Motivation and emotion/Book/2023/Effective leadership

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Effective leadership:
What does it take to be an effective leader?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Case study
Figure 1. Fictional summary of the monthly workforce data report.
Figure 2. Fictional snapshot of the 2023 employee survey results.

Sarah is a Senior Executive Manager (SEM) in a fast-paced government role, having quickly risen through the ranks due to her technical policy expertise. Currently, she leads a diverse team of 51 employees who are working on a critical new policy proposal (NPP) with tight deadlines.

Each month, Sarah reviews her workforce data report (see Figure 1), which reflects staff capacity, flexibility, leave, diversity and mobility. After reviewing her most recent report she noticed that the unscheduled absence rate and separations were significantly higher than previous months. One thing Sarah has observed is, tensions are running high in the team. Due to other priorities, Sarah has chosen to ignore the issue, hoping her directors will support and manage their teams more effectively. During a leadership meeting, directors expressed frustration with the NPP's direction, as well as informing her staff members are feeling overwhelmed by the workload[Rewrite to improve clarity].

In addition, Sarah received the annual Employee Survey results (see Figure 2) which are used to collect confidential and opinion information on important issues in the workplace. The survey results indicated that staff have a negative perception of their immediate supervisor and the SEM's leadership and effectiveness. Upon reflection, Sarah recognises that she has not demonstrated effective leadership behaviors to her team, which include recognising emotions, responding empathetically, and creating a safe space for team members to express their feelings through open dialogue. In essence, Sarah recognises the need to embody effective leadership behaviours, but what does it take?

In today's dynamic and ever-evolving organisational landscape, effective leadership has become an important ingredient for success. Leaders, such as Sarah, are now confronted with a host of complex challenges that extend far beyond conventional notions of authority and decision-making. As organisations grapple with economic uncertainty, high rates of employee turnover, and the relentless pace of change, the role of leaders has transformed into a multifaceted and demanding endeavor. This book chapter investigates the intricate world of effective leadership, using Sarah's journey as a case study. In doing so, the aim is to uncover the essential behaviours, skills, qualities (traits) and strategies that can empower leaders to not only survive but thrive amidst the challenges of contemporary organisational landscapes. This exploration seeks to provide invaluable insights and guidance for leaders, aspiring leaders, and anyone interested in the art and science of effective leadership.

Focus questions:
  • What is effective leadership?
  • What psychological theories assist with understanding effective leadership?
  • What behaviours, skills and traits are required to be an effective leader?
  • What strategies can develop effective leaders?

What is effective leadership?[edit | edit source]

Effective leadership is a multifaceted concept that involves the ability of a leader to guide, inspire, and influence individuals or groups toward the achievement of common goals or objectives, involving a combination of behaviours, skills and traits (ChatGPT August 3 Version. What is effective leadership?) (Horner, 1997).[Provide more detail]

What psychological theories assist with understanding effective leadership?[edit | edit source]

To assist with understanding effective leadership it is important to consider what psychological theory best explains this phenomenon. There are several possible theories which may be applied, however, the focus will be on the following psychological theories:

Emotional intelligence[edit | edit source]

Figure 3: Salovey and Mayer's ability-based EI model.

Salovey and Mayer (1990) formally introduced the theory of emotional intelligence (EI) defining it as

The focus of Salovey and Mayer's EI theory was on an ability-based model (see Figure 3). The model is underpinned by the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), which measures an individual's ability on the four branches of emotional intelligence (Brackett, Rivers, & Salovey, 2011) What are the 4 branches?.

In 1995, Goleman further developed the theory by introducing a mixed model, encompassing ability, personality traits and competencies, such as optimism and self-esteem (Brackett, Rivers, & Salovey, 2011). Goleman's (1995) emotional intelligence model has five domains:

  1. Self-awareness - an individual recognising and understanding their own emotions as they happen, as well as their strengths, weaknesses, values and goals.
  2. Self-regulation - the ability for an individual to manage their emotions.
  3. Social skills - the ability to manage the emotions of others.
  4. Empathy - recognising the emotions in others, in essence, the ability to walk in someone else's shoes.
  5. Motivation - the inner or external factors that drive an individual to achieve challenging short- or long-term goals.

The purpose of these two EI models is to offer a framework for examining and understanding how individuals process emotional information and how it may be applied to raise awareness of behaviours to improve personal and professional relationships. According to Salovey and Mayer (1990), individuals possessing EI skills tend to exhibit greater creativity and adaptability when it comes to problem solving, which is an essential leadership skill. Additionally, they are more inclined to incorporate emotional factors into their decision-making process when evaluating these solutions. This approach promotes behaviour that is thoughtful and considerate, both in relation to one's own internal experiences and those of others (Salovey & Mayer,1990).


With application to the leadership case study, Sarah’s technical policy expertise secured her initial promotion, however this may not be sufficient for securing her next one. If Sarah’s ambition is to assume a leadership position, she must also take into account the emotional aspect. By taking this into account she will be able to coach her team, manage stress, provide feedback and collaborate with others.

Research findings indicate there is a relationship between EI and several components of transformational leadership, suggesting that it may be an important component of effective leadership (Palmer et al., 2001). In particular, emotional intelligence plays a role for how successful leaders observe, engage with, and nurture their employees' emotional well-being within the workplace (Palmer et al., 2001).

Self-determination theory[edit | edit source]

Developed by Deci and Ryan, Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a psychological framework that focuses on motivation and human personality, which is centred on an individual's personal growth and their fundamental psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness. From an organisational perspective, this framework also provides leaders with a basis for how to effectively motivate employees (Forner et al., 2020). Summarised from research by Forner, et al. (2020) and Fowler (2018) these psychological needs from a leadership perspective are as follows:

Figure 4: Model of self-determination theory
  • Autonomy refers to an employees’ desire to feel they have choice in their role, that they are the source of making their own decisions, and they are able to freely express ideas and decide how the work is done.
  • Competence refers to employees’ need to feel effective, demonstrating skill over time, and feeling like they are successful at their job.
  • Relatedness refers to an employees’ need to feel connected, accepted and to experience a sense of belonging and feeling by others. Employees’ also need to feel they are contributing to something greater, for example, organisational goals.

Leaders who facilitate the fulfillment of these basic three psychological needs foster a state of quality motivation, in which employees genuinely embrace and willingly engage in their job responsibilities (Forner et al., 2020).


With application to the leadership case study, it appears that Sarah and her directors may not be meeting the basic psychological needs of their employees. For example:

  • Autonomy - Not providing opportunities for team members to express their ideas and suggestions about the work being undertaken on the NPP, which is causing frustration.
  • Competence - Not building team members skills, capabilities and self confidence in a safe and supportive environment.
  • Relatedness - Social interactions and interpersonal relationships between leaders and team members are strained, due to frustrations about the work.

Social exchange theory[edit | edit source]

Social exchange theory (SET) is a psychological and sociological theory based on behaviourism, that can be applied to understand workplace behaviour. In the workplace, the fundamental premise of SET is, employees participate in social relationships and interactions guided by the principle of reciprocity. Research indicates, there is an "anticipation of mutual give-and-take" between leaders and employees (Thomas & Gupta, 2021). When an employee perceives that their contributions are not being reciprocated by leaders, it may have an impact on their job performance. One construct which aligns with the principles of SET and explores the outcomes of job performance is bottom-line mentality.

Bottom-line mentality[edit | edit source]

Bottom-line mentality (BLM) is a construct that places a strong emphasis on results, which is described as “one-dimensional thinking that revolves around securing bottom-line outcomes to the neglect of competing priorities” (Greenbaum et al., 2012, p. 344). In a systematic literature review by Greenbaum et al (2023), their findings suggest that BLM may be used as an influencing strategy by people in positions of authority. The findings also confirm that BLM is associated with favourable (e.g., financial and employee performance) and unfavourable (e.g., employee morale and regulatory compliance) outcomes. Essentially, the findings suggest that leaders should exercise substantial caution before endorsing a BLM and consider using other approaches to avoid this mindset.


With application to the case study, it could be inferred that Sarah unconsciously has bottom line mentality. It appears Sarah is focused on delivering the NPP above all else, which is at the neglect of her team and their needs. While Sarah may not identify herself as having a bottom-line mentality, her employees, however, may perceive this as her leadership style.

Emerging themes[edit | edit source]

Emotional agility

Dr. Susan David (2016), a psychologist and author, popularised the concept of emotional agility, which refers to the ability of being aware of your emotions and adapting to challenging situations with mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and resilience. It also involves accepting your emotions without judgment, learning to sit in discomfort, and then choosing how to respond to them in a way that aligns with your values and goals (David 2016).

David (2016) highlights the importance of emotional agility in the workplace, challenging the prevailing wisdom that negative thoughts and emotions should have no place at work and arguing that everyone experiences criticism, doubt, and fear in their thoughts and feelings. To develop emotional agility David suggests following this four-step process, which has been adapted from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy:

  1. Recognise your patterns: Identify when you're caught up in negative thoughts and emotions.
  2. Label your thoughts and emotions: Objectively label your thoughts and feelings to create distance from them.
  3. Accept them: Embrace your thoughts and emotions with an open attitude and compassion.
  4. Act on your values: Make choices aligned with your core values, even in the face of difficult thoughts and emotions.

David (2016) emphasises that developing emotional agility is a long-term process and can lead to improved well-being and better job performance in a complex, fast-changing work environment.

An effective leader who can serve as a role model, providing psychological safety, for the team plays an important role in ensuring an organisations[grammar?] overall success, particularly during challenging periods. Throughout the pandemic, agile leaders proved to be valuable assets to their organisations. The organisations that thrived were those with dedicated and adaptable leaders who were willing and able to pivot for the benefit of the organisation.[factual?]

In review
Checking understanding
1. What is emotional intelligence, and why is it important in personal and professional life?
2. In what ways can an understanding of SDT be applied in workplace settings to enhance employee motivation and job satisfaction?
3. What is the main factor that contributes to a bottom-line mentality within an organisation?

Critical thinking

As an executive leadership coach and mentor, you’re working with Sarah to become a more effective leader in her government role. Firstly, how would you address the current challenges and negative survey results? What steps would you suggest Sarah takes in developing her emotional intelligence for addressing the issues within her team?

What behaviours, skills and traits are required to be an effective leader?[edit | edit source]

Case study
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand (2017 - 2023): Leadership during crisis
Figure 5. Jacinda Ardern showing the utmost empathy while visitng members of the Muslim community at the Phillipstown Community Centre.
Jacinda Ardern's leadership during the Christchurch Mosque shootings (see, Figure 5), Whakaari White Island volcano eruption and the COVID-19 pandemic exemplifies the qualities of empathy, effective communication, support, decisiveness, and inclusivity. Her leadership approach not only brought New Zealand through difficult times but also serves as a model for leaders worldwide. Through her actions and gun law policy, Ardern made a lasting impact on her country and the global community, emphasising the importance of compassion and collaboration in times of adversity (see, Figure 6).
Figure 6. Ardern's social media was inundated with messages, similar to this one, praising her leadership and compassion.

As Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern showed effective leadership during her tenure, demonstrating a combination of behaviours, skills and traits to inspire and guide her country through a time of crisis. In this next section, we will delve into the research on leadership behaviours, skills and traits, as well as identify some of the important elements of what it takes to be an effective leader, like Jacinda.

Behaviours[edit | edit source]

What are leadership behaviours? Effective leadership behaviours are qualities and actions that empower leaders to inspire, influence, and motivate teams (Yukl et al., 2019), thereby improving their effectiveness in achieving work outcomes. These behaviours have been identified by research undertaken by Yukl (1999) [where?] which generated findings that produced a hierarchical taxonomy comprising of four meta-categories and 15 specific effective leadership behaviours (see Table 1). Leaders can develop behaviours, such as clarifying, supporting, envisioning change and networking, to boost the efficiency and productivity of their team members. Additionally, relations-orientated leadership behaviours contribute significantly to job satisfaction, in particular supporting, developing and empowering employees (Yukl et al., 2019).

Table 1: Hierarchical taxonomy of leadership behaviours (Yukl, 1999; Yukl et al., 2019)
Meta-categories Specific behaviours Primary objective


Monitoring operations

Problem solving

The primary objective is to accomplish work in an efficient and

reliable way.

Related significantly to managerial effectiveness.


Developing Recognising


The primary objective is to increase the quality of human resources.

Related significantly to managerial effectiveness and job satisfaction.

Advocating change

Envisioning change

Encouraging innovation

Facilitating collective learning

The primary objective is to increase innovation, collective

learning, and adaption to the external environment.

Related significantly to managerial effectiveness.


External monitoring


The primary objective is to acquire the necessary information and resources, and to promote and defend the interests of the team and organisation.

Skills[edit | edit source]

What are leadership skills? According to Northhouse (2021) leadership skills are a set of qualities, capabilities and knowledge, that can be learned and developed. Research findings on capabilities by Mumford and colleagues (2000) identifies five components that are related to effective leadership, they are individual attributes, competencies, leadership outcomes, career experiences, and environmental influences (see Table 2). Mumford et al. (2000) suggest that leadership is not solely dependent on innate traits or personality characteristics but can be developed through the acquisition and refinement of specific skills and knowledge. This perspective aligns with the idea that leadership is a dynamic and learnable process, and individuals can become more effective leaders by focusing on skill development and continuous learning.

Table 2: Five components related to effective leadership (Northhouse, 2021; Mumford et al., 2000)
Individual attributes
  • General cognitive ability
  • Motivation
  • Personality
  • Crystallised cognitive ability
These attributes support people

when applying their leadership competencies.

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Social judgement skills
  • Knowledge
These three competencies are important

elements of effective leadership.

Leadership outcomes
  • Effective problem-solving
  • Performance
These two outcomes are strongly influenced by a leader's competencies. When a leader achieves these outcomes they increase their chances of effective leadership.
Career experiences
  • Challenging projects
  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Training and development
  • Solving complex problems
A leader's career experience may influence

their problem-solving skills.

Environmental influences
  • Technology
  • Infrastructure
  • Expertise of a team (employees)
  • Communication
  • Pandemics
These elements lie outside a leader's capabilities, traits, and experiences.

Traits[edit | edit source]

What are leadership traits? Traits refer to people’s general characteristics, which are relatively stable and consistent over time, they include, motives, attitudes, and patterns of behaviour (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991). Research conducted by Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991) reveals a set of core characteristics that distinguish successful leaders from others. While these core traits alone do not exclusively determine a person's potential as a leader or a successful one, they are, however, considered prerequisites for people with leadership potential. Kirkpatrick and Locke's (1991) research identified six core traits (see Table 3) in effective leadership. Other traits such as charisma, creativity, and flexibility show inconclusive evidence regarding their importance in effective leadership (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991).

Table 3: Leadership traits (Black & Bright, 2019; Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991).
Traits Description
Drive The motivation and determination that a leader possesses to achieve their goals and lead their team effectively.
Leadership motivation An intrinsic desire to take on a leadership role and the responsibilities.
Integrity A commitment to trust, transparency, consistency and the pursuit of high standards of professionalism.
Self-confidence Having a belief in one's own abilities, skills, and judgments.
Cognitive ability The capability of exercising good judgment, having strong problem-solving and analytical reasoning, possessing the capacity to think strategically and multidimensionally.
Knowledge of the business Having a high degree of understanding of the organisations[grammar?] operating environment and technical oversight.
In review
Checking understanding 1. How are leadership behaviors classified in the hierarchical taxonomy by Yukl (1999)?
2. According to Mumford and colleagues (2000), what are the five components related to effective leadership?
3. What are leadership traits, and how do they differ from leadership behaviors and skills?

Critical thinking

How do the identified leadership behaviors, skills, and traits interrelate and contribute to effective leadership, and can one compensate for deficiencies in the other?

What are strategies for developing effective leaders?[edit | edit source]

Many organisations are actively enhancing their support for leaders by offering improved development programs, equipping them with new tools and technologies to enhance productivity, and implementing more comprehensive well-being initiatives. Some of these initiatives and strategies for developing effective leaders include:

  • Individual coaching aimed at addressing business challenges and fostering professional growth.
  • 360-degree assessments to assist with identifying areas of growth and understanding how one's leadership qualities are perceived by others.
  • Executive leadership programs and advanced degree options tailored to develop business expertise and critical industry-specific competencies.
  • Using workforce data and analytics to provide insights to leaders on their effectiveness as well as workforce management strategies.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

What does it take to be an effective leader? Essentially, effective leadership is a complex and multifaceted concept that involves a combination of behaviours, skills, and traits. Through the case study of Sarah, a Senior Executive Manager, and Jacinda Ardern, former Prime Minister of New Zealand we have explored the key components of ineffective and effective leadership respectively, and their application in real-world scenarios.

Effective leadership encompasses behaviours such as clarifying goals, supporting team members, envisioning change, and fostering relationships within the team. Relation-oriented behaviours can significantly contribute to job satisfaction and productivity. These behaviours can be developed through coaching and continuous learning and development.

Individual attributes, competencies, leadership outcomes, career experiences, and environmental influences all play a role in shaping effective leaders.

Traits such as drive, leadership motivation, integrity, self-confidence, cognitive ability, and knowledge of the business are considered essential for effective leadership. While other traits like charisma and creativity are of less importance[grammar?].

In the case of Sarah, addressing the current challenges and negative survey results would require her to focus on developing her emotional intelligence. This would involve recognising and understanding her team members' emotions, managing stress, providing feedback, and fostering open communication. By doing so, she can create a more supportive and inclusive work environment, ultimately improving her leadership effectiveness.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Black, J.S., & Bright, D.S. (2019). Organizational Behavior. Houston, Texas. OpenStax.

Brackett, M. A., Rivers, S. E., & Salovey, P. (2011). Emotional intelligence: Implications for personal, social, academic, and workplace success. Social and personality psychology compass, 5(1), 88–103.

Côté, S., Lopes, P. N., Salovey, P., & Miners, C. T. (2010). Emotional intelligence and leadership emergence in small groups. The Leadership Quarterly, 21(3), 496–508.

David, S. (2016). Emotional agility: Get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life. Penguin.

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. Why it can matter more than IQ. New York. Bantam Books.

Greenbaum, R. L., Mawritz, M. B., & Eissa, G. (2012). Bottom-line mentality as an antecedent of social undermining and the moderating roles of core self-evaluations and conscientiousness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(2), 343.

Greenbaum, R. L., Mawritz, M. B., & Zaman, N. N. (2023). The Construct of Bottom-Line Mentality: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going. Journal of Management, 49(6), 2109–2147.

Horner, M. (1997). Leadership theory: past, present and future. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 3(4), 270–287.

Kirkpatrick, S. A., & Locke, E. A. (1991). Leadership: do traits matter?. Academy of management perspectives, 5(2), 48–60.

Northouse, P. G. (2021). Leadership: Theory and practice. Sage publications.

Mumford, M. D., Zaccaro, S. J., Harding, F. D., Jacobs, T. O., & Fleishman, E. A. (2000). Leadership skills for a changing world: Solving complex social problems. The leadership quarterly, 11(1), 11–35.

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (August 3 version) [Large language model].

Palmer, B., Walls, M., Burgess, Z., & Stough, C. (2001). Emotional intelligence and effective leadership. Leadership and Organization development journal, 22(1), 5–10.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68.

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9, 185–211.

Salovey, P., & Grewal, D. (2005). The science of emotional intelligence. Current directions in psychological science, 14(6), 281–285.

Thomas, A., & Gupta, V. (2021). Social capital theory, social exchange theory, social cognitive theory, financial literacy, and the role of knowledge sharing as a moderator in enhancing financial well-being: from bibliometric analysis to a conceptual framework model. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 664638.

Yukl, G. (1999). An evaluative essay on current conceptions of effective leadership. European journal of work and organizational psychology, 8(1), 33–48.

Yukl, G., Mahsud, R., Prussia, G., & Hassan, S. (2019). Effectiveness of broad and specific leadership behaviors. Personnel Review, 48(3), 774–783.

External links[edit | edit source]