12 Things All Effective Leaders Do

UPDATED: January 30, 2016
PUBLISHED: May 18, 2015

You’re the boss. But that doesn’t have to be synonymous with bad guy—and it shouldn’t be, because horrible bosses aren’t the most effective ones.

You can be a leader your employees like, respect and trust, one who gets the job done, well and the right way—no condescending, arrogant, too-good-for-this-office bossing around needed (or wanted).

Related: 9 Things Great Leaders Do Differently

We asked the Young Entrepreneur Council, “What is one thing all effective leaders do a lot of?” And this is what they said:

1. Smile.

How many times have you heard someone say, “He’s a great leader. He’s in a bad mood all the time.” Zero. Great leaders know that you can’t inspire action if you’re a miserable person to be around. Great leaders infuse realistic optimism and charisma into everything they do.

—Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

2. Sell.

Although the approach is slightly different than it would be for a potential customer, a good leader is constantly selling their staff on company vision and ideals. It is imperative that employees believe in the principles of a business so they can exude them in their output.

—Russell Kommer, eSoftware Associates Inc.

3. Reflect.

It’s important to get out of the day-to-day and think about what you learned at a high level. Come back and reflect on what you’ll do differently and what the learnings are for application tomorrow.

—Jesse Lipson, Citrix

4. Have casual conversations.

It shouldn’t feel like a formal address every time you speak. Effective leaders succeed at being more human. They make an emotional connection with people in the room and build empathy to bring people together. People respond to human beings, and great leaders know how to get people out of their own heads and in touch with their hearts.

—Ryan Stoner, Publicis

5. Ask good questions.

Learn how to ask thoughtful, engaging questions. Leverage a breadth of knowledge and fine-tune your pattern recognition to ask better questions. Listen to hear not only the words but the emotion behind them. Dig to understand what people really mean and know that sometimes you can stop there rather than feel the need to add anything of your own. Confirm, digest, reflect and then respond.

—Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

6. Act on constructive feedback.

The best way to improve is to learn about what you could do better. Give your employees the chance to offer honest, constructive feedback about your leadership in an offline format (it’s hard to criticize a leader when he or she is in the same room), both anonymously and, if they choose, on the record. Then let your defenses down, really internalize their comments and take steps to improve.

—AJ Shankar, Everlaw, Inc.

Related: 5 Approaches to Leadership Breakthroughs

7. Read.

Thought leadership is the type of leadership I strive to achieve, and the best way to become a thought leader is to read voraciously. Whether I’m reading the latest book on marketing or one of a variety of great blogs, I try to learn at least one new thing a day. Another added benefit of reading frequently is that it makes you a better writer. This strengthens your thought leadership, too.

—Brian Honigman, BrianHonigman.com

8. Inspire.

Effective leaders inspire us to be better versions of ourselves. They share with us our importance and value in the organization. When faced with challenges, we are reminded of our unique contributions and abilities, and through this awareness we strive to do better.

—Souny West, CHiC Capital

9. Focus.

I’m totally guilty of missing this. As entrepreneurs, we all want to hit the next shiny object. There are ample opportunities flying all over the place, but the most effective thing you can do is say no and focus on what really matters. How do you do this? Set your goals and vision and continually remind yourself of these each day.

—Eric Siu, Single Grain

10. Recognize the danger of indecision.

The most effective leaders recognize that they do not have time to get all the facts for the dozens of decisions they make each day. Instead they need to gather just enough information to make sound decisions. Some of those decisions will be wrong, but it is better to learn from those mistakes and try again than to be immobilized by indecision.

—Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

11. Constantly meet diverse people.

Great leaders are influenced by the best traits other people have to offer. Leaders who spend time with those outside of their own demographic gain the opportunity to learn from people with different values and beliefs. This gives them a competitive advantage over others who simply surround themselves with like-minded individuals, as well as the ability to think from a different perspective.

—Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com

12. Listen.

The most effective leaders truly understand the challenges faced by and opportunities available to their employees. In order to lead most effectively, they must first listen to their team members in an open, honest and welcoming fashion. The more that they listen and then appropriately respond with action, the more they will gain the trust and loyalty of those they lead.

—Windsor Hanger Western, Her Campus Media

Related: 15 Traits of a Terrible Leader


Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective , a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.