Leadership Spotlight

How Effective Leaders Make Us Feel

A stock photo of a business professional looking out of a window.

“The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued.” 

—Ken Robinson1

Take a moment to think about your leaders, both past and present. How do these individuals make you feel? Do positive or negative emotions top your list? What are these leaders’ strengths? Weaknesses?

Some leaders have no rank in their agency, yet they inspire others to follow them. Even if you do not currently hold a formal position as a leader, your peers may think of you as an informal one. What would they consider your strengths and weaknesses? Which feelings do they have when they think of your leadership abilities?

Many employees probably would agree that leaders should have certain identifiable traits, including effective communication, problem-solving, and decision-making skills; a clearly articulated mission and vision; and the ability to inspire their people. Unfortunately, some personnel have experienced times when their leaders demonstrated such destructive attributes as arrogance, excessive pride and ego, and a lack of empathy and flexibility. If we specifically try to remember how particular leaders impacted our feelings, we may better emulate those who did so positively. Similarly, we can avoid replicating destructive actions of former leaders who made us feel bad.

By going one step further than listing characteristics of our leaders, we can delve deeper into how those specific traits made us feel. We can bridge the gap between just understanding those feelings and considering an important component of leadership: Those we lead should feel good too.

Take time to remember the positive feelings you had while flourishing under leaders you admired and respected. Focusing on those individuals’ traits may help improve your effectiveness and result in your employees’ high performance while you feel good at the same time. Law enforcement often can be an isolated profession in which members are uncomfortable sharing feelings and only reluctantly open up to their colleagues. Leadership entails building relationships and influencing others; we progress toward these goals when our employees feel safe, trust us, and are inspired to complete their mission.

Dr. Cynthia L. Lewis, an instructor with the Executive Programs Instruction Unit at the FBI Academy, prepared this Leadership Spotlight. She can be reached at cllewis@fbi.gov.


1 Rae Ann Fera, “Ken Robinson on the Principles of Creative Leadership,” Fast Company, July 5, 2011, accessed April 2, 2017, https://www.fastcompany.com/1764044/ken-robinson-on-the-principles-of-creative-leadership.