Over the last couple of years people have often asked me what I think makes a good leader. A few years ago I’m sure I would have had a different answer to what I do today.
When I think about different leaders who have come and gone in my life I think of the great, and… the not so great! What I have come to realise is that leaders are not always at the top. Just because some is a ‘boss’ of others, doesn’t make them a leader. The same can be said for employees – everyone has the ability to lead, and they should!
Some people will tell you that leaders are born. I would agree that some people/ personalities tend to be drawn to leading but again this doesn’t make them ‘good’ leaders. Great leadership and the skills required can be learnt by anyone, at any time if you have the drive and belief to make a difference in others lives.
This brings me back to the title.. Great leaders know it’s not all about them and they actively seek opportunities to build their team up. Great leaders rarely take credit for anything. In fact, their joy comes from helping others succeed in their chosen craft. Below are a few qualities and skills that can be learnt and applied to anything that you set your mind too.
- Insight – If you truly want to progress in anything in life you must have the insight to recognise when you need to change what you are doing, how you approach a situation and how you, and only you have the power to affect change. You cannot make anybody do anything! The sooner you realise this, the better. There is no point complaining about others behaviours if you do not intend to change how you approach the same situation in the future.
- Humility – Ego is not your best friend! Get rid of it or it will get in the way. Avoid using terms like I or they. Instead say we or us. You must put yourself in the same basket as your team. Recognition is a core human desire. Do this and you will definitely be remembered as a great leader.
- It’s not all about you – If you’re noticing a theme hear, it’s intended. Have you ever been in a conversation where the person just constantly talks about themselves. Their needs, their concerns, and never seem to come up for air, let alone ask you about you? Great leaders listen, constantly! 80-90% of their time is spent asking others questions, listening to their responses, and acting on what the other person needs. In fact, here’s a challenge for you! The next conversation you have, try to not talk about yourself. If the person asks you about you, keep it short and continue to ask them questions about them.
- Use your new found knowledge – Now that you have new knowledge about other people, use it at times when they least expect. Did they buy a new house? Get a new pet? Next time you see them ask them how it’s going. Whatever you do, don’t spew word vomit all over them on what YOU have been doing since you last spoke.
So you want to be a great leader?
Find a mentor! Seek out that one leader who does it all right. Align yourself with them, give them a compliment. Stand out from the crowd and leave an impression so that they want to work with you. Most great leaders are so giving of their time and want others to succeed they will pour into you what works and what doesn’t. Lap this up like a sponge. But be mindful.. knowledge is not power. Knowledge coupled with action is where the magic happens. In other words, learnt something new? Put it into practice, try it out, and then reflect on how it went, re-evaluating what you would do differently next time.
Feedback! Seek it often. You cannot grow as a leader unless you find out from others how you are going. Ask for feedback from colleagues, your boss, your mentor, everyone! But be warned, if you get feedback, you need to be able to digest it, and action appropriate changes as you deem necessary. If you constantly ask for feedback and never implement it, others will stop giving you feedback.
Never stop learning! Your mind is like a car, you must fill it with fuel. Developing personally on a daily basis provides you with the nourishment to grow and inspire others. Have 15mins before bed to scroll Facebook? Fill your fuel tank with 10 pages of a good book instead. Anything from John C. Maxwell or Jack Canfield will provide you with the foundations for great leadership. But again, you must put it into practice. Learn something before bed? Try it out the next day and then reflect on how it went.
So the moral of the story? If you truly want to become a leader, in anything. You must forget about yourself. Put others first, help more people, and never let the opportunity of learning pass you by. The number one key to success is experiential learning. Get out there, put your learning’s into practice and help grow others in the process. Shining the light on others will not dim your own.