A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.
-John C. Maxwell
Leadership is not innate but a learned behavior, in other words, a skill. Leaders are the product of the books they read, the people they listen to, and the ones they associate with. Although, there are no definite attributes that truly define a leader, strong leaders usually perform and behave a certain way. Leadership cannot be described in terms of personality traits but rather expressed through actions and leadership styles.
Leaders are Influencers
Leading can also be expressed in terms of how much influence one may have on others–leverage authority, inspiration, motivation, etc. Their goal is to focus on what’s best for the organization as a whole. Below is a list of the foundational thought processes at work behind a leader’s education.
1. Leaders are great learners
Leaders can learn from anyone and everyone, but they prefer to learn from recognized experts in their field. Driven by their need and desire to grow as leaders, they are compelled to learn something new everyday. They learn from books, audio recordings, videos, other leaders, and mentors.
2. Leaders are voracious readers
A very large common denominator shared by great leaders is that they learn from books.“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders must be readers,” Harry Truman said. It is a known fact that all famous leaders across history were also avid readers.
3. Leaders are agents of change
As influencers, leaders encourage and promote change in their lives but also the lives of others. They are visionaries and focus on turning their vision into reality. Change is promoted through motivation, not by force.
4. Competent leaders create influence-dominant environments
- Teams are appreciated for their strengths and contributions leading to trusting relationships
- Willing followers, and other leaders, are drawn to the team
- Continuous team recruitment and development is actively pursued and encouraged
- The organization has the resources of a team of individuals with diversity in experience, skills, background and education
5. Leaders inspire and motivate
There are times for a great speech and there are times for action, but in order to inspire and motivate others, research is finding that successful leaders use one or more of six consistent behaviors everyday:
- They are able to communicate a clear picture of that they wish to acomplish to their team
- They connect emotionally with people by being great listeners
- They generate returns, they are reliable, and are accountable for personal and group performance
- They show the way by being powerful role models
- They exude passion and enthusiasm about their endeavor
- They provide a strong technical direction that stems from extensive expertise
The Art of Performing
Competent leaders chiefly perform at high levels of excellence. They routinely look for ways to keep learning, growing, and improving. They seek to remain relevant in an ever-changing world and consistently deliver on their promise.
Leaders set development goals for themselves as continual personal growth is a vital component of effective leadership. Continuous growth is the foundation for success as a leader and it helps in breaking detrimental personal patterns, developing your character as a leader, and finding your purpose. Working with a mentor is a good way to hold yourself accountable for your progress.
7. Performers must be self-starters
Leaders must be self-motivated and take personal initiative. Motivation must be consistent and durable. Leaders find their drive from within, take initiatives, and perform accordingly. For leaders, motivation doesn’t come from external circumstances but is intrinsic and comes from a deeper sense of purpose.
8. Lead the change
In the end, only action creates change, and for leaders to lead the change, they need to learn and practice the tools, and change the internal and external environments. Actions and their outcomes will determine the quality of your leadership. Building relationships, developing others, and engaging people in turning your vision into reality will build your reputation as a leader.
9. Great performers create a positive work culture
Attitude is a discipline. A positive attitudeis contagious and the mark of a strong leader. Performers actively seek the best out of any situations and do not blame performance on external factors. They understand that it is how they respond to situations
10. They start and finish everyday with a positive attitude
Cultivating gratitude will greatly improve your mood and influence others. Attitude is actually a discipline.
- Smile at the first 5 people you see everyday
- At night, write down 5 positive things you experienced about your day
- Why 5 times? Five times seem doable to start a good habit and create a positive mindset. Additionally, when you smile, the brain releases chemicals that positively change your physiology.
The Art of Leading
There are many different leadership styles and experienced leaders have learned to rely on a wide variety based on circumstances and with whom they are dealing. Today’s leaders are able to see things from multiple perspectives and establish which model is appropriate in different scenarios.
11. Leadership styles
There are countless models on leadership styles but Goleman’s 6 styles theory is a pretty popular one and has been thoroughly researched. In Goleman’s model, each leadership style is defined by a self-explanatory statement and is rooted in the concept of emotional intelligence:
- Coercive, or commanding –‘do as I say’
- Pace-setting –‘do as I do, right now’
- Authoritative –‘come with me’
- Affiliative –‘people come first’
- Democratic –‘what do you think?’
- Coaching –‘try it and see
This is a good segue into another quality that leaders usually possess:
12. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage our own emotions and those of others. Other underlying capabilities that come from emotional intelligence include the following: empathy, developing and building relationships, self-awareness, collaboration,communication, drive to achieve, initiative, self-confidence, and more.
13. Develop decision-making skill sets
Decision-making is a core leadership competency. Making decisions based on the things we value leads to consistency. Additionally, leaders often have to make the right decisions in the heat of the moment and often under immense pressure so decision-making skills are acquired through years of practice, generally during the performing phase.
14.Leaders have a vision
Leadership has to do with vision and direction. Once the organization has a compelling vision, they can set goals and define strategic initiatives that help people know what to focus on.
15. Strategic leadership
Strategic leadership is all about vision and culture. Vision determines the focus and destination, while culture is like seeing your values in action. Vision is the catalyst to set goals into motion, followed by strategic thinking–the “how”of the equation, and finally, the actions or the work.
16. Leaders know how to delegate
Delegation seems obvious but to make it work for everyone involved, there are rules to follow. First of all, evaluate what your specific strengths are, then, delegate what you’re not good at to the people who are. Another option is to train people to think like you.
17. Promote ethical culture within their organization
Maintain integrity, show respect, and treat others as you would like to be treated. Adding value to others, showing respect, giving appreciation, putting your trust in others, and openly sharing your agenda are the foundations of ethics.
18. Leaders hold true their core values and beliefs
Know yourself and express your values through your actions. By the same token, knowing who you are also means knowing your limitations. Leaders integrate values and principles into their organization on behalf of the common good. Transparency in values, beliefs, and actions, trustworthiness, and leading with integrity are some essential foundations of leadership.
19. Team Building and organizational design
Leaders focus on common objectives rather than personal agendas. There can be no leadership without a team. There cannot be a leader without followers. Building and empowering teams is linked to key business performance. Organizational structure is a top priority among millennial leaders. Leaders recognizes that collaboration is a necessary component of leadership. They understand that people are far more effective when working together than individuals working autonomously.
20. Leaders are mentors
Leaders help foster the development and professional growth of their employees through mentoring. Research has shown that mentorship can elevate professional performance exponentially. In order to inspire performance, leaders must take more time to mentor and coach as well as to support networking opportunities and other performance development avenues.
21. Leaders take risks
Leaders are not afraid to get out of their comfort zone. They take calculated risks, make mistakes and learn from them. While they do not repeat the same mistakes, they see failure as an opportunity to grow.
22. Leaders must be confident
Self-confidence is the cornerstone of leadership and a powerful asset. A leader must first believe in himself or herself for others to trust him or her. The reality is people trust leaders who exhibit confidence and also have the confidence to admit when they don’t know the answer. The role that confidence plays in leadership is the determining factor between an average leader and a great one.
23. The best leaders know how to be humble
As Indira Gandhi famously said: “ There are two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group: there is less competition there.” There’s a big difference between controlling and leading with influence. Not only will a good leader strategically share the credit but they will also recognize that they don’t know everything and that there is always more to learn. Based on new evidence, humble leaders were found to be most effective, and it turns out humility
is actually a trait that offers a competitive advantage.
24. Leading in today’s global world
Today’s leaders need to exercise leadership with a global perspective in mind. To succeed in a global workplace, leaders must be conscious of the environment, diversity, ethical considerations, multicultural aspects, political structures, technology, etc.
25. Desirable traits that leaders possess
The following list is not exhaustive but generally leaders who possess these traits yield positive results:
- personal charisma
- people skills
- emotional intelligence
Leading equates to serving others. Servant leaders put their people first and are motivated by mutual benefits. Servant leaders continuously develop their followers. In essence, servant leadership is a blend and balance between strategic and operational leadership.
Embody what it’s like to serve by volunteering for nonprofit organizations, but also invest in your people by volunteering your help before it is requested. Giving your time is a great way to show that you really care. Moreover, it has been proven that volunteering will help you grow as a leader.
27 . Servant leaders are non-judgemental
Being judgmental has the potential to severely damage relationships. Perceived judgement may be expressed in the form of comments, through a condescending tone of voice, or via non-verbal cues such as body language. Rather, offer help to promote change.
28. Leaders are willing to sacrifice
Seasoned leaders understand that you have to lose some to gain some. Leadership is about service to others and includes sacrifice. Leading other people is a great responsibility. For instance, a leader will have to sacrifice personal desires for a cause greater than himself.
29. Develop other leaders
Able leadership can be measured by legacy. It means teaching others to lead, providing opportunities for growth, and demonstrating by example. In practice, it means spending time, resources, and implement daily strategies for developing future leaders.
30. Share your mistakes with others
Mistakes are a wonderful way to learn. Mistakes create opportunities to look for new ways to approach problems. You can also gain trust in sharing mistakes to help others learn from them.
31. Build trust and give trust
Leaders build loyalty by fostering a culture of trust. Build trust by offering to trust people before expecting it to be earned. Leaders have to invest their time to build relationships with their potential followers. People must feel that the leader cares and has their best interest in mind before they can trust and allow themselves to be led.
32. Keep an open mind and respect other people ideas and opinions
By being open minded, you are letting others challenge your current beliefs. In turn, admitting you do not know everything reflects your vulnerability, honesty, and listening abilities. It is essential to appreciate other people’s strengths and contributions and welcome their feedback. Without others, there is no leadership.
33. Make decisions that build better teams, not better individuals
The goal of the leader is to unleash the power of his team as a whole. The role of the leader is to inspire people to function as a team and work toward the common good. Every team needs a variety of players as teams perform better because their diverse skills and perspectives have a snowball effect. The true potential of teamwork comes from the group’s cohesion and combined energies focused on a shared mission.
Great Leaders are Experts at Dealing with People
Valuing relationships is one of the essential foundations of leadership. Strong leaders create environments where people feel appreciated and empowered.
34. They have great people skills
Learning about others is vital to sound leadership. Knowing how to nurture interpersonal relationships through the importance of listening, a sense of empathy, and by providing constant reinforcement is the mark of a good leader.
35. They are effective communicators
Great leaders make sure they cultivate good communication practices and develop clear communication language so that they are heard and understood. Encourage healthy dialogue; communication is not a one-way street but multi-directional.
36. They encourage other people to grow
Leaders promote an environment where people can learn and grow at a pace they can handle. The role of a leader is to enable others to unlock their full potential. One way to do that is through the power of encouragement.
Lead by example
The best way to get high standards of accountability from your team is by modeling the expected behavior yourself. Leaders have the power to inspire and will result in better employee performance, motivation,and deep commitment.
37.Be a role model
Effective leaders must lead by example and model expected behavior. Leading by example is not only contagious but it is the starting point for establishing influence. In order to inspire people to follow your lead, you have to showcase excellence.
38. Inspire with your actions
Actions inspire actions. A true leader enables others to act. As a science, leadership depends on actions. One thing to consider is to be sure to align your actions and decisions with your values. Experts on the subject, Kouses and Posner, wrote, “People don’t follow your technique–they follow you.” Leaders know that they have to model the way and be there in person.
39.Leaders show up early
Leadership is a responsibility and demands self-discipline.Leaders show up early for a meeting to welcome, engage, and empower others. Showing up early is also a sign of discipline, which a good leader needs to not only implement good habits but to inspire others. Developing discipline in your professional (and personal) life is a must in order to be an effective leader, and to inspire others to be disciplined as well.
40.Don’t be afraid to ask for help
The best leaders out there know to surround themselves with people they trust for advice. When faced with a problem, seeking counsel can magically change your perception
41.Leadership requires the ability to deliver results
Consistently delivering on your promises will earn you trust and loyalty. It is your responsibility as a leader to create an environment where people can realize their potential by motivating your team. This can be done by giving feedback and appreciation often, focusing on people’s individual strength, encouraging brainstorming and sharing of ideas, as well as setting company goals with end dates and measurable milestones.
42. Take responsibility for your organization’s mistakes
By taking responsibility for failures, you will build trust within your company. Great leaders see mistakes as valuable learning experiences for themselves and their teams.
43. Cultivate integrity
Strong leaders are honest, authentic, and transparent. Being truthful contributes to building trust and gaining appreciation. Dishonesty is counterproductive as you will lose respect and thus influence.
44. Resolve conflict quickly and effectively
Effective leaders are good problem solvers and quick at implementing solutions. Conflict and hostility can hinder progress and hurt a team, so conflict needs to be addressed right away.
Avoid common pitfalls
Budding leaders make mistakes, but some of them are avoidable. Being aware of common mistakes can be the first step toward not repeating them.
45. Do not take complete control of complex assignments
As leadership demands increase, team members should have the opportunity to grow by managing a project outside of their comfort zone, so don’t hesitate to delegate. As we said above, leading isn’t about control but influence.
46. Don’t micromanage
There is a difference between micromanaging and coaching. Micromanaging hopes to set boundaries and rules whereas coaching is necessary to develop and prepare people to succeed. Additionally, teaching others is also a way to know how well you know your subject.
47. Be consistent with your behavior
Know that as a leader, you are under the spotlight 24/7. Being one person while leading and another in different scenarios is confusing and doesn’t inspire trust. Being a consistent leader is a great strength that denotes commitment and convictions.
48. Do not blame someone else for your mistakes
Mistakes are an opportunity for finding solutions, not for blaming. Instead, successful leaders tend to promote a culture of accountability and collaborative problem-solving rather than one of defensiveness. Mistakes are there to make you grow; it’s ok to embrace your failures and ask for help.
49. Lacking a clear vision
Without clear expectations and defined goals, performance suffers. Many theories support the link between goal setting and performance. It is the leader’s responsibility to set goals, allocate resources, and prioritize the workload in order to align the entire organization to the main mission. Learn how to set a culture with clear vision by using specific, measurable, and attainable (but challenging) standards and hold people accountable by securing team commitment.
50. Not rewarding and motivating your team
Do not wait for a special project or an important deadline to motivate your people but rather, do so continuously. Keep inspiring your team by sharing inspirational quotes from your favorite leaders. The same principle goes for rewards. Forgetting to reward good performance but acknowledging when mistakes are made is a common pitfall . Some form of motivation on a regular basis is essential to build individuals and give them a sense of belonging.Finally, mistakes are unavoidable, but if you learn from them, you will inevitably experience growth.