Leadership isn’t always what’s it’s cracked up to be. Do unto others may be the “Golden Rule,” but leaders shine when they build others up, inspiring innovation rather than criticizing creativity. Discipline is a huge factor in rising as a leader, and the first seven of these 15 signs that you are a brave leader come from what I learned in Basic Combat Training for the U.S. Army. The rest I’ve gleaned from experience and thinking back on those who have most encouraged my own success in life.

1. Brave leaders recognize and appreciate loyalty.

A brave leader is one unafraid to stand up for what is right, and staying loyal to those who share your vision means withstanding some of the hard times. Loyalty is easy when everyone agrees, but brave leaders stay loyal even when it looks like their team may lose.

2. Duty to get the job done.

Quitting is often easy, but giving up always signals weakness because the leaders will adhere to a sense of duty and do what it takes to get the job done. It may not be perfect and it may not even be successful, but duty means doing the job to the best of one’s ability. No one becomes a leader without this quality.

3. Respect the attitudes of your enemies.

The bravest leaders respect their enemies. More than a dedication to “keep your enemies closer,” those who learn from and respect their enemies learn to see things from the other points of view. While you still may disagree, you take on a leadership role that is based in respect, which is admirable and shows strength.

4. Selfless service means serving more than yourself.

Those who strive to be known as brave leaders rarely succeed because the inherent attitude takes away from what makes people rise. Serving others and putting the needs of the many above yourself is a sign of a brave leader. Self sacrifice can mean running into a burning house to rescue a kitten, but it can also mean passing up a promotion to be more available to your children. Acting selflessly in the service of others is a sure sign of leadership.

5. Honor yourself as well as those around you.

Soldiers learn to honor their country and represent its flag by fighting for what is “right,” and while that sounds worthy of chest-pounding, honor at its core means respect. If a leader wants to prove him or herself brave, giving respect is the best way to get it back. Honor your coworkers as well as the community.

6. Act with integrity and go above and beyond.

One of the single most important aspects to leadership is the ability to act with integrity. Doing not only what you say you will do when you say you will do it proves you as a reliable and trustworthy individual. Even when no one is watching, doing the right thing and maintaining that sense of integrity creates leaders from the inside out.

7. Personal courage shows others how to face fear.

Leaders who act with personal courage show others how to face fear because they swallow their pride and find ways to do what has to be done. Some of the most difficult things to do for some can seem easy to others, but when fear stalls action, a leader has failed.

8. Lead by example.

Telling other people what to do, how to do it and when to do it pales in comparison to the brave leaders who take charge and quietly do what needs to be done. Leading by example conquers hypocrisy and though it sometimes take longer to get recognized, those who persevere do rise as leaders simply because all along they’ve done what needed to be done.

9. Take responsibility for your actions.

Truly brave individuals as well as leaders understand that taking responsibility for your actions in both good and bad situations shows strength. Blaming others and throwing coworkers under the metaphorical bus is no way to act as a leader. Cowards blame others.

10. Foster creativity.

Creativity cannot be forced. To foster others’ creativity, leaders relax and allow things to happen. Not in a chaotic way, but an atmosphere that endures the incubation process encourages ideas to come forward.

11. Seek compassion more than perfection.

Perfection and striving for it cause some to stifle. Brave leaders will realize that part of the process is trial and error. Perfection is virtually unattainable, while compassion encourages others to keep trying. Through practice and sharpening of skills, we become more perfect at our craft.

12. Listen to people who work for you as much as those you work for.

Ideas from those on the front lines of any business can create a groundswell that lead your company into the future. Even major corporations have taken ideas for new products and recipes from cashiers. The fact that it doesn’t happen more often means better systems should be instated for gathering the ideas because those working in different aspects of the business have insight that can lead to innovation. Brave leaders will capitalize on that by listening when other executives might criticize.

13. Inspire greatness by never acting small.

No greatness comes without failure. Rarely does something great come from the actions of one person, so remember to treat others in a way that shows their failures are steps on the path to success.

14. Reward confidence in others.

When you notice that others follow your lead and act with confidence, make sure to take the time to reward them. Encouraging others inspires them and leaders are remembered for how they built others up.

15. Provide recognition rather than seek it.

Similarly to rewarding others’ confidence, work toward recognizing their achievements both small and large. Leaders quite often go unsung, but the teachers and mentors who mean the most to those who enjoy success remember. Part of being a brave leader means you are the one to recognize others even when you don’t enjoy the awards personally.

Featured photo credit: morguefile via mrg.bz

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