What makes an effective leader? If you ask ten different people, you will probably get ten different answers. The definitions and spin on the subject can vary from one person to the next, but one thing is for certain – where there are people, leadership is critical. Common threads in each definition, however, tend to repeat: vision, communication, and engagement. Leaders who do not have a clear vision or who do not communicate their vision well will have trouble trying to engage others to support their cause.

• Vision

A successful vision offers something better than what a potential follower has in the present – it promises a better future.

A vision is nothing more than a goal to be attained by a certain means. To create a compelling vision, you have to clearly state your goal and what you are going to do to reach that goal. A vision without a plan is not a vision – it's only one person's dream. To make your vision even more compelling, you need to show others how they fit into the plan and encourage them to follow you into a better future.

• Communication

The first step in communicating is to build credibility. You cannot lead a team of people you if you have no credibility. The most direct way to build credibility is to build trust and the best way to build trust is to be available to others and deliver on your promises. You can't buy trust, you can't create it – you have to earn it.

The second step in communicating is to lay out a plan and explain it clearly. No one can follow you if they don't know where you're going. Communicate your vision and your plan. Let people know what you want to accomplish today, next week, next month and next year. Give them a clear path to see to the end goal.

The last and most extremely important part of communicating is to actively listen. Communication should always be a two way street. Actively listening to people you want to engage in your vision has a two-fold reward. First, you will gain their trust. When you start to listen to people, they begin to believe that everything is not always about you – they can see that they are important to you and to the vision. The second reward is that you will gain insightful ideas on how to reach your goals. The collective knowledge of many is much more powerful than the self-serving knowledge of one.

• Engagement

Many people believe to be successful in something you have to know everything about it. Unfortunately, many technically talented people fail in their endeavors and less technically adept people (who know how to rally the troops) are better at getting the job done.

Great leaders know how to engage a team. Leaders look for and use the talents of those around them. Leaders use time wisely – their own time and the time of their team members. They reward people for success and if success is not immediate, they reward people for their loyalty.

In short, details can be managed, but the people must be led and effective leaders know how to communicate a vision and engage the team around them to a successful outcome.

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If you are looking for more information on business management, you might be interested in some of the other articles I've written:

How to Create an Effective Performance Appraisal System, Understanding the Concept of Opportunity Cost, Basics of How to Counsel an Employee for Improper Behavior, Understanding the Basics of Cost Accounting, Understanding the Importance of Organizational Behavior, Understanding the Use of Financial Ratios in Management of Working Capital