The 6 Key Indicators of Leadership

Race Car Engine

Effective leadership is not a single act or facet. Rather, it is multitudinous. It’s like a well-oiled, fine-tuned performance machine.

It is not embodied in a single role or person, but is the life that runs through an organisation.

Without leadership, the organisation or entity ceases to move. It is much like an engine driving a vehicle forward. If the engine stops working, the wheels don’t move anyone or anything forward.

Effective Leadership Model

To understand the working components of effective leadership, one needs to be familiar with what an effective leadership model looks like.

Q: So how do you know if effective leadership is present in your:

  • Organisation
  • Business
  • or Department?

A: Look for the Key Indicators (KI)

Identifying 6 Key Indicators

There are some Key Indicators that, if present, indicate effective leadership is running on all cylinders and moving your team, business, and organization into a strong future. Without them your organization may just be sitting on the side of the road.

1) Core Values

The core values of the organisation are understood and openly lived through the people delivering or interacting with the business.

Ask people the values of the organisation they’re working in.  If they rhyme off a list of adjectives in perfect harmony, you can be assured they’re living ‘leadership by diktat’.  There will be a policy document or set of statements pinned to every wall and conformity.  True leadership has people doing the right things because it’s the ‘way’ it’s done and they don’t really have to think about it.

These values remain long after the big chair in the boardroom has been vacated by one and occupied by another.

2) High Levels of Autonomy

In organisations where great leadership is present, everyone understands their role and function alongside the critical nature of their input.  They don’t need constant supervision and external motivation.

They believe in what they’re doing and they push themselves to do it the way it should be done.

3) Change is an Opportunity

Change is viewed as an opportunity to redefine rather than a malignant threat.

Great leadership is the ability to recognise the external and internal environment and mould it into a viable opportunity to shine whilst aiding those around you to understand the true value of the opportunity you are presented with.

They can grow like flowers reaching for the sun.

4) Sustainable Business Model

The business remains sustainable and viable across generations of ‘leaders’.

Leadership must be perpetual. Intermittent leadership is not real leadership and great businesses are such because they have cultivated great leaders.  This isn’t effective succession planning (although that is important); this is the unity of cause across all staff past, present and future.

Effective leadership through people doing it the sustainable way ensures the organisation lives through its people.

5) Like-Minded Synergies

The business attracts other like-minded businesses to engage in partnership working because of shared values and vision and this can be openly and honestly explored and accepted or rejected without animosity or fear.

Often, the focus is on internal relations and machinations, but in reality true “leadership,” is an aura that emanates and is visible to those outside as well as inside the organisation.

People genuinely understand what your business is about; how it does its business and they like it.

6) Knowing the Whole Picture

Above all else, leaders should not be judged on their results alone,  but on how those results are achieved and the longevity and sustainability of their impact long after they have left the role.

Good leaders have an immediate impact, great leaders leave a legacy.

So what are you doing at your organization to make sure that all the key indicators are present and working in tune with each other? How can you give your leaders a diagnostic test and “tune-up” to make sure that you are creating a sustainable leadership environment? What is it going to take to get you over the finish line in first place? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Colin Millar is Operations Manager for the CRBS in Scotland
He is an Official Ambassador of the Chartered Management Institute 

Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Skype: colin_b_millar

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4 responses to “The 6 Key Indicators of Leadership

  1. Extremely intuitive and well written. Would it not be wonderful if the C-suites could get this right! Next maybe world government leaders, oops that would mean both would stop filling their lavish life styles or thier narcissism.

    In my current position I have created a turnkey operation. The main goal for our business is documented for the staff. All facets of my oversight responsibility is documented as well as my subordinates responsibles and expectations for success. It is easily achievable with some effort.

    The challenge remains how to keep employees focused on achieving the main goal at nearly minimum wage and no budget for rewards.


  2. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I completely agree with your point about keeping employees focussed on the prize and often revisiting and re-articulating the goals; objectives etc will help but the underlying culture has got to be absolutely right too.

    I think that too often we document how things should be rather than living it and the incongruence leads to disillusionment and misalignment amongst those charged with delivering the organisation’s promise(s).

    Salary squeeze is also an issue but not such an important one in my opinion. People will work hard and stay ‘on message’ for employers they truly believe in and whilst you can pay staff you can’t buy supporters.


  3. a) Core Values: are the DNA of a company; the more are consistently spread through the organization, the more is a symptom of a leadership supporting them
    b) High Levels of autonomy: I agree on this, since a clear organization, with unique roles and well allocated responsibilities can be only be driven through a crystal clear leadership
    c) Change is an opportunity: Quite agree. I think that change is an opportunity, but dealing with change is risky since can destabilize your organization and your leadership. But if you as a leader are able to choose the correct wave to deal with, and you succeed, change is an incredible reinforcer of leadership
    d) Sustainable Business model: I agree. Company business that persists and resists to different leaders ensures that though people change, a clear direction is always aimed


  4. Pingback: The indicators of leadership – How I see the world·

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