How to be an effective leader

Written by Nick Gold on 15 November 2017

We live in a world that is changing and evolving quicker than at any point in history. The fourth revolution is upon us, and now technology is intrinsically interwoven to every aspect of our lives; it underpins the physical, digital and biological world.

Not to mention it feeds into the workplace too, because different generations in the workplace interact with this shifting world in different ways, leadership is also changing and evolving.

Historically leadership meant leading ‘from the front’, where the onus was solely on the ‘the leader’ to guide the team forward. However, like the shifting world, leadership has evolved too. My belief is that great leadership now starts with the team, and not the individual.

As such, the greatest success will always come from a collaborative effort.

21st Century or fourth revolution leadership involves the identification of the right people with a strong mix of skills and backgrounds and bringing them together to form a diverse team. Once you have this team in place, it is important to nurture them individually as well as a collective.

An effective leader will understand their role as an enabler, someone who shouldn’t be directing the path forward, but encouraging those around you to seek out different solution.

This means a great leader will understand the drivers and the motivations of each individual and tailor their working practices around this, rather than adopting a one size fits all model. Looking out for the individuals will ensures the team will in turn flourish too.

An effective leader will understand their role as an enabler, someone who shouldn’t be directing the path forward, but encouraging those around you to seek out different solution. They also act as a sounding board to stimulate debate and discussion, rather than to direct it.

We have existed as a species where Darwin’s Theory of Evolution has predicated itself on Survival of the Fittest. This has meant that the leader has typically been the biggest, strongest, wisest and most dominant personality, naturally prompting the beta types to defer to the alpha for their decisions and knowledge.

However, the definition of ‘the fittest’ needs to evolve alongside the times we live in. ‘The fittest’ is the person who shows humility and understanding of those around them, it is the person who values guidance from their team members at every level and the one who fosters the environment where everyone can be at their best.

The fourth revolution has meant that digital natives might be (and probably are) decades younger than senior leaders. But, they are the people who understand naturally, the problems and opportunities associated to the environment around them.


So, the challenge for the leader is to balance up the drivers of the different team members. The leader must create a culture where the experienced individual is as valued as the digital native, where everyone has something to bring to the table.

The new leader will understand how to say no to a suggestion, not from a position of historical hierarchy, but rather from a collective understanding that there might be different or better ways to do things. A well led team will know that ‘no’ is an encouragement to develop and an opportunity, not a blocker for an individual.

Leadership comes from everyone, from their own innate beliefs and skillsets, where they can provide guidance to each other and seek advice. This culture of sharing and encouragement will help to further both personal as well as their company’s (or team) goals.

The ‘effective leader’ is a world away from the historical perception of a leader. With rapid change taking place in all facets of society, this person is morphing into someone who facilitates a whole team of leaders, asking them to bring their expertise and knowledge to any given situation.

The leader understands each individual’s needs and fosters an environment which enables the team to successfully deliver their collective aspirations, as well as their personal goals.


About the author

Nick Gold is managing director of market-leading speaker bureau and consultancy, Speakers Corner

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