What Makes a Leader Effective?


Are effective leaders born or are they created?

Who creates effective leaders? Can we teach effective leadership? Can an effective manager be an effective leader?

These are philosophical questions, without a doubt. Practical questions, too. The last question about managers being leaders addresses an assumed requirement. I don’t agree with the assumption that leadership and management are the same. I do agree that managers have leadership roles, but in many cases, the talents and abilities of an effective manager are not the same as those of an effective leader.

The first question about effectiveness can be answered by looking at the bell curve—the normal statistics distribution. Naturally effective leaders are rare, that top group in the sixth sigma. Is it too much for one person to have vision, to see the value of a specific path, to be able to devise a way to get to the goal at the end of that path, and to have the ability to encourage people to follow them to that goal? Is it too much to expect a person to have the natural ability to break group inertia, maintain momentum, and keep the effort together and moving forward? Is it too much to expect one person to have the natural ability to measure progress and the flexible ego that allows a leader to accept setbacks and mistakes, to learn and progress?

Are We Expecting a Superman with All of Those Natural Abilities?

If so, why do so many business owners and managers expect full natural ability?

Let’s consider some definitions:


1. A person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company or similar organization; the manager of a bar; the sales manager.

2. A person who controls the activities, business dealings, and other aspects of the career of an entertainer, athlete, group of musicians, etc. "She left it to her manager to deal with the canceled concerts."

3. A person in charge of the activities, tactics, and training of a sports team. Frank Robinson was baseball's first black manager.

4. In a high school or college, a student who assists the coach of an athletic team.


1. The person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country, e.g., the leader of a protest group.

2. A person followed by others. "He is a leader among his classmates."

3. An organization or company that is the most advanced or successful in a particular area, e.g., a leader in the use of video conferencing.

So is a manager a leader? I don’t think so; not by definition. Leaders lead people who choose to follow them. Managers control and administer. A manager controls others—and those they control may have no choice in the matter.

Now take the question in a different direction:  Can a manager be a leader? Yes.

Back to our basic question:  What makes a leader effective?


1. Successful in producing a desired or intended result.

2. Impressive; striking. "An effective finale."

Successful, impressive, striking in producing a desired or intended result.

Was Churchill an effective leader in WWII? How about Patton? Hitler?

Look at what you do today. Are you a manager? Are you a leader?

If you are controlling and administrating assets (things and stuff) and resources (people and services), you are nothing but a manager. If you have to work hard to attract good talent to come work for you, you are nothing but a manager—and your company is not that hot, either.

If people are calling you up and asking to come work for you; if people in other departments ask, “How do I join in?”; if peers in other companies call to ask, “How do you do that?” then I would call you a leader. And a damn effective one at that!

What do you think?

Whom Do You Want as a Leader?

I thought so.

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