Warren Bennis, widely regarded as a pioneer of the contemporary field of Leadership studies said, “Becoming a leader isn’t easy, just as becoming a doctor or poet isn’t easy, and anyone who claims otherwise is fooling himself. But learning to lead is a lot easier than most of us think it is, because each of us contains the capacity for leadership.”
Becoming a leader is like running a marathon, not a sprint. For many great leaders, they faced enormous challenges and setbacks in their journey. Their leadership legacy was not immediate and appreciated when they lived. It took years and years to realize their impact.
Leaders have a significant role in our society. Many people yearn for great leadership in their business, communities and families. Leadership begins when we listen to our inner voice-what do I really care about? How can I influence and make a meaningful contribution to my family, business and community?
Becoming a leader is becoming the best version of yourself. It’s an inner-journey of self-awareness and discovery. It’s finding your purpose and honing your strengths, talents and gifts toward a meaningful future for the people around you.
I wanted to share eight ways you can become a better leader. Now, remember you are not going to master these in a month or a year. It takes a life time of learning and the courage to develop your capacities for great leadership.
Build a solid character
Character is the foundation of good leadership. Michael Josephson, president of the Josephson Institute for Advancement of Ethics said, “…. the destiny of individuals is determined by personal character; the destiny of an organization is determined by the character of it leadership.” Great leaders have authenticity and integrity. They have moral courage to stand up for what they believe and do the right thing. Their character is principle-centered and purpose-driven regardless of the circumstances.
Be a great communicator
Leaders must be effective communicators. They must articulate an inspiring vision and share compelling stories that resonates with the people around them. They understand that leadership is influence and not a position. They know how to inform and connect. Most importantly, they are great listeners. They seek to understand people and speak last. They want to know other people’s perspectives, feelings and needs.
Leadership is the willingness to face resistance and change. Most people would rather sit on the sidelines. But leaders are different. They care for what they believe and take action toward their vision. They remain true through adversity and setbacks to prevail over short term wins. In difficult times, they put their reputation on the line for the greater good of the organization.
Great leaders know who they are on the inside. They know what their values and principles are. They accept their strengths, limitations as feedback of self-knowledge and awareness. They are willing to stay humble and learn how to improve their leadership capacity by working and developing growth.
Build a great team
Leaders are not always the smartest people in the room. They surround themselves with smart people. They welcome diversity of opinions, talents and strengths. They build teams by adding value and develop people to the next level.
Develop good judgement
John Gardner gives this definition of leadership judgement; of which every leader would do well in reflecting on:
“Judgment is the ability to combine hard data, questionable data, and intuitive guesses to arrive at a conclusion that events prove to be correct. Judgement in action includes effective problem solving, the design of strategies, the setting of priorities, and intuitive as well as rational judgments. Most important, perhaps, it includes the capacity to appraise the potentialities of co-workers and opponents.”
Initiative is a critical factor for good leadership. Bob Greenleaf, the pioneer of servant leadership remarked, “Nothing in this world happens except at the initiative of a single person.” There are many opportunities out there for many leaders, but you have to seize them in order to make a positive impact.
Make important decisions
As a leader, you will face many decisions on your watch. You will be the one making them sometimes with other people and sometimes alone. You learn through experience and personal insight what the best course of action by deliberating and doing the right thing. Not every decision will be the right one, but the buck stops with you.