Good leadership is always part nature and part nurture. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are continually leading yourself and others. The question is “how good are you at it?” The good news is that, with focus and effort, you can improve your leadership skills and get more out of life. Here are some things you might think about in your effort to become a more effective leader:
Clarity of Vision: Have a clear vision of yourself, others, and the world. Younger leaders often do not have this clarity and it makes it difficult for them to become great leaders. You should be able to answer the following questions honestly and accurately.
- Who are you and why is that important?
- What do you really stand for?
- What is your life purpose and why is it important?
- How and why do you want to lead others?
- How do you want to contribute and why is that important?
The answers to these questions will help you to formulate a concrete vision of yourself and your place in the world. Self-understanding is the foundation of all leadership. It will allow you to start living your life as the leader – a person who makes their vision a reality – a person who others will follow!
Stay With Your Strengths: Self-knowledge will help you to understand both your strengths and weaknesses – you can identify gaps in your knowledge – come to understand what you are good at and what you are not good at. Know and utilize your strengths and gifts. Bring in others to compensate for your weaknesses. Remember, you have unique abilities that you were born with and personal strengths you have developed over your lifetime. Realizing and utilizing these gifts and strengths will help you become a more effective leader.
Morality Matters: Leaders are either trusted or feared – and it is better to be trusted. People follow leaders that they trust more willingly than those they fear. Their trust comes from the sense that the leader believes and acts according to a moral code – they live in accordance with their morals and values. You should strive to this ideal. If you make choices and take actions that do not reflect your morals and values it will leave you with a nagging, bad feeling – and others will sense this unease. This limits your success in your career and relationships. If, on the other hand, you make choices and act in accordance with your morals and values, you will succeed almost effortlessly. People sense integrity and will naturally respect your opinion and leadership.
Know Your Leadership Style: How you choose to lead determines how you will be viewed as a leader. If you lead others with inclusiveness and compassion, you will be seen in that light. If you lead with brutality and a lack of consideration, you will ‘brand’ yourself as a bully. Great leaders include everyone in their sphere of influence by recognizing each person’s value and ability to contribute. If you would be one of these leaders, look beyond the obvious and see others with insight and compassion.
Know Where You Want to Go: According to Yogi Berra “If you don’t know where you’re going how will you know when you get there?” It is important that you have a clear vision of where you are going and where you want to take other people. It is vitally important that your vision has definition. You should regularly set definitive goals and follow concrete action plans. You have to know where your destination is before you can map out a plan to get there.
Be Positive But Not Delusional: Most people are hesitant to follow leaders with a messianic complex. They prefer leaders who are positive in their outlook but also practical in their planning and expectations. It is important that you maintain a positive attitude – and it is equally important that you do not become delusional. No one respects a grumpy or negative person – no one trusts a delusional one. With a positive attitude, you are looking at the bright side of life. People are naturally attracted to you when you have a positive attitude. By being positive, you will lead a happier life and find that other positive people surround you.
Communication is the Key: You must always strive to improve your communication skills. Your ability to communicate clearly and specifically your vision, goals, skills, intentions, and expectations to others is a critical part of your leadership skills. Remember that communication should always be a two-way street. It also includes an ability to listen to what other people are trying to tell you. To become a leader, become a great communicator; continually strive to improve your verbal, nonverbal, and listening skills.
Be a Motivator: Motivation begins with an appreciation of the contributions that others can make to your project. It also involves being able to show them how important those contributions are and that they can make even greater ones if they try harder. As a leader, you should motivate others to greatness. A leader is only as powerful as his team. You want to surround yourself with a powerful team – and you can do that by assisting others in recognizing and utilizing their strengths, gifts, and potential. Motivating others to their own greatness will improve the group energy – increase the vitality of your projects – and move you forward toward achieving your goals and vision.
Learn From Your Mistakes: Nobody is perfect – and our imperfections teach us more about whom and what we can become than our successes. All good leaders are willing to admit and learn from their failures and weaknesses. The most successful leaders know that the key to success is not in avoiding falling or failing, but in learning from mistakes. As a strong and inspirational leader, you should be able to communicate your weaknesses and appoint someone who excels at that particular task or activity.
Never Stop Learning: People become stale when they stop learning – it is an indication that some light has gone out – that they are no longer curious about the world and the people in it. Never let that curiosity die – tend it and help it grow. Make it a part of your life to continue to seek out education and ways to improve yourself. Continue to improve yourself in every possible way. If you start thinking that you are complete – you will stagnate – and stagnation is a form of living death.
Learn From Those Who Already Know: Finally, never fall into the trap of thinking that you are in this alone. There are others who have traveled the pathways that you are one – others who have successfully learned the lessons which you are seeking to learn. Remember that leadership is something which you can develop – cultivate in yourself. You can do that better if you seek out and actively cultivate relationships with mentors and coaches who can help you progress. Most people who have traveled these roads successfully are more than happy to give back to those who are just embarking on the journey.
© Earl R. Smith II, PhD
I provide mentoring to those who have both the courage and determination to make a truly transformational journey. My approach is heavily influenced by core principles of Zen Buddhism. I also provide advisory services to CEO and senior teams – particularly mid-market companies. I don’t offer quick fixes or follow the latest fads. If you are willing to make the long journey – if it’s time for you to come to know the person you really are and the path you should be following – if you want to start living life you were truly meant to live – then perhaps we should talk. Send me an e-mail and we can arrange a time to chat.