Make your own free website on
Home | About Leadership | Leader Traits, Motives and Characteristics | Ethics | Leadership Styles | Elements of Good Leadership


Elements of Good Leadership


There are four important elements a good leader needs to consider. Communication skills, teamwork, motivation and coaching skills are all extremely important in what makes a good leader.


Communication Skills

There is little doubt among numerous academics that effective communication is a crucial component of effective leadership. Leaders must be able to communicate to their followers in order to persuade them and convey their vision of what is to be achieved and inspire to initiate and facilitate change (Dubrin et al, 2006). Communication not only involves direct speech, but also non verbal communication. Non verbal communication includes things such as body language, stance, presentation, dress, facial expressions and posture (Preston, 2005). Studies have shown that if there is a conflict between the verbal message (the words) and non verbal message (your body language) the non verbal message is more likely to prevail (Preston, 2005). Successful leaders are aware of this fact and use their non verbal communication skills to enhance their interaction with others.


Successful leaders have the following components embedded in their speeches, or presentations, in some form or another.

  • Credible information- by providing evidence or examples to support the information presented, to make it believable
  • A core message that is aimed at the needs of the audience- something that will allow the audience to connect, understand what is happening, and how it could be made better. This is a crucial aspect of motivation, as it arouses desire.
  • An emphasis on the benefits or advantages- that will occur as a result of their leadership.
  • Appropriate delivery methods- Successful leaders are able to convey their passion for a situation to their audience through appropriate communication skills by recognising the appropriate presentation styles for different situations. (For example some situations may require a charismatic speaker, while others may require an authoritarian style speaker). This also includes the use of an appropriate linguistic style. Linguistics is about speaking patterns, “the amount of directness, pacing, pausing and word choice…” (Dubrin et al, 2006, p 371).

(Dubrin et al, 2006, p. 371)


For example consider one of the most well known speeches of all time - Martin Luther Kings speech “I have a dream…”. The delivery and communication of this speech was what made it such a success. King was able to create a clear vision (that is what he wanted to achieve) and offer practical solutions to the current situation to make his vision a reality. He was then able to justify to the audience, why it needed to be achieved through the use of credible information.

To view this speech please visit:


If a leader is not communicating and interacting effectively with the audience, then it is highly unlikely that they will be able to convey their desired message. Consequently, the leader is then unable to create a vision, something for the people to strive for, and people will loose their motivation and trust, making leadership almost impossible. For example consider political leaders and the importance of their communication skills. Their speeches and public announcements are used as a tool of reassurance for society, to reinforce their vision and ensure that it can still be met. Some claim that the former Prime Minister of Canada; Kim Campbell (from June – October 1993) term was so short lived due to a number of ‘political blunders’. It was claimed that she lost her ability to connect with the people, after several flaws in her public political arguments, which took a pessimistic stance on issues very important to the lives of the voters. (Jordan, 1993 p.4). Her errors and poor communication consequently lead to the people of Canada loosing their faith in her visions, and leadership abilities, and they voted her out.


Kim Campbell

Teamwork and leadership

An important function of a leader is building a team. First it is important to understand what a team and teamwork is, to understand where a leader fits into the equation. A team can be defined as ”a group whose individual efforts result in a performance that is greater than the sum of the individual’s contribution.” (Robbins, Millett & Waters-Marsh, 2004, p 280) This is differentiated from teamwork as teamwork focuses more on understanding and committing to group goals. (Dubrin, Daglish & Miller, 2006, p.264) There are a few differences that can be established between a team and a group. These include: that teams have shared leadership role but groups have a solo leader; teams have mutual and individual accountability and a group only has individual accountability; team members produce collective work whereas groups tend to produce work individually; and lastly a team generally have open ended discussion and make decisions together whereas groups are told what to do by the leader and do not have as much input.


Working in teams is not always successful. Hackman (1999) argues there are a number of mistakes that managers and leaders can make when using teams:

  1. Using a team for work that is done better by individuals
  2. Calling the performing a unit a ‘team’ but managing members as individuals. Not building the team.
  3. Failure to clarify where decision-making power lies.
  4. Dismantling the current organisational structures so that the team will be empowered to accomplish its tasks.
  5. Specifying what they want the team to do, but not providing adequate resources and support.
  6. Assuming that team members have all the necessary skills to work well as a team.

(Dubrin et al., 2006, 269-270)



The leader’s role in the team-based organisation

A leader’s role changes when interacting in a team. The stages a team experiences are defined by Tuckerman (1965) as forming, conforming, storming and performing. During the forming stage of a team an effective leader is to establish introductions and answer questions, clarify the goals, rules and expectations of the team. In the conforming stage of the team an effective leader is to provide feedback to its team members and facilitate roles and articulate the team vision. During the storming stage of a team the leader needs to focus on the team processes, reinforce the vision and identify the common threats to the team. During the performing stage a leader needs to advance the quality of culture in the team, and to provide ongoing feedback on team performance. The diagram below shows that as the team grows the leader’s skills must change in order for the team to be effective.



The main roles a leader needs to play in a team include:

  • Build trust and inspiring teamwork,
  • Coach team members to achieve increased performance,
  • Facilitate and support the decisions,
  • Expand the teams capabilities ,
  • Create the teams identity,
  • Anticipate and influence change,
  • Inspire team members towards increased level of performance,
  • Enable and empower groups members to do work, and
  • Encourage team members to eliminate low value works.

(Dubrin et al., 2006, p.271-272)


It is important to understand that the role of a leader needs to change in order to achieve teamwork. Throughout the different stages of a team the leaders role changes and in order for the team to be effective the leader needs to change their role as shown in the diagram. Anyone who has ever been or worked in a team can understand this change. If you have ever been in a sporting team the captain’s role changes throughout the season. For example at the beginning of the season new techniques are learnt and the mission of the team is enforced by the captain. However towards the end of the season a captain would be reiterating those techniques and mission of the team.




The importance of motivation to a leader

Good leaders are usually outstanding motivators. There are four major areas of motivation that are important to a leader. These include:

-         expectancy theory,

-         behaviour modification,

-         recognition, and

-         goal setting.


Expectancy theory

The expectancy theory is “based on the premise that the amount of effort people expand depends on how much reward they expect to get in return.” (Dubrin et al., 2006, p. 296) It basically says that if a person is given a choice they will pick the assignment or job that they can handle the best and that will benefit them the most. There are three major components of the expectancy theory: valence, instrumentality and expectancy. Valence is the worth or attractiveness of outcomes; so what the person gets out of it. This is important to a leader as they can motivate people to work harder towards what they get out of it. Instrumentality is the probability assigned by the individuals that performance will lead to certain outcomes. For example if a person works overtime they are aware they will receive overtime pay. Finally, expectancy is the probability assigned by the individual that effort will lead to correct performance of the task. The expectancy theory has many implications for leaders and managers with respect to motivating others.


Goal theory

Goal setting is a basic process that is directly or indirectly part of all major theories of work motivation. A goal is simply something that someone is trying to accomplish. Goal setting is accepted by leaders and mangers as a means to improve performance. Goal setting can work more effectively and achieve higher performance if individuals are given specific goals. It is important therefore that the leader discusses the goals with the group members and that group members are involved in the goal setting process so that they are more accepting of the goals. Goals can be used to evaluate performance and can be linked to feedback and rewards. Goal setting is widely practised by leaders and managers.


Behaviour modification and motivational skills

Behaviour modification attempts to change behaviour by manipulating rewards and punishment. Behaviour that leads to a positive consequence for the individual tends to be repeated, there is why it is important to reward positive behaviour. There are certain behaviour modification strategies that a leader can adopt to motivate people. These include positive reinforcement so rewarding the right response, negative reinforcement so punishing bad behaviour, and many others. Any rules for behaviour modification should be administered by the HR department of a company if they are going to affect the whole company. An important role of a leader as part of this is the application of positive reinforcement. Behaviour modification is an important element for leaders to award positive behaviour and discourage negative behaviour.


Recognition to motivate others

Recognition programs are aimed at rewarding and motivating employees. An example of how a business/manager/leader is able to show an employee that they have been recognised for their efforts is giving them an ‘employee of the month’ award. Recognition is obviously therefore praise or positive reinforcement for an action. It is important to understand that this is a form of motivation as a normal human need to crave recognition. Recognition can come in three forms: oral, written and material reward. Recognition is a good strategy for leaders to implement to motivate their employees as they are low cost or no cost, yet they are powerful as they work well to motivate employees.


Coaching Skills

Coaching skills; “a way of enabling others to act and build on their strengths” is an asset to any leader, and essential for those leaders who have direct contact with other people on a regular basis (Dubrin et al, 2006, p. 313). It can be used to increase performance, motivation, enthusiasm and the overall effort of people, to give them the support and inspiration that they may require to succeed. An example of a good leader that possesses such coaching skills is Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, a football team in England(pictured below).  He is their manager/coach and is responsible for enhancing the players strengths and increasing their performance. He embodies how a good leader uses coaching skills to better the team and be a great leader.


Unlike management, which has a firm focus on control, coaching based more so about encouragement and support for other people, to help them achieve desired gaols or outcomes. It requires time, effort, dedication and most importantly a common trust between both parties. Coaching is an interactive process which requires both the faith of the learner (to trust the coach’s judgements and suggestions) and the leader (to believe that the learner will be successful as a result of their advice and suggestions) Therefore effective leaders recognise that coaching is a two way street, which depends on both the efforts of the leader and the team, it is not an independent process (Dubrin et al, 2006).



Sir Alex Ferguson

As discussed, communication skills, teamwork, motivation and coaching skills are extremely important elements to a leader. All of these are skills 'good leaders' possess however it depends on the situation as to when they should be implemented. It is also important to acknowledge that without good communication, teamwork, motivation or coaching skills a leaders ability to lead should be questioned.



"Motivation and Leadership" -


"Leadership Styles - Motivation and Leadership Styles" -


"Motivation and Leadership" -






Dubrin, A, Daglish, C & Miller, P. (2006). Leadership. (2nd ed). Queensland: John

Wiley & Sons Australia


Jordan, B. (1993). The tories say goodby – charisma needs substance.

Commonweal. 120 (20) p. 4 – 5. Retrieved April 1, 2007 from


Preston, P. (2005). Nonverbal communication; do you really say what you mean.

Journal of Healthcare Management . 50 (2), p. 83 – 87. Retrieved May, 2005 from


Robbins, S., Millett, B., & Waters-Marsh, T. (2004). Organisational

Behaviour. Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia/Prentice Hall.