Effective Leadership, definition of

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An effective leader contains two components - the traits of a leader and the skills of efficiency. This is to say that there is a notable difference between a leader and an effective leader. To be a leader requires a strong personality and the ability to read people. An effective leader, however, combines these qualities along with smart business practices as well as intelligent crafting of infrastructure. These descriptions of leaders have been formed by my years at Penn State and my time in the PLA. Of course, I have not actually spent three years at Penn State or two in the PLA, but rather two and one years respectively. I would therefore add that my understanding of the requisite traits of a leader is also due to my time traveling abroad and more importantly the process of growing older.

In addressing the first portion of this question, what traits constitute a leader, I think it is appropriate to refer back to the orientation activities from just a few weeks back in which we were asked to decide on one characteristic that is most important in a leader. My team settled upon conviction. I stand behind this still for the reason that all people face nay-sayers in their lives and general resistance. People choose to follow leaders because they see a spirit of conviction in them that ensures they will be able to withstand resistance without faltering, and in a way lead them threw the storm. In addition to a spirit of conviction, I would add that a knack for understanding people is also important. This is the trait behinds charisma that people often associate with leadership. People who can understand the motives and reasons behind the actions of other, both big and small, are more apt at crafting their own words and actions to further draw the support of others. To be a leader, a strong support base is necessary; for this no leader without a following.

Again, a leader and an effective leader can look very different. An example of a leader who embodies the characteristics listed above is Jim Jones. Jim Jones is known for leading a cult known as the Peoples Temple which eventually ended in mass suicide by cyanide poisoning, killing 909 Temple members and 5 non-members in the ensuing violence. Jones was a charismatic leader with a great ability to read others and embody their grievances and had unsurpassed conviction for his political and social campaign. He was not, however, an efficient leader. The ability to lead efficiently is based on similar predicates as living organisms - to grow and prosper. If a leader cannot establish an entity that will one day be able to continue on without him than he has failed in effective leadership and accomplished only leadership.

Effective leadership, therefore, requires the establishment by the leader of a smartly organized and in itself efficient infrastructure to which he can delegate and at times even defer to. Political Organizations, most notably, the Democratic and Republican parties, are established this way to ensure that their goals are continuously pushed forward no matter who is at the helm. In this manner, the leader has ensured the longevity of his aims and can thereby be classified as an effective leader. Another important characteristic is, broadly speaking, smart business practices. To be effective, a leader must continuously be concerned with the future and not just the immediate nature of whatever concerns they are facing. This means looking towards the future to read the direction of peoples' attitudes and the general movement of politics worldwide that may impact their own agenda. It also means being responsible for the financial viability of the group, as smart business practices most clearly implies. A person who demonstrates the characteristics of a leader as well as those of an effective leader who may act as a clear example is Martin Luther King Jr. He had the charisma and conviction to draw people into his movement as well as smart business practices and a smartly organized infrastructure. This is what ensured that the civil rights movement continued full steam ahead after his untimely death. He was the leader of the movement but he was not its heart and soul. In the most basic of terms, the difference between leadership and effective leadership is a difference in intentions. A leader works for themselves, entangling their aims with their own advancement; an effective leader works purely for the aims they wish to promulgate.

To define a leader, especially, an effective leader is no easy task at a young age, really any age, because it is a rather abstract concept that is informed by one's experiences. Therefore, my understanding of a leader upon entering Penn State or the PLA is not the same as it is now that I approach my graduation from college. For me, the greatest evolution of understanding as it regards a leader is the realization that a leader is not a position of aggrandizement. Since the college applications process the question of how many positions of leadership do you hold has been presented to me more times than I care to recall. This has an effect of intonating that to be a leader is really to make one look more impressive to potential employers or school admissions boards. The experiences I have had in my life and many from these past four years remind me, however, that almost every effective leader takes on the roll begrudgingly. They see that they have the skills to make a difference but also realize that the price to pay is quite high. It is only the non-effective brand of leadership that works purely in favor of the person who can call themselves the leader and that is because they design it so. In so many words, the leaders I admire are the soft spoken leaders who express their convictions through their actions and efforts directed towards the improvement of others. A title means nothing, a difference made means everything.

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