Recognizing an effective leader

An effective leader builds relationships on trust and mutual respect and a leader is responsible for the success of a business and helping a team achiever their professional goals.
By Joe Skinner, Dewberry February 16, 2018

Joe Skinner, PE, is vice president of Dewberry's Raleigh office. Courtesy: DewberryI’ve been working in the engineering industry for more than four decades, and I’ve picked up on a few things in that time. First, hard work yields professional progression. Second, a good leader is humble, strong, understanding, and interested in doing what it takes to help their team succeed. A strong leader exhibits five key values: honesty, passion, contribution, individualism, and perseverance.

The roles of a leader

Through my experience, I’ve gained a better understanding of what this well-rounded leader looks like. Recently, I’ve devoted much of my time to raising up the next generation of leaders and hopefully guiding them with the basic principles I’ve learned over the past 40 years. This formulaic process is simple and straightforward and can be boiled down to two simple maxims.

1. Leadership is something you do with people, not to people. A strong leader builds relationships based on trust and mutual respect. I would be an inefficient leader if I didn’t trust my team with their own tasks. The work we produce for our clients wouldn’t get done without the autonomy cultivated in our workplace. There’s very little in life more important than respect, this is especially true in a professional service industry. As a leader, it’s imperative that I respect my team. Respect breeds respect, and if this is mutually understood among a team, it will be more successful.

2. Leadership is about being committed to the success of others. As a leader, you’re responsible for not only the success of the business, but for helping your team achieve their professional goals. An effective leader knows the values of the company and those of their team. Capitalize on this unique position and do what you can to encourage your team to actively pursue their goals. Often times these goals align favorably with the goals of the organization. If I am not committed to the success of my team–and them to me–very little will be accomplished.

If you’re an aspiring leader, it’s important to realize you are where you are because of the influence of others. Your goals, commitments, aspirations, experiences, and lessons learned have all been influenced by those around you.

Influential leaders

Can you remember the people who made the biggest impact on your life, maybe a parent, manager, coach, school teacher, or friend? More than likely, these people taught you valuable lessons, made you feel appreciated, or you simply enjoyed spending time with them. Whatever the reason, if you still remember their name and face then they probably played a key role in your professional development.

Leadership is an attribute that says something about a person, it’s not an organizational position or a job title. The distinction is critical. It’s about putting people first and doing the right thing, which is often the difficult thing. If you’re faithful to do the right things even when it’s not the popular choice, I’m confident the result will be increased productivity, a higher level of trust, and a more positive work environment.


Joe Skinner, PE, is vice president of Dewberry’s Raleigh office. With more than 40 years of experience, Skinner has been involved in engineering, land development, and business management projects throughout North and South Carolina. This article originally appeared on Dewberry’s blog. Dewberry is a CFE Media content partner.