Some people have that innate “leader gene.” They’re the type of person that is “born to lead.” But does that mean that even if you don’t have these natural tendencies then you won’t be a successful leader?
Absolutely not. Leadership is something that can be learned, and the more opportunities you give yourself to take on leadership responsibilities, the more the behavior becomes natural.
When you first think of what makes someone a great leader, I would venture to guess that your mind jumps to decision-making. They aren’t afraid to make hard decisions, they make decisions more quickly, and then make decisions under immense pressure. And you’d be right. This is a sign of a great leader.
But there’s more.
In today’s post we’re going to talk about things that great leaders do every day. Whether you’re currently in a leadership role and are looking to sharpen your skills or you’re an aspirational leader trying to gain mastery in leadership qualities, these are nine essential elements that you can implement today.
1) Make Decisions
We briefly touched on this aspect above, but a great leader makes decisions. They make difficult decisions under seemingly impossible scenarios. And they do it with ease. In order to be an effective leader, you must be able to make decisions. Whether that’s on behalf of your team, your company or your customers. Even when those decisions prove to be the wrong ones, you have the courage to take action.
An important thing to remember when making tough decisions is to stay calm and confident. It can seem stressful especially if you are unsure you are making the right choice but if you make this apparent you will likely not have the enter team confidently backing you. And without the support of the team, right decision or wrong decision, you will not get the desired results.
2) Lead By Example
All great leaders must lead by example. While this may sound like an easy task, you’d be surprised how many leaders fail at this. You will never get buy in if you’re not doing as you preach. And you can’t expect those you are leading to do something that you would not do yourself. You must be mindful of your actions and remember that as a leader, you’re always being watched and you must set a good example.
At New Breed we live and breathe inbound marketing techniques and lead by example. We know call-to-actions drive traffic to our website because you have several premium content offers available to our readers. We can speak for the value of business blogs because we post quality content frequently on ours, which we share on our social media networks just like we advise our customers to do. And not only does New Breed stay active on social media networks, our entire staff can attest to having at least a Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn account that they post to often.
3) Ask Questions
A great leader always asks questions; both for self-improvement and for the improvement of others. On the outside it might seem like a great leader knows it all, but a truly successful leader seeks the counsel of others to help inform their actions. In addition to asking questions to further their own knowledge, leaders must also ask questions of their colleagues to help them be better.
There’s no harm in asking your employees what they think should be done in certain situations. You are not going to jeopardize your status as a leader or make it seem like you don’t know what you are doing. Instead you will be making yourself a better leader while making your employees feel empowered and valued by asking their options. Employees respond better when they feel like they have a leader who listens to them and cares about their opinions and there’s no better way to listen then to ask questions and get feedback.
4) Provide Continuous (and Constructive) Feedback
Employees appreciate knowing that their leaders are paying attention to what they’re doing and providing insights along the way. Insights should not be critical, but constructive; helping the employee grow and excel in their role. Being a successful leader means you can give your employees feedback, but you have a relationship built on trust where they feel comfortable reciprocating that feedback.
It can be discouraging to constantly be told you are doing something wrong, but as a leader it’s easy to focus on fixing the problems and forget about rewarding the successes. Think about how you word negative feedback so it sounds constructive rather than critical. “Let me show you a trick to make that easier” sounds better then “That’s wrong; do it this way.” And remember to give positive feedback when you can. Not only does it make people feel good, but it also makes them work harder.
Your job as a successful leader is to teach. And it should be a fun aspect of the job because as a great leader you yourself are always eager to learn. Great leaders take the time to teach their colleagues and for the ones that shine, they offer to become a one-on-one mentor to help nurture their skills and help groom them into a successful leaders themselves.
Ronald Reagan said it best: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”
You should be an inspiration to those you are a leader to and let them be an inspiration to you. Encourage questions, nurture ideas, assist in any way possible and never forget that you are learning too!
Great leaders don’t take everything on themselves; they delegate tasks for great efficiencies and effectiveness.
Everyone wants a leader that provides them with direction. Just like you want to succeed at a task or project, they to should want to succeed at the task or project and delegating tasks is the same as giving them the tools they need to succeed. It’s your responsibility to ensure all the bases are covered and it’s unlikely you can cover them yourself. Don’t ask something of someone that seems unfair or unreasonable and don’t forget to help out where you can. It can be a fine line between delegating tasks and bossing people around and knowing where to draw that line is key to being an effective leader.
It’s proven that exercise makes people more successful. It's a time for people to clear their head, improve their cognitive abilities and increase endorphins; giving us more energy to conquer our workday. As a leader who needs to constantly be on your game, regular exercise helps you stay sharp and focused.
Set one: do not utter the words “I don’t have time.” Make time to get to the gym, sign up for a yoga class or think of creative ways you can incorporate exercise into your daily life. Maybe you could walk or bike to work instead of driving. Maybe you could take the stairs when given the option or stretch before going to bed.
Setting aside some time each week to exercise can be helping when you have a busy schedule and get you to start thinking about exercise as a routine. Start small at first, maybe a 20 minute run a day or 1 yoga class a week, and work your way up to an optimal amount of exercise for your body type. You’ll feel better emotionally and physically and have more energy to boot!
Being consumed by your job is an easy trap to fall into as a leader. While it’s great to be available, it’s important that you give yourself time to unplug. Unplugging gives you the opportunity to refresh your mind, and more often than not you’ll find additional inspiration, as you’ll not be stuck in the trenches.
A good rule, if you can at all help it, is to not check your business email when you are not working. Your business email account should not be the same as your personal email account and often not looking at it on Sunday, for example, can help you not feel the stress of Monday before it’s begun.
If you have a typical 9-5 schedule it’s safe to assume your clients likely aren’t available at 10 pm and they don’t expect you to be either. So there’s no reason to feel bad as long as you get back to them first thing the next day. If you start to see this as a problem when a client that seemingly works 24/7 maybe it’s appropriate to give them a friendly reminder of your business hours and when they can expect to hear back from you.
Plan things on your time off to keep you distracted from work. Maybe leave your phone at home when you go for a hike. And don’t feel like you wasted time if you spent your day off lounging by the pool. You work hard and you deserve to unplug!
According to Arianna Huffington (who is an incredible leader), the single most important thing we can do as leaders is getting enough sleep. That may seem counterintuitive since our society expects leaders to work themselves to the bones day and night, but studies have also verified this fact. “Our creativity, ingenuity, confidence, leadership, and decision-making can all be enhanced simply by getting enough sleep”, Arianna writes.
And quite honestly, it’s true. Sleep deprivation creates a lack of focus, dulls our minds and in turn we make careless decisions, have unimportant conversations and generally don’t work as efficiently (or effectively) as we can. This is not an optimal way to lead.
The amount of sleep that each person needs a night varies with each individual. But the quality of sleep that is needed in order for a night’s sleep to be considered a good night’s sleep is something that is important for everyone. Get the most out of your night’s sleep by establishing a bedtime and wakeup schedule that you stick to even on the weekends.
This will keep your biological clock in check, making your body feel sleepy around bedtime and awake when your day is supposed to start. Is your bedroom sleep conducive? A comfy mattress, a room temperature that works for you and no distracting lights or noises can be helpful if you are finding it hard to fall asleep and sleep through the night.
And now we’d love to hear from you: which of these 9 things do you do every day? Are there any that you think we’ve missed? Leave us a comment and let us know!
Originally published Jun 27, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated June 28 2019