Effective Leadership: Do’s & Don’ts of Becoming a Great Leader

Be the Max Goodwin of the Leadership World

We’ve all had them; the boss’s who you would never work for again, and those who you aspire to be. Be the latter! Effective leadership doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow the simple points in this article and your team will never want to leave.

‘How can I help?’ Were the first words of Dr Max Goodwin, Medical Director of New Amsterdam Medical Centre. Yes I know, it’s a fictional Amazon Prime drama. But the character smashes effective leadership through the high ceilinged, chemically smelling, patient entrapped roof!

3 wooden figures with lines to a red figure

Throughout the drama, Max shows traits of a successful leader with his trustworthy approach to his team. Each team member runs their own departments, and it’s his job as the boss to help them to do it as effectively as possible. He does this by his creative ‘thinking outside the box’ philosophy, alongside his positive attitude, and it works.

Leaders will succeed in their roles by being good at not only their jobs (they’ve got to their top positions by already proving this), but they also need to be effective at managing people and keeping their teams happy. A happy team leads to fantastic output which means continued success for you!

And this is how effective leadership can be achieved:

Communication & Empathetic Leadership

As with everything, communication is key! There are a few steps to succeed in this.

Clearly communicate the business’s vision to your team. If they don’t understand the purpose of the business, then they’ll never achieve the goals that you have set or been given. It’s a team effort, so bring them all onboard.

As a leader, always make clear that you have an open-door policy. Your team should be able to trust that they can come to you with anything, even catastrophic problems. Although they’ll be expecting a telling off, you can berate them in private, but never in public. Always have their back and they’ll recognise the loyalty given to them which will build trust between you.

Your team are your priority. Your team are the people delivering your goals. If you don’t make time for them, then there is a risk of failure. Make sure you set regular time with them. Understand their bottlenecks.

Woman in a white home office on the phone

Are there any blockers risking a project landing that you can help with? Do they have all the tools that they need? Outside of the regular catch-ups, ALWAYS answer calls and reply to emails. Even if it has to wait until the end of the day, don’t end the day without checking in if they’ve tried to reach you.

Go beyond just an open door policy, be the empathetic leader. Create a culture where people can be transparent. If you listen empathetically, you’ll learn a lot more. Be curious, ask questions, get feedback. Feedback can be a  powerful device to help your own improvement and to become that effective leader!


To gain the trust of your team you need to lead by example. Remember how it was when you were in their position. How would you have wanted your boss to treat you? Think of how you are perceived. Does this match up to how you want to be perceived? Is there anything you can change to improve? If you treat your employees how you would want to be treated, then this in turn will build trust.

Always action what you say you’re going to do. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. If you’re unsure about something, then be truthful, but NEVER give false promises. The lack of trust will never be repaired. An employer/employee relationship that has mutual trust, however, will guarantee successful results overall.

Project a positive attitude. If your mood changes when you’re feeling stressed, it’s going to impact the rest of the team. Don’t let them see if you’re worried about a situation. Stay in control, assert positivity and the team will follow.

Develop Your Team

For ongoing loyalty and longevity, effective leaders will always develop their employee’s careers. Whether it be with exam sponsorship, internal training programmes, or coaching sessions themselves from their own experiences. Developing someone will keep them motivated and engaged.

With development, you’re also fitting the requirement for succession planning, which should be an ongoing goal for any effective leader.

As part of this, don’t micro-manage. No one has ever thanked a boss for micro-managing, it always has the opposite effect! As a leader, you don’t need the detail. Your team are (or should be) the experts at their job. If you have open and clear communication, you should have trust that they will come to you if needed, and trust that they can get on with their jobs otherwise. By trusting their abilities, this in turn will keep them motivated and engaged, rather than belittled.

A group of colleagues with hands in centre
Always set your employees up to succeed, not fail. Maximise what they’re good at and as you become aware of their limitations, mentor them through it for continual improvement. Make sure they’re aware of your expectations and make a point to check in on developments on any projects they’re working on so you can guide them if needed before it reaches a point of possible failure.

Recognise Success

ALWAYS recognise success. Effective leadership is about building up your team. Unlike many instances where berating is kept private, make sure any successes are known to all. This will mean everything to them, not only for their motivation, but it will help with their career growth by the perception of their abilities to the rest of the business.

If you have multiple team members, always make sure successes are found evenly amongst them to shout about. Be aware of your unconscious bias. If you have a favourite, it’s a bit like having a favourite child, keep it to yourself! By recognising one team member, be mindful that you don’t want to demotivate others. Treat all team members as individuals and recognise them for what they bring to the business. It’s likely you’ll be working with extroverts and introverts, but make sure everyone is heard.

If you wanted to dig deeper into this, you could use insights profiling. Know how your team is shaped. Everyone has weaknesses, but you can balance each weakness in your team by playing to each of their individual strengths.

Have Courage

As a leader, they’ll always be times where you have to make decisions, and not all of them are going to be easy. To be an effective leader, you need to have courage to make the hard decisions. They may not be the decisions you want to make, but if you conclude that it’s right for the business, then you need courage to action and see it through.

Stephen Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book front cover

Stephen Covey theorises how to be an effective leader in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It sets out well, what it says, 7 habits of how to be a highly effective person. The habits can be practised for both personal and professional development in order to become a high achiever and practice effective leadership. The 7 habits are:

  1. Be Proactive.
  2. Begin with the end in mind.
  3. Put first things first.
  4. Think win/win.
  5. Seek to understand first, before making yourself understood.
  6. Learn to synergise.
  7. Sharpen the saw.

Be Proactive

In the first habit, Covey highlights the responsibility of an individual on their own life as key to success. You should focus on the circle of influence and not dwell on circumstances outside of your control. If there’s a negative impact to you on something you’re not in control of, then focus on how you deal with it.

To be proactive, you need to ensure that you don’t digress from commitments you’ve made to yourself. If you set a goal, continue to work towards it. This behaviour over time will inherently prove your integrity, and you’ll be trusted by your colleagues and those you lead. Not only will your character shine but you’ll always reach those goals you’ve set.

Begin With the End in Mind

For effective leadership, you need clear goals, including the desired outcome and a set timeline. This will keep you focused on the end result that will lead to success.

Most companies have a mission statement. By having a vision for the company, all employees work towards the same values and goals. In Covey’s second habit, he encourages everyone to make a mission statement, not just company-wide, or team-wide, but for your personal life too. If you have ambitions, with effective planning, starting with a personal mission statement, you’re ensuring you’ll get there!

As mentioned previously, communication is key. If the mission is communicated clearly and effectively, everyone will work towards the common goal.

4 check boxes with Set Goals as the title and red ticks

Put First Things First

In the third habit, the focus is around your independent will. The purpose of this is to show you that you can make decisions to change things. Prioritisation is vital to success. It’s about ensuring that the most important tasks that will make the most impact will always be achieved.

Covey illustrates this with an empty jar, sand, stones and rocks. If you fill the empty jar with the sand first (the non-vital, everyday tasks), there is no room for the rocks (the most important tasks that will drive your goals forward). If you start with the rocks, then stones, and finally add the sand, the sand filters down the cracks and fills the jar. By doing this, you’ll always stay true to your original mission and therefore will achieve that goal!

Think Win-Win

‘Life must be seen as a cooperative, not as a competition’. Covey believes in mutual benefit. For win-win to be a success, an effective leader requires the following traits for interpersonal leadership.

Self-awareness, imagination, conscience and independent will.

He also conveys the importance of character and relationships for a win-win agreement to succeed.

Character: this is where integrity comes in. Covey also states that an abundance mentality is required (i.e. there is plenty of everything for everyone, one person’s success doesn’t threaten your success).

Relationships: the one about trust! Trust is essential in the success of a win-win agreement. It’s about working towards common goals and finding resolutions so that both parties come away having achieved something.

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Here, Covey sets out the need for emphatic listening. Not to just listen in order to reply, but to listen to understand. To make sure that the other party is aware that you have understood their point of view and have heard them by acknowledgement. Only then can you reply. If you understand others points of view and concerns before relaying your own, all the while you are learning. This is vital for a win-win success as it will then be easier to reach a mutual agreement. 

Learn to Synergise

For all of the above to succeed, synergy is imperative. Covey explains that this is where effective leaders identify that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

With group collaboration and the input of collective minds, you reach something far greater than you would as an individual. This is a creative process that requires openness, communication, teamwork and team building.

Sharpen the Saw

Covey’s 7th and final habit is self-explanatory. It states that an effective leader requires continuous improvement.

You should always strive for a physical, social/emotional, spiritual and mental balance. If these four motivations are regularly exercised, you are continually moving up the ‘spiral of growth’ and therefore increasingly becoming an effective individual.

Close up of man's hands using a saw on a wooden plank


To demonstrate effective leadership, you need to communicate clearly, be empathetic, have integrity and courage, and in regards to your team, you need to develop them and recognise their successes.

Live by Covey’s 7 habits and you’ll encompass all you need to succeed.

And always remember to never lose sight of your end goal. As throughout the wards of New Amsterdam, all employees know their roles, and the purpose of their role is to save that life!

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