Effective leadership skills


Back to the Firewalker’s Guide to Leadership

When you think of a great leader, who do you imagine? Is it a CEO? Political leader? Top-performing athlete? If it’s anyone other than yourself, you’re doing yourself a major disservice.

Effective leadership isn’t just for presidents and CEOs. At some point or another, we all have the opportunity to lead. Only some of us are brave enough to take the reins – and the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is simple: effective leadership skills.

You can be one of the success stories. But you must go beyond surface awareness of basic leadership skills. You must learn how to be an effective leader, starting now.

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Many people think leadership goes something like this: You get an entry-level job, then work your way up the ladder until you’re in a management position – or even the C-suite. Now you’re a leader.

But there’s a big difference between being a manager or CEO and knowing how to be an effective leader.

Effective leadership has very little to do with the amount of authority a person has achieved, and everything to do with how that person is perceived in the organization. Have you earned the trust of your team? Do you lead by example? Do you communicate honestly and frequently? These are the real effective leadership skills – and they can take place at any level of an organization.

Effective leaders inspire their teams to be better, develop their skills and come up with creative solutions and innovations. This doesn’t just create a positive workplace culture and help individual employees thrive – it contributes to the company’s bottom line in a very real way.

Effective leadership does one thing most of all: inspires others to become leaders themselves.


If you’re wondering how to be an effective leader, first look at yourself. The most important thing effective leaders do is forge their own path and lead the type of life that maximizes their full potential. Effective leadership skills you can work on in your personal life include being the master of your emotions and asking yourself the right questions. You need to react to any situation calmly and keep your emotions in check. But living with passion is also vital to great leaders. Finding the balance between the two is one of the challenges of effective leadership.

CANI (Constant And Never-ending Improvement) doesn’t just apply to your business operations – effective leaders apply it to their personal development, too. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” as Tony says. Effective leaders are always growing.


Once you’re on a path of personal growth, you have ample opportunities to learn how to be an effective leader. It’s time to develop your own plan for greatness. Here are 7 traits you can start cultivating now.

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The greatest leaders in history are purpose-driven; they serve something more than themselves. If your motive as a leader is to simply get someone to do something for you, you may be able to strategize a way to do it – but it’s when you serve a greater good that you create a legacy of leadership that lasts beyond your lifetime. This is also one of the key crisis leadership skills, as you must be able to see and convey the bigger picture when you’re in the midst of a large challenge.

If you’ve set your goals, focused your energy and are taking massive action and getting better and better at executing, then there’s only one leadership skill you need to get whatever you want: passion. Those who live with purpose know what they believe and they follow those beliefs with laser-sharp focus.


It’s easy to put a smile on your face every day and make pleasant small talk with your coworkers. It’s much more difficult to achieve real positivity in every aspect of your life. Positivity doesn’t mean fake smiles and never having a bad day – we are still human after all.

True positivity comes from a place that goes deeper than any bad day. It means adopting an attitude of gratitude and always seeing the positive in any situation. It means finding your passion and sharing it with others. Positivity like this is key to effective leadership because it creates a sense of calm and purpose on your team.

Tony often asks, “What if life was not happening to you, it was happening for you?” True positivity radiates from those who genuinely believe this.

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When people fail to achieve, they often say they are missing resources like time, money, help and so on. Yet the top leaders in the world know resources are never the problem. The real problem is a lack of resourcefulness. If you have clarity around the outcome you seek to achieve and you’re focused on it, you will find the resources to succeed. They may already be right in front of you – you just need to put yourself in the right emotional state to see them.

Years ago, before Apple was the giant influencer that it is today, it was at a high risk of going under. The company was running out of money, new technology and options, so they threw a Hail Mary to Steve Jobs. He was given a salary of $1 and the challenge to restart the company.

What makes an effective leader like Steve Jobs?

He didn’t upgrade the technology because the technology wasn’t there yet. He didn’t throw a bunch of money into branding because they had no money to throw. Instead, he homed in on his resource of creativity and made one simple change: He ordered the computers to be redesigned and repackaged in candy-coated colors. He already knew that Apple was selling an incredible product, so his challenge was to make people view Apple products in a different way. Just like that, his effective leadership set Apple on the path to becoming the champion of innovation it is today.

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Effective leaders are masters of influence; they know how to propel themselves and others to move forward in life. But how do you cultivate this skill? After all, isn’t influence just a result of your personal connections or your amazing public speaking? The truth is, all you need is empathy. Empathy means you listen – truly listen – and share in another person’s feelings. To use the old cliché, it means “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes,” and coming from a genuinely caring place when you do.

Empathy goes hand in hand with communication. In order to influence someone, you need to know what already influences them, what influences you and let those values inform your actions. You must also commit to listening deeply so you can truly connect with and get through to someone. When you master the leadership skill of empathy, you control the ultimate force for giving, creating, sharing and contributing more.

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None of these effective leadership skills will mean anything if your team doesn’t know they can count on you. A dependable leader is one who can be trusted and relied upon. They follow through on their plans and keep their promises. To be a dependable leader, you must have a solid core of values that you always fall back on when making decisions. This ensures they are always in line with your beliefs and that your team can count on the decisions to serve the larger mission.

Your team also needs to be able to depend on the fact that you are investing in their well-being and that you care about them as more than just cogs in a machine. A dependable leader always shows up, is present when needed and can be relied upon to do what’s right for the company and the individual team members. Dependability creates trust in the workplace – and trust is an essential building block of effective leadership.

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Decision-making is one of the top leadership skills and the force that shapes destiny. Your power as a leader comes from your ability to be decisive and having the guts to make the right decisions – even in a crisis. While many people waste precious time wondering what the right decision is, a leader must be willing to draw a line in the sand and make decisions no one else is willing to make. When you do, you can positively shape your life and the lives of people around you.

“Stormin’ Normin” Schwarzkopf, who in 1991 commanded the U.S. Military during Operation Desert Storm, likes to tell a story about an early mentor of his in the military. At the time, the Army had been embroiled in a 10-year decision-making process that would determine its direction and structure, and there was no end in sight. Unable to commit to a solution, the leadership team turned to a general who up to then had not been involved in the program. Looking at them, the general said, “The answer is obvious, gentlemen.” He gave them the answer.

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Panicking, because there was no way that general had read all the relevant material to the decision, Schwarzkopf – of relatively low rank, at the time – confronted him, and asked, “There is so much information here, there’s so much to consider, no one’s really going to know for sure. How the hell could you just make that decision like that?”

In a moment of brilliance, the general responded, “This has been a decision that no one’s been willing to make for 10 years. The best minds have been on it and they can’t decide, so you know what? We need to pick one and do it. Decisions are power and I’m here to make them. That’s what I’m in this position for. That’s why I’m a leader.”

Part of making a good decision is never truly know if it was the best one – and being okay with this is part of what makes an effective leader. When you’re put in charge, take command. Effective leadership skills are about being able to take the reins when necessary, even if you’re unsure of what the outcome may be.

Want to develop your leadership skills?

Take the next step toward developing vital leadership skills by attending Tony Robbins’ Leadership Academy in a city near you.