The Core Skills You Need to Be an Effective Team Leader

Published: 19th March 2010
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In my career so far I've been a highly effective team leader both in the Navy and in my current job managing food services for a large University with more than 24,000 students, faculty, and staff.

Now I'm becoming a team leader as a successful Internet marketer.

I'm finding that the skills you need to be a good team leader over the Internet aren't all that different from the skills I've already used for more than 30 years.

After exercising progressive leadership my entire professional life, I'm happy to pass along the core skills - and core principles - of leadership to you.

1. Part of leadership is teaching. A big part of teaching is figuring out how your people learn best and tailoring your teaching style to their learning style. You'll have visual learners, people who learn best by reading, and others who need to hear it from your mouth. There's nothing wrong with any of that - and it's your job as their leader to make sure your people understand what you're telling them.

2. Listening is an even bigger part of successful communication than talking.
Effective team leaders learn and use active listening skills.

3. To lead your people well you've got to take the time to understand them as individuals. What's the best way to motivate each individual on your team?

4. Team leaders are team builders. Effective team leaders learn how to encourage team members to take initiative both on their own and as part of the team.

A person can be a great communicator, listener, and motivator, and still not be all that great as a team leader. Why? Because leadership isn't just given; it's earned.

Skills are great; skills are necessary. But if you want to lead and lead well, these are the core principles you need to follow:

1. Responsibility. Don't make promises to your team that you can't keep. If you say you'll get back to someone, do it.

2. Humility. I was a Chief Petty Officer responsible for 2 squadrons and 20 submarine crews. Currently I'm ultimately responsible for more than 300 employees. And you know what? I don't know everything. Neither do you. If one of your team members knows more about some aspect of Internet marketing than you do, be grateful and let that person take the lead for awhile.

3. Self control. So you're having a bad day; your dog died and your daughter just announced that she's dating some Goth kid and you can't tell if the kid is a boy or a girl. These things aren't your team's problem. Your job is to put your feelings aside when you have to so you can give your team the encouragement they need and deserve.

4. Honesty. I can't stress this enough. Leadership is about building trust. Lie once and you'll lose the ability to lead.

5. Respect. Your team members are your equals. Whether you're a Chief Petty Officer or leading a team of Internet marketers, you need to recognize the worth of each individual. Give respect and you'll inspire respect.

Ultimately, being an effective team leader isn't about what you know. It's about what you do and about who you're willing to be. Dedicate yourself to being the best, and you'll attract the best people to be on your team.

Peter Harkness served in the U.S. Submarine force for 20 years and was formerly the Director of Operations for a large university. He brings his values of hard work, perseverance, and leadership to his Internet marketing venture, which is thriving as more and more brick-and-mortar businesses fail every day. He is the creator of the Million Dollar Plan of Action, which he uses to guide both new and seasoned marketers step by step through the process of building and marketing their businesses and their brands online. It is his mission to create a team of 100 successful entrepreneurs by the end of 2012. For more information, visit his website at

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