Becoming a great leader is more about what you do than what you know. Leaders have key actions that distinguish them from non-leaders. Below I discuss of seven of these key actions. Some leaders naturally do these things; others learn them, often from their parents. Which is why it is important to live these actions at home and at work.
- Great leaders keep their promises. Being a person of your word begins even before you make a commitment. To be a person of integrity, you must be sure that what you promise to provide or do is, in fact, within your ability to do. Otherwise, your inability to keep your promises will result in others seeing you as a liar.
Sometimes, people will want the impossible. They won’t like it when you tell them, no, but they will respect it more than an empty promise. Trust can be the backbone that makes your organization strong. Discipline and integrity are effective at work, and when you bring it home, you will be a better spouse and parent, and your kids will learn integrity by your example.
- Great leaders dress for the result they want. Formal clothes are not as important as they once were, and the shutdown has made us all a little more inclined to value comfort, but no one is going to be influenced by an overly casual look. It is valuable to know what the people you want to influence expect and how your appearance will make you feel. I have a client who likes to dress in a dress shirt and jacket, often wearing a tie. Some of his colleagues don’t understand why he “dresses up,” but the truth is, he feels better more formally dressed. How you keep your surroundings can also impact you and those around you.
- Great leaders treat their team as their customers. If you treat the people you lead the way you want them to treat others, they will offer that same level of treatment to customers. If they are stressed or feel unappreciated, they will not be successful in caring for your customers.
- Great leaders are continually growing. A commitment to continual personal growth is critical to a leader’s development. By working to achieve our full potential, we offer the world a better version of ourselves at work and home. It is essential to our success and our happiness. Great leaders know their strengths and weaknesses and take the time to examine their lives. You will never hear them say, “That’s just who I am.” If some aspect of their behavior or personality is not getting them what they want, they address that weakness by developing strength in that area. In addition to books, podcasts, and seminars, leaders know that the people they surround themselves with can contribute strongly to personal growth. Encourage those around you to commit to their personal development as well. Share podcasts, articles, and books that you think will benefit them. Some companies pay for an Audible subscription for their employees to listen to books that can help them grow.
- Great leaders surround themselves with great people. It is said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Spend as much time as possible with people you admire. Limit how much time you give the people in your life who are negative complainers. Take inventory of whom you spend time with and control both how you spend your time and with whom you spend it.
- Great leaders use time wisely. One of the best strategies for using time wisely is to make realistic and accurate estimates of how long tasks will take. These estimates will allow you to be in proactive mode as often as possible. You will still find yourself reacting, sometimes, but will do so less of the time. Many executives can find more hours in the day by limiting the time they dedicate to meetings. People will often ask for an hour of your time but can accomplish what they need to in less time. Be open to 30 minute and even 15 of 20-minute meetings and discover how quickly you can get things done when your appointment time is limited.
- Great leaders ask for feedback and are willing to receive it. Feedback can be a critical view of an someone that can be very helpful in their development. I have spoken to many people who ask employees for feedback but are unable to receive it. Not only should you be able to receive feedback, but even ask for it. Be specific when asking for feedback. Ask, “How do you think I could have handled that better?” vs. “What do you think?” They thank the individual for their courage in offering feedback. When feedback is not favorable, it can sting, but you get to decide whether that feedback is accurate or not. If the feedback is true, then you have the opportunity to choose an actionable change. Sometimes, you will believe that the feedback is false, after taking a very careful look at the information, let it go. While it is good to accept feedback, being proactive in asking for feedback is to be even more open to growth.
Developing these key traits of leadership will make a good leader a great leader and those you lead will be grateful that you are committed to being your very best.
“Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.”
Cami Miller is a business coach and partners with leaders on all levels to develop strategies for success. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.