The Leader’s Checklist: 15 rules for effective leadership

Keep this guide handy if you ever need a helping hand in your leadership journey.

It is quite common to hear that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to leading a team. Every business is different, and every team is different, and there are nuances that may be unique to the company.

Effective leadership can be mastered when you keep some core principles in mind. In fact, world-renowned leadership expert and Ivy League Professor Michael Useem has narrowed it down to the fundamentals in his book, “The Leader’s Checklist: 15 Mission-Critical Principles”.

Surprisingly, he found that despite how diverse companies can be across the globe, managers experience very similar moments that would require them to make decisive action. But while the 15 principles aim to act as a playbook, managers and companies should still customise it according to their needs and goals.

Here is the breakdown of the 15 tried and tested core principles to get you started, in no particular order of preference:

1. Articulate a vision. Before a team can accomplish anything, leaders need to formulate goals and communicate these to the team to ensure that everyone is aligned. Think of it as setting sail, the captain of the ship must plan the course to steer it towards the destination first.

2. Think and act strategically. Set a realistic strategy that includes both short- and long-term goals. Contingency plans are just as important as planning for the best-case scenarios as it ensures that everyone is prepared for various outcomes.

3. Honour the room. As a leader, it’s crucial to let your team know that you have their back and that you have confidence in them and their skills. To gain respect, you also have to give it.

4. Take charge. Be proactive rather than reactive. Develop a culture of action and take the initiative especially if you are in the position to make a difference. On top of that, take responsibility and accountability for your actions.

5. Act decisively. When you are at the helm, the team often turns to you for direction. When faced with choices or adversity, be a steadfast leader by making timely decisions and making sure they are executed.

6. Communicate persuasively. Be a compelling leader and develop a communication style that people would remember. Be clear and concise in your message and express yourself in a calm and collected manner.

7. Motivate the troops. Recognise your team’s individual skills and strengths, then draw from these to forge a stronger team. Leaders should align themselves with their company’s vision to ensure that everyone’s growth is in line with what you want to achieve.

8. Embrace the front lines. Try to be involved in the day-to-day activities of your team. Practise empathy and don’t lose touch with the people on the ground, especially if they are directly involved in the business.

9.  Cultivate leadership in others. Part of being an effective leader is to inspire or motivate others to take on leadership roles. Take them under your wing and develop their leadership skills.

10. Manage relations Create rapport within your team and learn to navigate the different interpersonal relationships within the organisation, whether to inspire or resolve conflict.

11. Identify personal implications. Help your team find meaning in the work they do for the company. Reiterate how the shared vision can impact their progression within the company.

12. Convey your character. Let your actions speak for themselves and lead by example. Uphold integrity, grit and good ethics in everything you do.

13. Dampen over-optimism. Keep your team’s (and your own) expectations in check to prevent complacency. While it’s easy to get lost in the grandeur of success, focus your attention instead on managing risks and preparing for the worst.

14. Build a diverse top team. You may be the captain of the ship but navigating the ship is a joint effort which requires the help of your subordinates. No leader can make it on their own. Strengthen your team by knowing the gaps in skills and knowledge within the team and filling them with the right people.

15. Place common interest first. Always place common purposes first, self-interest last. Put the needs of your team and company before your own, and lead by focusing on external motivations that are mutually beneficial instead of personal goals.

Now that you know these key principles, pick the principles most relevant for you and kickstart your leadership journey!