The Psychology of Leadership: Traits and Behaviours of Effective Leaders

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Effective leadership is integral to the survival of any organization. From helping in goal setting to facilitating teams to achieve the same, leaders act as pillars of support, guidance, motivation and inspiration. Basically, the concept of leadership extends beyond managerial duties and includes fostering a sense of cohesion, unity and capability in their team members.

When thinking of leaders, the image that comes to mind is that of an individual who provides instruction and order to their subordinates. However, the world has evolved from hierarchical leadership to “service and servant” leadership.  That is, leader nowadays actively participate and contribute to the goal set by the team which they are a part of, rather than divulge work to members of the same. This shift has commonly been described as businesses moving from “organization as a machine” to “organization as an organism”.

That is, organizations are moving from a hierarchical structure to flatter structures, wherein leader and other team members function on the same level and uphold responsibilities suited to their skill, rather than their position.

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Given the dynamic nature of teams and todays working conditions, leaders have to constantly rework to the need of the hour. Considering the same, it can be assumed that there are certain traits which make leaders effective, however, their behaviours have to be customized to best facilitate goal attainment. Some traits commonly noted among effective leaders include emotional intelligence, and adaptability. Intelligence, specifically emotional intelligence is one’s ability to understand and manage emotions efficiently. Effective leaders utilize their emotional intelligence to create an environment of mutual empathy and self-management (Raquel et al., 2022).

The criticality of mutual empathy is highlighted in Rahman’s (2016) study which mentioned that it is one of two crucial factors relevant to create a healthy workplace environment. One effective method to improve mutual empathy is active listening. While active talking is widely recognized in leadership, active listening as a leadership skill has only recently received the spotlight (van Diggele et al., 2020). Other than improved empathy; active listening has a variety of advantages, some of them being improved understanding, clear communication, and increased employee wellbeing.

Other than mutual empathy, adaptability is a key skill to effective leadership, as indicated by Vidal and colleagues’ (2017) study which stated, “the best type of leadership depends on situational variables and that no one style of leadership pertains or should be followed to all given workplace situations. For this reason, effective leaders can adapt their leadership style based on the nature of the group, the situation, and the objectives to be achieved” (pp. 9-11). The above-mentioned information can be used to tailor leader training programs for maximum organizational impact.

An immediate outcome of adaptability is quick decision-making. Decisiveness is another personality factor important for leaders to work effectively. A leader’s ability to make reliable decisions accelerates progress organization-wide and instils confidence in team members. Furthermore, their quick verdicts can help solve problems rapidly by implementing plans faster (D’Auria & De Smet, 2020). Furthermore, quick decision-making translates into easier problem-solving. Other than their ability to seek efficient ways to solve problems, a leader’s openness to mastering new skills, and embracing of challenges is imperative in today’s world (Calarco, 2020). 

You may also be interested in reading: The AI Revolution – Why Human Emotions and Sentiments are Irreplaceable

Today’s markets are volatile and unpredictable, and from the above-mentioned information it can be assumed that a leader who is empathic, adaptable and decisive foster teams who are able to fight through tough times!

By promoting these skills during leadership trainings, companies and educational organizations can take people from heads to effective leaders.

Westford Uni Online, which was awarded for its Quality of Education by Forbes in 2019, inculcates the above-mentioned effective leadership behaviours in its students through their MBA with HR & Organizational Psychology specialization. By using a hands-on approach to learning students are not only familiarized with the concept of leadership, but also develop skills in the same area!


  • Calarco, A. (2020). Adaptable leadership: What it takes to be a quick-change artist. Center for Creative Leadership. Retrieved from
  • D’Auria, G., & De Smet, A. (2020). Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges. Psychology22(2), 273-287.
  • Rahman, W. A. W. A. (2016). Empathy and TRUST: Into a Better Workplace Environment. Journal of Business and Economics7(12), 2025–2034.
  • Raquel Gómez-Leal, Allison A. Holzer, Christina Bradley, Pablo Fernández-Berrocal & Janet Patti (2022) The relationship between emotional intelligence and leadership in school leaders: a systematic review, Cambridge Journal of Education, 52:1, 1-21, DOI: 10.1080/0305764X.2021.1927987
  • van Diggele, C., Burgess, A., Roberts, C., & Mellis, C. (2020). Leadership in healthcare education. BMC medical education20(Suppl 2), 456.
  • Vidal, G.G. , Campdesuñer, R.P. , Rodríguez, A.S. , & Vivar, R.M. (2017). Contingency theory to study leadership styles of small businesses owner‐managers at Santo Domingo, Ecuador. International Journal of Engineering Business Management, 9, 1–11. 

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