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What Qualities Make an Effective Leader?

What Qualities Make an Effective Leader?

These were the questions I was forced to ask myself while crying on the private bedroom closet floor. On the surface, you would have thought I had it all: a growing company with millions of dollars in revenue and profit, but what I was missing was the ability to embody a “growing great leader truly.” Over 15 years have passed since that day, and I have changed immensely by asking this question of myself. I now want to ask that question of you. What makes a great leader? Are you striving to become more like the list you are considering right now, or are you moving further from it?

Leadership is one of those topics that everyone seems to have an opinion on, but few truly understand. So, let’s dive into a few of the core qualities that define a great leader. To give you better illustration, I will also share a couple of bite-sized snippets of how I learned this truth and how it transformed my 7-figure business into a combination of enterprises generating 9-figure annual revenue and employing hundreds of team members that underscore these traits.

Vision

An effective leader must have a clear vision. This isn’t just about seeing where the organization is going but also understanding the steps needed to get there. The vision must be clear, concise, and able to be shared in a variety of environments that generate passion, team alignment, and most of all your and the team’s personal growth. A visionary leader inspires others to see the future as they do and rallies them to work towards it. I don’t like speaking of my homelessness much, but in this case, it makes sense to share that if you want to build a better story, you must not live out the current one. To take it a step future, you must also create a vision of the business, life, and relationships you want to live rather than focusing on the past. 

I had to have a vision of building a better life for myself and you do as well. My vision kept me going through the toughest times of my life and later, my entrepreneurship journey. When I founded my first company, I applied the same principle. I envisioned a company that didn’t just make money but made a difference. That vision helped me attract like-minded people who shared my passion and drive.

Empathy

Empathy is about understanding and sharing the feelings of others. An empathetic leader listens, understands, and cares about their team members. This creates a supportive environment where people feel valued and motivated to contribute their best. Over the years I have had many team members who were struggling with a life event that caused them to drop performance-wise. Great leaders ask “Why” before they focus on the “Who” or the What. Empathy always leads to someone else receiving the empowering energy of your team. The goal is to balance empathy with consistent standards. Listening will always build elevated relationships over speaking. Use your ears to hear, your mind to discern, and your actions to reinforce. If you are going to be an elevated leader, your going to have to live by a elevsated principles that cause you to care, when what you really want to do is work on a project. If you choose to work on a project you will miss the opportunity to build out a reliable team. 

Integrity

Integrity is the foundation of trust. It’s about doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. A leader with integrity builds a culture of honesty and transparency, which is crucial for long-term success. There was a time when we faced a major setback due to a mistake, namely costing my own company, myself, and my team a few million dollars of profits and since I shared the profits, we all lost out. I had a choice to make hide as if I had not made the decisions I made or shared how my mistake was going to change me and my choices in the future. Here is the thing, if you know you made a mistake, your team already knows you made the mistake. In the end I chose to own it, and yes, I was not the most trusted Founder & CEO for a few months, that was until I was again by consistently keeping my words in line with my actions. Before long the profit that was lost had been regained and then some, the team began to trust because I remained transparent assuring those that were bought in, I was in it with them. OWN YOUR MISTAKES publicly and give away your earned credit daily. Leaders don’t really care about the gold star they care about seeing those they lead win in a crusade of sorts that matters. 

Anticipation – Adaptability

An effective leader must be able to anticipate and pivot almost simultaneously. History is a great teacher of business and human behavior. Never was this more evident than the pandemic. While we could not have anticipated the pandemic, most businesses had a hard time staying afloat, with many closing their doors altogether. The number one cause is not enough capital/cash in savings to cover the gap between being forced to close for extended periods of time. Steve Myrick once told me that when others are praising the bull market to be the ones to prepare for the bear market to come. Cycles are predictable because humans are predictable, which opens us up to risk when we expect a large reward. Great leaders adjust strategies, prepare in advance, and respond to changing circumstances. This flexibility ensures that the team can overcome obstacles and seize new opportunities. That experience taught me that adaptability isn’t just a skill but a mindset.

Communication

Clear and effective communication is essential for any leader. It’s about conveying ideas, expectations, and feedback in a way the team understands and appreciates. Great communication starts with great listening that leads to the fostering of collaboration and ensures that everyone is on the same page. In one of my companies, we faced a major project delay because of a communication breakdown. I realized that I needed to improve how I conveyed our goals and expectations. By implementing regular check-ins and fostering open dialogue, we got back on track and even surpassed our original targets. I once heard it said, “it’s unkind to be unclear”. I believe this holds true in every aspect of communication. Great teams don’t gossip about things they can’t improve on, nor do they delay the conversations they need to have because they are uncomfortable. As a result, it’s a requirement that great leaders must always take the first step in opening healthy but direct lines of communication.

Passion

Passion is contagious. An effective leader must be passionate about their work and inspire that same level of enthusiasm in their team. Passion drives persistence and creativity, making it a critical component of success. My passion for helping others achieve their potential has always been a driving force. When I started the Unstoppable Startup, it was more than just a business venture; it was a mission. It was a passion project to help well-meaning entrepreneurs avoid the pitfalls, mistakes, and challenges I had to face in an effort for them to not just survive in business but thrive in their businesses and communities. That passion attracted a team of dedicated individuals who shared my vision and helped turn that dream into reality.

Decisiveness

Leaders must make tough decisions, often with limited information. Decisiveness involves weighing the options, considering the potential outcomes, and taking action. It’s better to make a decision and learn from it than to remain paralyzed by indecision. It wasn’t easy when I had to decide whether to exit one of my companies. There were risks involved, and the future was uncertain. However, after weighing the pros and cons and trusting my instincts, I decided to move forward. That decisive action led to one of the most profitable exits in my career as well setting up the business to build upon the legacy I had created with a hammer, a nail, and a trash pile some 25 years earlier and now I like you in time can use my experience in the service of others.

Conclusion

Being an effective leader isn’t about having a title or authority; it’s about embodying these qualities and inspiring others to follow your lead. Vision, empathy, integrity, adaptability, communication, passion, and decisiveness are the cornerstones of great leadership.

Remember, leadership is a journey, not a destination. Keep learning, keep growing, and most importantly, keep leading with heart and purpose. True leadership is about self-leadership. If you can discipline your mind you can trust your actions!

You Got This, Much Love, God Bless 

Stephen Scoggins

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