relationships. It is a powerful process for gaining commitment, building loyalty, strengthening retention, and leading through collaboration. Yet, as with vision, it is not enough to simply clarify and articulate expectations. As needs and circumstances change, expectations must be clarified and communicated. This is where an adaptive style furthers the collaboration. Proficient partners are flexible and responsive to situational needs and changes, but still share the commitment to a common goal.


Key #4: Coach Continually

Coaching is another key to unlocking leadership. An organization can be viewed as a large, organic team, with the leaders providing the strategic game plan, encouragement and recognition, and the grooming of necessary competencies. A coaching approach also balances task and relationship.

Effective coaching requires trust and respect for both coach and team member. Employees benefit from clear directions, but only if tempered by acknowledgement of their vital role on and contributions to the team. Using mistakes as learning opportunities provides a key to unlocking talent. Winning leaders encourage their people to take risks, to pick themselves up, to turn mistakes into learning opportunities. When people know that mistakes are understood as a part of the experience, they'll be more creative and take more risks. They will allow for their own mistakes as well as those within their group, using fumbles to become stronger and more adept.

Winning leaders practice becoming masterful coaches. They endeavor to develop and improve their coaching skills and benefit from being coached. They become masterful listeners and keen observers to catch people succeeding and to openly praise them.


Key #5: Build Resilience

Resilience is the key to enduring leadership. Successful leaders learn to listen to their own system and to provide the elements that sustain them. Resilience, or the ability to bounce back from crises and from sudden or continuous changes, requires a relaxed and healthy system. There is nothing new about the importance of balancing good nutrition, sufficient rest, and play time. This is also a key to successful leadership. Leaders live with great challenges and demands; those who ride the unexpected with composure are those who have built a buffer for themselves. They maintain their reserves, being able to make energy withdrawals without breaking the bank.


JOANNE G. SUJANSKY, Ph.D., CSP is the founder of KEYGroup® and the author of six books,
including The Keys to Mastering Leadership.