Do you talk, or listen? Do you demand, or motivate? Do you want to be a boss, or a leader? Leaders make great bosses but sadly, not every boss makes a leader. The fact that someone is in a position of authority doesn’t mean that they are respected or followed.

We can all name quite a few ‘bosses’, managers and small business owners who are tolerated, ignored or openly disrespected by their employees. As soon as they end up in the “my boss is a jerk” category, the company’s productivity plummets, the sales drop, and employees start sending out their resumes during work hours.

Fortunately, with the right knowledge and a little bit of effort, every boss can turn into a powerful leader.

Here are 11 tips that will help you turn yourself into a powerful leader who is followed, respected and admired.

1. Use powerful body language

When it comes to body language, a ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ principle works wonders in boosting your self-confidence and feeling more powerful. There are three quick changes you can make to your body language that will noticeably improve your self-image and send the right message to those around you:

  • Make eye contact. Look people in the eye when you speak to them. If you find yourself in public places or social situations, scan the room and look at people. Don’t stare though…it’s unnerving!
  • Smile! Yes, powerful leaders do smile. They don’t frown. They don’t have an icy expression that sends shivers down people’s spine. And they certainly don’t look like they have just smelled a dead skunk. A smile is not a sign of weakness. It’s a message that says you are friendly, approachable and confident.
  • Strong posture communicates confidence and authority, so straighten your shoulders, raise your head a little and stand tall.

2. Have powerful goals

Often it is not a leader that people follow, but the powerful vision that they communicate. Make sure that you are very clear about your goals and verify if everyone is on the same page as you. It is your job as a leader to make it simple for your team to understand the mission and know their part in achieving it.

3. Focus on the big picture

It is very easy to get distracted by new trends, new markets, and new projects, and lose sight of the big picture. Achieving and maintaining success takes discipline, focus and being clear on what the priorities are. When you extend yourself too far or start to micromanage, the quality of your work suffers across the board. Which brings us to the next point…

4. Trust and inspire your team

Anthony Robbins said it best, “A true leader is someone who inspires others to become more of who they truly are.” It is the responsibility of a leader to inspire, recognize and channel people’s talents in the best way to meet larger goals.

Sometimes, the greatest leap you can make as a powerful leader is stepping aside and putting more trust in your team. It is surprising what people can achieve when they are given responsibility and freedom to make their own decisions.

5. Surround yourself with the right people

The ‘right’ people, in this case, are not the ones who think and act exactly like you. It’s actually the other way around. The best strategy for success is to hire people who are diverse, passionate and smart – and then listen closely to their perspectives.

It may be hard on our ego to accept that the best ideas don’t always come from us and that people in lower positions could actually be more talented or more experienced than we are, but powerful leaders, unlike wannabes, are more focused on getting results than making themselves look good.

6. Commit to being reliable

This tip is pretty self-explanatory: nobody respects a leader who doesn’t deliver on their promises. What you do speaks much louder to people than what you say. Besides, your word is only as valuable as experience shows it to be. So practice what you preach and don’t ever give someone a reason to doubt your abilities.

7. Prepare to challenge the status quo

Common sense and conventional wisdom work great in day-to-day situations for most people. The thing is…leaders aren’t most people and there is nothing ‘conventional’ or ‘common’ about breaking out of your comfort zone and taking a different route.

It would be naïve to believe that as a leader you will never encounter opposition or resistance from other people. There will always be somebody who believes that implementing new ideas is too risky and trying a different approach to business is a sure-fire way to fail. It’s perfectly normal. Be prepared to defend your point of view and challenge the status quo. It was Aristotle who said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” And he mentored Alexander the Great, so we should assume that he knew a thing or two about powerful leadership.

8. Invest in education and stay sharp

In order for people to follow you, they should believe that you are competent enough and more skilled than they are. It should be your priority to stay on top of things by constantly improving your skills, expanding your knowledge and gaining an edge on the latest trends and technology in your field.

9. Seek mentorship

Being able to discuss your work, confront your ideas or ask for advice from someone whose opinion you respect is beneficial for every leader – even a CEO. Passion needs to be balanced by wisdom that only comes with years of experience and repeated failures. You can wait to gain this experience, or you can find a mentor who will help you see things in a different way, and possibly prevent some costly mistakes.

Every successful person – every great leader – has always had a mentor. You should have one too!

10. Offer solutions

There will always be people who will bring problems to your attention. It’s just the way it works. But as a leader they will expect you to have a solution ready. If you want to become a powerful leader, you have to train your mind to stay positive and focus on solutions. It doesn’t mean that you should be bubbling with joy and excitement all the time. But it’s important not to fall into the other extreme and lose your cool when the pressure rises.

11. Recognize your staff

Follow what I call the “PRST” Rule. That stands for “Praise – Recognize – Say Thanks”. Psychologists studying productivity at work discovered that in order to improve employees’ performance and motivation the ratio between positive and negative remarks should be kept at 3:1. It means that it takes three praises to neutralize the damage made by one negative remark. The same, by the way, is true for personal relationships and marriage (only the positive to negative ratio should be 5:1).

Make sure that you pay attention to your offhand remarks and make an effort to recognize people’s efforts. The U.S. Department of Labor says that the number one reason people leave their jobs is because they “don’t feel appreciated.” What does it cost you to say “Thank you,” or to praise someone’s efforts? Don’t take people for granted and they will appreciate you more as well.

What are your thoughts? What steps have you taken to become a more powerful leader?

It takes great leadership style to build great teams. 5 Leadership Styles that Help You Build a High Performance Team

Featured photo credit: Art by MarkACvia Flickr

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