Business Perspectives

So you want to be a leader

Ray Hull, professor of communication sciences and disorders at Wichita State University
Ray Hull, professor of communication sciences and disorders at Wichita State University Courtesy of Wichita State University

What makes an effective leader in the field of business?

In fact, what constitutes an effective leader in any field? What are the characteristics that comprise a leader?

We all desire to be successful in our profession, but can we truly be successful without becoming a leader?

We watch and observe those who are successful in their chosen occupation. We watch professional football players who are the successful ones – the leaders in their field – who have practiced until their skills are honed. We watch professional golfers – the ones who win the coveted green jacket.

We watch professional musicians who have made it in the world of jazz or classical music. We observe entrepreneurs who become multimillionaires – those who have failed once or twice and then rebounded.

You know who they are: the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of the technology world. They are considered leaders in their field.

How about the field in which you are involved? Who are the leaders? How many can you name? Is it you or someone else who is considered to be a leader?

In searching through the literature on the topic of leadership, I have found that there are characteristics that are consistently most evident in those who are considered to be leaders in any field, including yours and mine.

First, leadership isn’t about the position you hold. Many people have been assigned leadership positions when they have no reason to be there.

I’ve heard a number of people say, “I know a leader when I see one, but I can’t describe what a leader is.”

Well, if you can’t describe it, you’ll probably never become one.

If you want to make an impact on your world, to become a leader in whatever your world may be, learning what constitutes becoming a leader is critical to achieving that level of success. Among others, those characteristics include:

▪ Being respectful

▪ Being intuitive

▪ Being an effective and open communicator

▪ Being a good listener

▪ Being respectful of those with whom you work

▪ Being honest

▪ Being an innovator

▪ Being one who will sacrifice time and effort to support those with whom you work

▪ Giving honest praise and compliments to your employees

▪ Being most interested in serving others – rather than yourself

▪ Being a creative problem-solver

▪ Being one who inspires co-workers by your example

One reason many so-called leaders are distrusted today is that they are seen as self-serving, primarily interested in themselves rather than others.

But to be an effective and respected leader, it is critical to develop good habits in working with people – everyone you work with, not just your inner circle.

An effective leader is there for all of her or his people, is willing to sacrifice time and effort for the good of the company and the people who work there and shows confidence in those she or he has hired.

That’s leadership.

Ray H. Hull, Ph.D., is a professor of communication sciences and disorders at Wichita State University. Contact him at

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