HOW TO BECOME A LEADER
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There is no one answer to the question of how to become a better leader. Rather, it is by cultivating skills and developing a certain perspective and attitude that causes you to be seen as a leader by others.
In this short guide on how to be a great leader, you will learn top tips on developing a leadership mentality, the different leadership styles, some fantastic qualities and values to nurture and more.
What It Means to Be a Leader
Leaders are people with vision. Great leaders inspire others to join them as they head in the direction of that vision. They understand that it is the power of the collective and not the individual that causes massive change and achievement in the world.
Leadership isn’t about a specific position or title. Truly magnificent leaders are not driven by their ego, but by their belief in a better world. Therefore, they are not concerned with hierarchies and power struggles but instead are interested in lifting others up. Leaders encourage others to reach their full potential. They want to create more leaders, not just followers.
When you are in a leadership position, you have massive power, which comes with an equal amount of responsibility. It is up to you to create a positive environment and to motivate those around you to inspired action.
Leader vs Manager: Are They the Same?
The truth is, not all leaders are managers, and not all managers are leaders. Though both are in a position of power, a leader will be focused on the greater vision – or, big picture – while a manager is interested in executing the day-to-day in service of the vision.
That being said, it is possible to be a leader and a manager. If you are a manager tasked with a team of people to oversee on a daily basis, you can also inspire, uplift and motivate them in the direction of a grander vision. The very best managers are also great leaders.
6 Types of Leadership
While there are many ways to lead, these six basic leadership styles cover the most common ways leaders approach their work.
Autocratic leadership does not include the opinions of subordinates. Rather, the leader holds all the power and makes all the decisions on her own. Communication flows down from the top, but not from the bottom up. Expectations are usually high and there is little flexibility as to the rules or regulations set by the boss. Autocratic leadership is rarely used and is generally not effective in the long term.
This form of leadership is commonly preferred among businesses. Leaders exercising the Democratic style take into account the desires and opinions of all those involved in the company, business or endeavor. The leader makes the final call but may also empower others to spearhead projects and make decisions on a smaller level. Communication flows freely from the top down and the bottom up.
Transformational leaders promote reaching for the stars. They want to pull the most potential out of their team and the projects they are working on and do so by inspiring, motivating and providing plenty of opportunities for growth. Transformational leadership is exercised for the benefit of the collective whole and is just as focused on the self as it is on the group or company. Transformational leaders usually develop loyal, committed followers.
This form of leadership is focused on maintaining what has already been put in place. Not concerned with innovation, transactional leaders use an exchange process whereby followers receive instant rewards for carrying out directives. Transactional leaders make clear what is expected of those under them and provide well-defined instruction on how to successfully carry out said expectations.
With this type of leadership, the authority is handed over to the employees. Considered by many to be the least effective leadership style, little or no guidance, direction or interference is offered by leaders to help the company, organization or team to succeed.
This type of leadership can be utilized by anyone at any level. Focused on supplying new possibilities while maintaining a certain level of practicality, strategic leaders spend their time implementing habits for themselves and their team that stimulate consistent, positive growth over time. Strategic leadership is great for those looking to foster high-performance in their work and in their whole life.
Values of a Great Leader
These leadership values are integral to the success of your vision. Pay attention to which ones resonate with you, and which ones you feel you could spend more time developing.
Great leaders aren’t afraid of admitting when they’ve made a mistake. They know they are human, just like everyone else, and they take responsibility for their actions. Honesty with themselves and others leads to a strong foundation of trust within their company.
Once strong bonds are formed, they are hard to break. Develop authentic, trustworthy relationships among colleagues and clients and then stick by them through both rocky and smooth times. This will ensure that you are surrounded by people who are ready to take risks with you as you increase your visions and goals.
When you treat everyone you meet with respect, it will be returned to you. No matter the position of the person you are speaking to, speak to them with the same level of respect and compassion as you would anyone else. When people feel respected, they are much more likely to deepen their commitment to you and your cause.
When you place your focus outside of yourself on something bigger than you, you can no longer act from a place of ego. This does not go unnoticed by others and is very inspiring. Choose to devote yourself to a cause, project or business that you believe in, and go all the way. Your devotion will inspire others to follow you as you head in the direction of positive change.
Nothing big gets done without trust. It takes time to develop, and the only way to increase trust is by trusting. Give your team no reason not to trust you and return the favor by placing your trust in others. They will feel a sense of responsibility to rise to the level of belief you have in them.
Qualities of a Great Leader
You must believe in something and be willing to go all the way for it. Leaders of vision are also passionate. They invest in their vision and inspire others to do the same. Remember that when you are asking others to come along with you, often their only access point into the idea or concept you are promoting is your presentation of it. If you as the leader aren’t passionate about what you’re working towards, why would anyone else be?
The more you know how to do, the more valuable you are. Constantly be looking to try new things and increase the number of tools in your professional toolkit. Versatility also helps you to be more adaptable to the challenges that come your way, which will increase confidence and diminish fear.
Great things take their time to come to fruition. The bigger your goal, the more patience is going to be needed to achieve it. You will need to be able to wait for the right time to act. You must be willing to stay certain conversations or meetings until the setting allows them to be productive. Leadership involves strategy, timing and the ability to tolerate the sometimes-slow rate of growth without loss of enthusiasm.
Exceptional leaders do not abuse their position of power, nor do they think they are the most important person on a team. A strong sense of humility lets you more easily encourage others around you to grow. Humility keeps you focused on the bigger picture, not just on yourself.
There will be moments when it is time to dive into the unknown and take a risk. You can’t know what is going to happen and so courage becomes your great ally. Combined with strategic thinking and intuition, courage will give you the boost you need to reach greater heights within your company.
The 5 Most Important Leadership Skills
Cultivating and strengthening these five specific skills will greatly enhance your abilities as an effective leader.
Great leaders are great communicators. Without strong communication skills, it will be difficult to foster morale and understanding among your colleagues. Moreover, positive, clear communication ensures that things run smoothly within your project, organization, company or business. Excellent communicators are able to listen and respond with empathy, respect and creativity whether in a group setting or one-on-one.
If you’re pessimistic, you can bet that your team will follow suit. Find ways to promote positivity in your environment. Spin situations to your benefit and speak of what’s going on from a place of optimism. Even if those around you can’t see the bright side of a situation, if you are willing to see things from a positive perspective, you provide the opportunity for others to follow suit.
Things are going to go wrong sometimes, but if you’re quick on your feet, you can transform what looks to be a negative into a positive for your company. Even when working with difficult people or on a hard project, if you choose to harness the power of creative flexibility, you will be able to adapt to your surroundings without losing drive, determination or passion. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone and find new ways of operating as you pursue your goals.
Even a high-performing individual like yourself will reach a point where you can no longer take on more tasks. Nor should you! Leadership isn’t about doing everything yourself. It involves learning what tasks are for you to do, and what can be handed over to others on your team to execute. Proper delegation increases motivation and can inspire others to reach more of their potential. The more you entrust others with important aspects of a project, the more you build a foundation of loyalty, commitment and confidence for yourself and your team.
The hallmark of a powerful leader is the ability to make swift, assured decisions. Sometimes the decision-making process will be clear and easy. Other times you will be faced with a high-stakes decision that many would be too afraid to make. Your decisiveness will be enhanced by your level of confidence in yourself as well as how well informed you are about the decision to be made. Be well-versed in your business, and when the time comes trust yourself to make the right choice.
How to Become a Leader
The more you put these tips into daily practice, the more you will see the benefits. Perhaps some of these pointers will come naturally to you. Others may feel more uncomfortable or foreign to you at first but keep at it! As you continue to grow and expand you will not only harness the power of these ten tips, but you will start to innovate new ways to provide a leadership energy to your workplace.
- Lead by Example
Whatever you expect others to do, you must be willing to do yourself. When you take actions in line with your values, you inspire others to behave in a similar manner.
- Set Clear Boundaries
You may be a high-performing powerhouse, but you are still human. There are going to be some behaviors that are unacceptable and some moments when you need to take time for yourself to recharge so you are ready to face your team from a place of strength. Create clear boundaries for yourself and stick to them. You will garner more respect from your team than if you take on an “anything goes” mentality.
- Encourage Others to Grow
You and your project, organization or business will be served by lifting others up. Your mission isn’t to be at the top of the business food chain but to create something greater than any one individual. Therefore, the stronger each member of the team becomes, the closer you get to making your vision come to life.
- Increase Your Emotional Intelligence
Some believe that business should be an arena devoid of emotion, but that’s not the world we live in. It is by communicating with the head and the heart that you truly reach people. What matters to others? What are their values and beliefs? What makes them feel confident, strong and appreciated? If you can tune in to the emotional needs of others, you will be able to assuage fears and create more positivity in your colleagues, clients and team-members.
- Have a Strong Vision
The strength and clarity of your vision will keep you and those following you on track during the tough times. The more detailed your vision of the future is, the more you will be able to communicate that vision to others. Sometimes the road to achieving your goals is long and arduous. It is the power of your vision that will get you through.
- Keep Developing Yourself
Leadership isn’t a destination but a continuous journey. There will always be more skills to cultivate, ideas to explore and lessons to learn. Never stop growing. Pay attention to what challenges come your way and notice where you feel you are being asked to mature in order to accomplish whatever has been presented. Then put some time and energy into developing yourself in those areas.
- Know Yourself
Awareness of yourself and the impact you are having on others and your environment is one of the most necessary abilities a leader can possess. The more self-aware you are, the more you are able to adjust and adapt to the needs of your project, business or team. If you see that a certain behavior you are exhibiting is producing negative results, don’t take it personally. Instead, consider altering that behavior for the benefit of all involved. You are not your behavior, but your behavior can drive how willing others are to follow you. Be smart, be mindful and be willing to change.
- Keep it Professional
While you want to develop a strong rapport among your team, it is important for you to keep your work relationships out of the realm of the personal. When you are surrounded by people you genuinely resonate with, it can be tempting to deepen certain relationships in a way that may feel good on a personal level, but actually weakens the professional connection. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have meaningful connections in the workplace, but as a leader you are responsible for maintaining boundaries of professionalism so as to support the bigger picture you are all in service of.
- Learn from Your “Mistakes”
Everything can be a learning experience if you show up for the lesson. Rather than deny the fact that you made an error, analyze the events that led to the mistake and see where you could have made a different choice. Odds are you will at some point be placed in a similar position in the future, but if you have learned your lesson from the past, you won’t make the same mistake again.
- Find a Mentor
Just because you are in a leadership position doesn’t mean you don’t need some leadership yourself. Find someone who you look up to and who displays the attributes you are looking to cultivate within yourself and learn from them. You may go through several mentors in your career as you continue to expand and grow but keep seeking those who are further along on your same path to gather information and wisdom from. Those who work with mentors place themselves in a position to rise more quickly within their company than those who stubbornly believe that they have to learn everything from scratch.
11. Read the book “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t” by Simon Sinek
Leadership is a practice. It is a mindset, a way of engaging in the workplace that elevates you above those who are content only to follow. Choose to innovate, to explore, to motivate others and to exercise your creativity to find new solutions to the challenges that arise in your business.
Remember: Leadership is about action. As you advance in your career, your actions will speak for themselves and will identify you as a trailblazer to those around you. There is no limit to how far you can go, as long as you are willing to put time and energy into developing yourself as a powerful, driven leader.