4 Steps to Develop Effective Leaders

First posted on LinkedIn

Here are four simple things that work to develop leadership in anyone.

team meeting or presentation

I’ve successfully used these four things with thousands of people, over many years, and you can use them with your team, or yourself. The concepts here are simple. Regular application is all it takes to produce amazing results. I typically do this development work over 6-12 months with teams, using real-life business projects. You will find they work best when applied, rather than conceptually studied.

Here then are the four simple things you can do to develop yourself, or another, into a great leader.

1) Take on something bigger than yourself.

Even if you fail in your initiative, if you go to work on something that you can’t do alone, you will develop some leadership skills. The mightier the task, the more audacious it is, the more it will inspire you, and inspire others. Give yourself fully to some great purpose. This starts an inspired process of living bigger than your own private concerns and is the beginning of real leadership. If you want to develop leadership in another, get them to take on something big that they are willing to give themselves fully to.

2) Be willing to be “the one.”

Even if you don’t know how, or what, to do, commit yourself to leading the project, initiative, or cause. Being willing to lead without evidence or experience is inspiring, if you are humble about it and not pretending that you are more experienced than you actually are. If you think about it, all great new initiatives are led by powerful leaders who don’t know what they are doing. Anything bold and new, has never been done before, and so it’s leaders could not possibly know what they are doing. Encourage others to step up, even if they lack confidence at first. Being “the one” is a powerful declaration and does not require anything other than the act of declaration. Be willing to be “the one.”

3) Develop courageous authenticity.

Most agree that authenticity is a trait of powerful leaders but we are often unclear about the path to authenticity. We frequently confuse sincerity with authenticity. Authenticity takes real, deep, courage. Courage is not being unafraid, but acting in the face of fear. So, how do we develop courageous authenticity? Simply by sharing authentically the things we are most afraid to share. Our fears, mistakes, weaknesses, failings, faults, and shortcomings are all things that we try to cover up, hide, or pretend away. Start opening up about all these kinds of things and you will quickly develop courageous authenticity. Stop pretending that it’s not appropriate in business. Authenticity is powerful everywhere and anywhere.

4) Take on integrity for yourself and for your group or project.

Integrity in this case is not to be confused with morality. The integrity that matters here is about being complete or whole as a person, organization, or initiative. A bike with a missing or loose spoke lacks integrity, and would not be a good idea in a major bike race. You could pedal a rickety wheel down to the corner market for milk but you would not use it to win the Tour de France.

Dealing with integrity is only as important as what you are working on. Our “wheel” is your business or initiative, and it’s integrity is always “going out.” When we are at work and engaged in anything, the integrity of the situation will naturally be declining all the time. The spokes of our “wheel” need constant attention, and it’s not good or bad. Integrity just creates workability, or an opportunity for performance. You still have to pedal that bike to victory, you just can’t do it on a failing wheel.

So what is integrity for people and organizations? It’s everything about the way we are organized and operate. For the people in your big initiative or growing business, it’s about your relationship with each other. How do people relate to you? Is it broken or degrading? If so, there’s somewhere that an expectation was missed or a promise broken. A powerful leader will deal not only with their word, but also the expectations they set through their actions. If you are up to anything big, you will break your word and miss expectations all the time. To restore the integrity you just need to acknowledge it, try to repair the damage caused, and look to see how or what you might change to prevent a future breakdown. This last part is especially useful, if our self assessment is deep and honest, we will discover the moment where the integrity started to go out. We will then be able to invent and put in place new things to prevent its recurrence. This is very different from “trying harder” or “being better” in the future.

There they are. Four simple things to develop, great leadership. They are not always easy to do, but they aren’t complicated either. From engaging in these four things we learn to inspire others, to evangelize, recruit, negotiate, partner, plan, execute, and to coach and develop our team. From this work we develop our own unique and authentic leadership voice.

If you would like a complimentary conversation with me, schedule it online here: complimentary-session



  1. True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, 2007,  Bill George & Peter Sims
  2. Creating Leaders: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model & THE HANDBOOK FOR TEACHING LEADERSHIP, Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper 11-037, May, 2013, Werner Erhard, Michael Jensen, & Kari Granger
  3. Integrity: A Positive Model That Incorporates the Normative Phenomena of Morality, Ethics, and Legality, Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 10-061, February 2010, Erhard, Werner H., Michael C. Jensen, and Steve Zaffron.
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