Leaders are not always born.  Strong leadership abilities come from the right amount of people skills and bold action.  To go beyond traditional leadership, you have to be willing to step away from the computer screen and be seen.

The greatest leaders know their product, clients, customers, and supporters.  They make their supporters feel like they care, and sometimes they actually do.  If you want to make your leadership shine, have others trust you, and follow you, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Here are 10 ways to do it.

1. Play with transparency.

Be open about any losses, gains, and what you are working on. Creating an environment built on too many secrets generates fear and rumors.  If there’s a problem, share it with your team and let them see that you don’t always have the answer.  This can be scary for someone who is always in control, but often the reverse happens, and you’ll gain more respect.

2. Make them think it’s their idea.

People like to own stuff.  They don’t want to feel like they are working hard to make you richer, and smarter.  To increase your influence as a leader, make sure others have a stake in whatever they are working on.  Invite them to set the rules, parameters, the ins/outs, and you provide the space and creative freedom.  If you surround yourself with entrepreneurial-minded team members, you’ll find yourself doing less micro-management and more guidance.

3. Learn to ask the right questions.

Sometimes you won’t have the answers.  You don’t have to.  You can simply answer a question with a question.  The person will give you more information which will allow you to move forward.  Don’t ever come off as a know-it-all leader.  Keep others on their toes.  When you ask the right questions, you give yourself more time to think and respond proactively while letting others figure it out for you.

4. Stop looking busy and do something.

Get rid of the busy work.  A powerful leader is someone who looks good, has good habits, and is socially sophisticated.  Let others see you exhibiting the ideals you advocate; get active in your community, or join a local sports club or book club.

5. Reward others often with really good perks.

Surprise your team with anything from a fully paid weekend excursion to bonuses.  Your supporters will want to work harder because there is an end-goal, and it isn’t just Friday or the weekend.  They actually get to see the value of the work they deliver.  The bigger the work, the bigger the rewards they should enjoy.

6. Practice shutting your mouth.

Many leaders are comfortable at the podium, speaking to a large group, and talking with their hands.  This animated version is not always necessary.  Learning to listen is probably the most powerful form of communication. If you learn to listen to what others are not saying, you will be able to give them what they don’t know they want. This can lead to your next mega idea or product.

7. Be a philanthropist or act like one.

This is one of the easiest, but most costly ways to increase your visibility and shine as a leader.  Is there a cause you are passionate about? If you can’t find one, start one.  Find a nonprofit you believe in, pump your resources into it, get on the Board, and make a difference in the lives of people you don’t know.  Philanthropy is a powerful way to help others, while you get exposure for good work.

8. Learn to surprise others and keep them interested.

To keep the interest of those you support, a leader must learn how to stay in control.  It’s easy to get stuck in default mode and be predictable.  A team needs to know that they are following someone who is capable of anything, fearless and unafraid to take the road less traveled.

9. Spend time with the right people.

A leader doesn’t have a lot of time.  Find the relationships that matter most for your professional goals.  Cultivate them with meaningful correspondence, face-to-face meetings, and informal niceties.  Find out how you can help your contacts before they can help you.

10. Increase your value and you will be indispensable.

Develop a new idea, product or strategy that you can teach others.  Make sure it is your own successfully proven technique.  Share it generously with a chosen few to solidify your position as the source of this great new idea.  It will be difficult to replace you. Others will come to you to learn, which will increase their confidence and lead them to become your evangelists.

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Featured photo credit: jdlasica via photopin cc

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