Six Steps to Effective Leadership

18 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by James G. Clawson

James G. Clawson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

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This note presents a six-step model of leadership effectiveness: (1) clarifying who you are (personal values and mission), (2) clarifying what you want (strategic vision), (3) clarifying what others can contribute (participative leadership), (4) supporting others so they can contribute (organizational redesign), (5) relentlessness, and (6) monitoring and celebrating progress.




The northern or top ball in our general model is LEADER and refers to characteristics of the individual—you—as a potential leader. My assertion is that you can make a difference. Whether you want to do so—and on what scale over how large a circle of influence—is up to you. How large a difference over how large a circle of influence is also up to you. You can choose whether to influence one other, ten others, or millions of others and in what way.

Of course, each choice carries with it demands and consequences. If you choose to influence millions, your choice will require that you spend your time among the millions constantly working to gain their “followership.” This is a very different lifestyle from that chosen by a person who wishes only to influence a few or none. Whatever lifestyle you choose will have consequences for you and those around you. It is important to remember that the choice is yours.

Let's assume for the moment, that you want to influence others, to be a leader. First, that's the wrong start. If you want to be a leader, you've put the cart before the horse, and your results are likely to be mixed or inconsequential. Truly effective leaders don't start out wishing to be leaders. The title, the position, the stature, the power, the accouterments of leadership do not wear well on those who seek them as the primary goal.

Instead, you may better ask yourself, “What value do I want to add to society (my community)?” Or “What changes do I believe deep down are necessary to improve my organization, our world (my community)?” Truly effective and morally grounded leaders begin with a cause, a purpose, a goal that serves fellow citizens—and not with the goal of being the leader because it appears attractive, powerful, respected, and well-paid. In my experience, ultimately the leaders who seek the positions mostly for the position's sake end up being caretakers who do little and are not long remembered.

. . .

Keywords: career change leadership

Suggested Citation

Clawson, James G., Six Steps to Effective Leadership. Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0617, Available at SSRN:

James G. Clawson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States


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