The Simple Truth Behind What Makes A Great Leader

Great leaders aren’t always found in a position of power.

The truth is, leadership can come from anywhere and can be developed as a skill. Leadership is about serving and influencing individuals regardless of their job title to achieve a particular goal. 

Being a leader is not always roses and daisies. Being the one everyone looks to for guidance and support can be challenging.

But if you’re up for the challenge, follow these guidelines and you’ll be on the right path to becoming a successful leader at work.

Adopt a growth mindset

Being an authentic leader means continuously challenging yourself and your team to grow. Any setbacks or roadblocks you need to see as a stepping block to improve. Continually improving your skills and developing new ones. This is called a growth mindset.

When you’re continually striving to better yourself and your team, you will see better results than you thought was possible, beating the odds and setting new standards.

Think strategically

Being a leader requires you to be resourceful toward yourself and your team’s goals. This means being strategic with what you have, having a plan that will get you to your goals, and determination to act on it. As a leader, it means the potential of everyone on your team and knowing how to delegate to make the best use of your team’s strengths. 

start with why by simon sinek

Start With Why

By Simon Sinek

⏱ 11 minute reading time

🎧 Audio version available

Take responsibility 

Taking on a leadership role means taking on more responsibility and owning it. As humans, we make mistakes. But it’s not easy owning up to those mistakes and being receptive to feedback and change. Taking responsibility not just for good, but also for the bad, wins over your coworkers and makes you more trustworthy.

Business growth comes from taking a risk, and sometimes those risks don’t always pan out. When the mistake is yours, take ownership. Don’t try to blame anyone else, the situation, or circumstance. Be clear about why things didn’t work out, how you’re going to pivot and move on. You can’t learn if you aren’t trying new things and making mistakes.

Have a mentor

Having someone who has experience in your field clears the path for where you want to go and how you’ll get there. When faced with big obstacles or decisions, having a mentor that’s already been through a similar situation can help point you in the right direction.

Identify mentors who share your same values, then have casual meetings to build a good rapport. Be prepared to explain what you hope to learn, why you value their expertise, and what you bring to the relationship. Finding the right mentor can accelerate your growth, gives you a boost of confidence, and prevents unnecessary mistakes.

Related: 5 Books Every Leader Should Read to Be Successful

Be a coach

One of your duties as a leader is coaching your employees. Leaders paint the vision that inspires the team and do whatever it takes to attain it. Find ways to motivate your team to have the confidence they can do anything they set their minds to.

Take advantage of meetings and performance reviews. Giving shout outs for the positive, build confidence and competence. Use the results as an opportunity to develop and grow your team by providing opportunities in areas of shortfall. 

Lead by example

The best leaders lead from the front lines as opposed to leading from a bunker far away from the conflict. If you want people to respect you as their leader, you need to show them that you are not afraid of the hard work you demand from them.

This, unfortunately, is where so many leaders fall short. Many people see leadership roles as affording them the excuse to avoid getting their hands dirty. If you aren’t getting your hands dirty, then you aren’t leading, and no one is going to truly respect the commands you give.

If you want people to love you as a leader so much that they are willing to run through a brick wall for you, you have to be the one leading the charge.

Lead by example, show through your actions that you are willing to take on the same challenges that you give to those beneath you, and people will follow you anywhere you lead them.

Take criticism

Being in a position of leadership does not mean that you are infallible or immune to criticism. In fact, given all of the challenges and responsibilities that a leader must undertake, most leaders are more prone to making mistakes than almost anyone working beneath them.

The mark of a great leader, though, isn’t whether or not you make mistakes – it’s how you approach criticism of those mistakes when you do inevitably make them.

The best leaders are those who seek out criticism rather than avoiding it or punishing it. Your employees should feel comfortable approaching you when they feel like there is a problem and should not be afraid of repercussions.

Sometimes their concerns may not be valid. In many cases, though, these concerns could alert you to a problem that certainly needs to be addressed. Criticism is nothing more than an opportunity to improve, and it’s something that good leaders do not shy away from.

Listen to others

Being able to listen to others is similar to the trait of accepting criticism, but it includes a lot of other things as well. In addition to listening to valid criticism, listening to others also means hearing and considering their opinions and ideas.

Just because you are in a leadership position does not mean that you are always going to know what is best or that your opinion is always going to be the only one that is worth paying attention to.

No matter what leadership role you find yourself in, there’s a very good chance that there will be those beneath you that have a wealth of experience and knowledge that you could draw from so long as you are open to listening to them.

In addition to opening yourself up to the potential of finding new ideas and approaches that you might have otherwise overlooked, being able to listen to others offers another enormous benefit to leaders as well – it makes the people you are in charge of feeling as if they are valued.

No one wants to work at a job where they feel like they are just another cog in the machine, valued only for the manual labor they put in. It’s challenging to stay motivated to do your best work at a job such as this, no matter how great the salary or benefits might be.

If you are able to let your employees know that their thoughts, feedback, and opinions are valued, they are sure to enjoy working for you much more.

Make decisions with confidence

In many cases, the best leader is one who can step into a difficult circumstance and make a prompt, confident decision.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be assured that your decision is the best one in every circumstance, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you should shut out criticism or avoid listening to feedback and advice.

Instead, making decisions with confidence means that, when the situation calls for it, you should be able to step in and deliver a confident decision that those beneath you will be able to rally around.

Action tends to be better than inaction, even when the best step to take is not immediately clear. With that in mind, making decisions quickly and confidently while still keeping a lookout for a better alternative should one arise is one of the essential traits of a strong leader.

Know how to delegate

The best leaders surround themselves with capable people and know-how and when to delegate responsibilities to those people. While delegating tasks to others may seem at first glance like the easiest part of being a leader, it is not nearly as simple as it sounds.

Knowing how to delegate starts by recognizing that you aren’t capable of doing everything yourself. Knowing how to delegate also means recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of the people you have available to help you and assigning them tasks appropriately.

Communicate clearly

While listening is undoubtedly one of the essential qualities of a great leader, so is being able to communicate clearly. It’s not enough to hand out your list of marching orders and expect everyone to follow them.

If you want to inspire those around you to follow where you are leading them, they need to have a clear picture of where they are going and what it will take to get there.

Not only does clear and concise communication help eliminate room for mistakes, but it also serves as a form of motivation by helping make your employees understand the bigger picture and feel as if they are a part of it.  

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