Effective leadership is accomplished by using one of many different styles, but basic principles can be found in all of them that transcend individual interpretation of what makes a successful leader. Some leaders grasp these principles gradually, while truly great leaders seem to understand them intuitively.
While history holds many examples of people who controlled others through violence and intimidation, this is not the same thing as leading. A skillful leader understands that setting an example is the best way to gain the confidence of a group, and having the power to force people to act in a certain way doesn't mean that you are their leader. Leading by example is proof to followers that you are serious in what you say and unwilling to order someone else to do what you would not do yourself. This attitude builds trust and a willingness to cooperate in those who follow.
Effective leaders understand the power of collective strength and have the skills and diplomacy to guide the collective strength of a group in the direction that they want. A collection of individuals is not enough to create collective strength; they must be brought together by a unifying vision. This is sometimes accomplished spontaneously or cooperatively, but more frequently it is the result of a charismatic and strong-willed leader who creates a vision and convinces a group to lend its power to the manifestation of that vision. A great leader is simultaneously able to lead a group and understand that his power is totally dependent upon them.
To lead effectively, a leader must know where he wants to go, and this requires a vision that extends beyond the current moment and situation. A knowledge of history, an understanding of cause and effect, and a comprehension of current conditions and the possibilities that exist within them are all necessary components of effective long-term thinking. This skill enables a leader to envision a goal that may be some distance away and to create and implement a plan to reach that goal that involves a group of people.
A leader with little confidence in herself is not going to last long. Confidence is contagious and evident at a primal level, and others can sense its presence or absence in a potential leader. Presenting a plan and putting yourself into a position of authority to implement it requires a high level of conviction that what you are doing is right. Outside of the field of action, great leaders may even seem arrogant by normal standards because the confidence in the rightness of their actions is so strong. While this trait may be tiresome in a roommate or spouse, it can be invaluable in situations that require strong leadership.