Do you have what it takes to lead your organization to success? If you don’t, don’t worry: you can learn. Effective leaders are not born; they are made—and here are 20 skills they’re made of.

1. Stand by Your Team
People need to know you’re in their corner. Support equals motivation. Let your team see and hear you cheering them on. Share resources that may help them achieve their goals. A little help and encouragement can create amazing results.

2. Cultivate Relationships
Take the time to get to know your team members. Meet with them one-on-one with no interruptions. You’ll be amazed at what you find out. When people know you care, they’ll be inclined to work harder.

3. Acknowledge a Job Well Done
Let people know they make a difference. When people hear a compliment they are more apt to repeat the behaviors that got them acknowledged in the first place. Let people know it when others have praised them in their absence; this serves as a double dose of recognition and can be a great motivator.

4. Have a Clear Vision
Your team needs direction; they want you to lead the way. First envision where you are going and how you will get there, then share and shape that clear vision with your team. When everyone is moving in the same direction, your efforts are more focused.

5. Set Powerful Outcomes
“Powerful outcomes” are specific and challenging yet attainable. Set specific goals for your team members and you can avoid unnecessary surprises. This allows your team to more easily check their progress and ensures that they know what your expectations are.

6. Keep an Open Mind
“My way or the highway” tactics don’t work any more (if they ever did). People want to be heard and they want choices. Listen to your team’s ideas. Perhaps your way would work, but their way might be even better. New ideas can increase productivity.

7. Talk in Terms of “We”
This approach reminds you and your team that you’re all in it together. No one wants to feel they’re working alone. When there is a sense of unity, people are more likely to help each other, which results in a job done more effectively and efficiently.

8. Practice What You Preach
People want to know what you stand for, and they want to see that your values and beliefs guide you. Your team will learn more from what they see you do than from what you tell them. Whether or not you intend to, you always lead by example!

9. Kill the Grapevine
Rumors can wreak havoc on an organization. The key is to squelch rumors before they begin to spread, and you can do this by simply keeping your team informed. If everyone knows exactly what’s going on, the incidence of rumors will decrease dramatically.

10. Go Slow to Go Fast
People need to understand why a change is occurring and how they will be affected. Once they have the foundation, they are better prepared to move ahead. Failure to provide the “why” too often results in a “go fast to go slow” process!

11. Use Humor in Your Daily Interactions
A good laugh can be a great stress reliever. It makes people feel relaxed and renewed, which in turn creates a more positive environment.

12. Provide Training and Development for Everyone
People want to know that they are valued and they want to have marketable skills. Providing training opportunities proves that you care about your team’s professional development and will result in greater productivity.

13. Run Well-Planned, Participatory Meetings
Take the time to plan your meetings. No one likes meetings that are disorganized and boring. Respect people’s time, and they’ll be more likely to play an active role.

14. Network
Attend community events, the theatre, industry conferences…. You may think it’s difficult to find good talent, but it is out there. It’s just a matter of looking in all kinds of places.

15. Play
Yield to the child within. Play with toys, mold clay, paint with your fingers. Playfulness and freedom foster creativity. You’ll be surprised at what you come up with when you unleash your imagination.

16. If You See a Problem, Fix It
Whether it’s a process, a way of thinking, a tool or a phone number, if it is not working properly, fix it as soon as possible. People do not need to be burdened by things that should work and don’t.

17. Do It Now
Take a good, long look at your priorities. Many of the tasks and chores that dominate our time are urgent, but not necessarily important. Don’t let the urgent drive out the important!

18. Read
As a leader, your team should see you as a resource. When you are informed, you can provide valuable information that will help them accomplish their goals. The more you read, the more informed your team members will be.

19. Repeat Your Successes
If it worked before, why not try it again? Instead of wasting valuable time trying to come up with an entirely different plan, think of ways to improve on a plan that already worked. You triumphed then, you can again.

20. In Times of Change, Be More Available
When your organization is going through a change, limit commitments that may take you away from your team. People need you most during these times. When they have questions, you need to be there with an answer.


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