What Are the Thinking Patterns of an Effective Leader?

Written by Dr. Robert Smith | Nov 27, 2018

Thinking Patterns of Leaders

Companies that want to grow should look no further than identifying the thinking patterns of effective leaders in their company.

Notice that I did not say effective managers. While effective managers are critical to support the objectives of your company, you need to dig deeper to find effective leaders because they have the power to influence the direction of your company.

  • Managers have the authority to hire/fire, assign tasks, generate KPI reports, etc.
  • Leaders are chosen by the followers and the leader’s value is decided by the followers.

During election season, voters are not thinking about voting for the best manager who will administer legislative tasks the best; they are thinking about who inspires them, whose message connects with them, whose confidence gives them confidence, and whose values align with their values.

The key for your company is being able to identify leaders in your company and uncover their thinking patterns so that you can accentuate their strengths and address their blind spots to fuel growth.

An Example of Unexpected Leadership in the NBA

At various points in my career as a team-building consultant and adviser, I have worked with professional sports teams. One NBA team, in particular, asked me to consult on the leadership make-up of their team.

After careful study and observation, I noticed that the team followed different leaders at different times. The team followed one player on the court and they followed another player in the locker room.

How did this player achieve his position as the leader?

You may think it’s a chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Did one player decide to become a leader first, or did the rest of the team decide to follow him first?

Consider instead that both events seem to happen in concert. A leader has to be willing to make the first move, while also recognizing whether he has the respect of everyone else in his group to confidently make that move.

In the case of the NBA team I worked with, the leader on the court was not willing to be the leader in the locker room.

Overall, the concept of leadership boils down to the willingness of the leader to be the leader, but also the followers having to see this person as the best choice.

What Are the Characteristics of an Effective Leader?

A person who is willing to be the leader and has the support of the group has the characteristics of confidence, clear self-worth, and clarity in their decision-making.

The way that they think and process information allows them to find ways to use their confident approach to each situation to influence others to take an action they feel is best for the whole.

  • An effective leader has a natural attentiveness to and an awareness of their inner worth.
  • The result of their natural attentiveness is courage, confidence, resiliency, and thick skin.
  • They enjoy being the leader or part of an inner circle to influence others.

Confidence about who they are as a person breeds confidence in their ability to direct the actions of others, have their ideas listened to, and have their opinions solicited by others.

The issue for some leaders is they actually do not realize they have this type of power.

How to Address Blind Spots in Leaders

You may have an employee right now who fits the thinking patterns of an effective leader but they may not realize they have this kind of influence (lack of self-awareness).

Or, there may be an employee who thinks that he or she is a leader, but they are misusing their influence (too much self-awareness).

Lack of Self-Awareness

  • These types of individuals misunderstand the power and opportunity they have.
  • They are so team-oriented that they may be under-confident and shy away from situations where they need to use influence.
  • They lack the confidence to take the first step or to speak up when something needs to be said.
  • They are waiting for a new position or a promotion that they perceive as their opportunity to display leadership.

Too Much Self-Awareness

  • These individuals try to become leaders by seeking power and influence.
  • They misunderstand their role as a leader and do not know how to use their power effectively.
  • They love recognition, are excessively confident to the point where the followers do not want to choose this person, and they feel the need to always win.
  • They are not concerned about whether they have a role that aligns with the perception of being a leader; they will speak up from any role.

When you understand which side of the ledger a potential leader lands on, you can provide coaching or training to address their blind spots.

- A person who lacks self-awareness needs their confidence built up to take advantage of their opportunity. Perhaps because they have put the team first for so long, they have built up some leadership equity and it’s time for them to use it more authoritatively. However, they may hesitate to leverage their opportunity, so they need to be encouraged to use their leadership skills no matter whether they are in a position of authority or not.

- A person with too much self-awareness needs to understand how to tone down their self-driven approach to focus more on how they can influence the direction of the team through more inclusive means. They also may need to understand where the boundary lines are when they lack authority.

When you take the time to address these blind spots to match up with the ideal thinking patterns of an effective leader, you will see tangible results contributing to increased productivity.

Simultaneously, you should continue to build up the individuals who already demonstrate the thinking patterns of an effective leader. Your dual-purpose approach will help you build a dynamic roster of effective leaders who will fuel growth for your company.


About the Author

Dr. Robert Smith

Dr. Robert K. Smith is the creator of the ZERORISK Hiring System, Clear Direction Management Development Program, Individual Contributor Development Program, and Clear Direction Team Directory and is a consultant for and adviser to ZERORISK HR. Known as a leader in professional development, team-building, and executive advisory services, Dr. Smith is the author of four books, including the award-winning management book Discover Your Blind Spots.


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