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10 Ways To Go From Being A Good Leader To A Great Leader

10 Ways To Go From Being A Good Leader To A Great Leader

Good leaders are well… good. But great leaders can do magic; they can kindle passion in those working with them and they can scale new heights that no one has dreamed of before. Going from being a good to a great leader isn’t a piece of cake, but we’ve got some fantastic tips to help you become the greatest leader you can be. So watch out, here are 10 sure ways with which you can go from being a good to a great leader.

1. Good leaders develop themselves, Great leaders develop others

Good leaders try to improve different aspects of their personality. A great leader goes one step further by identifying talented minds and developing them so that they can grow into much worthier assets. Great leaders are willing to make more space at the top positions for the rightly talented people instead of considering younger talents as threats to their own power. Great leaders invest on human capital and take personal care to ensure the growth of valuable minds, for this is surest path to progress for any organization or community.

Great leaders know that genuinely caring for team members has an additional positive effect: it fills their team-members with gratitude and inspires them to ready action for their leader’s commands.

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2. Good leaders are good speakers, Great leaders are great listeners

Good leaders often speak more than their subordinates do. And while a good leader hears what their team members have to say; but they might not be truly listening, i.e., engaging with and processing others’ unique ideas and suggestions.

A great leader, however, really listens, carefully understands and critically evaluates to their team-mates’ individual viewpoints. Depending on the opinion’s validity, the leader might choose to adopt, ignore or offer suggestions to improve the idea, but regardless of the end result, they are genuinely interesting in processing to what their team has to say and appreciate the value of diverse viewpoints.

3. Great leaders work first for the cause, and then for the organization. They understand why they’re there

It is easier to go from being a good leader to a great leader when you’re in an organization whose end results support a cause you are passionate about. When we know that our work will make our world a better place or give us more than just power/monetary benefits, an inner desire awakens to commit ourselves wholly. This brings a new wave of enthusiasm towards our work that’s perhaps required when we want to go from being a good to a great leader. Great leaders truly understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.

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So it isn’t surprising that the greatest leaders, like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King have all worked towards some greater purpose; they knew why they were there.

4. Great leaders take full ownership during failure and let their team-members shine in times of success

The former Indian president and space-scientist A.P.J Abdul Kalam recounts this as a valuable lesson when he worked as a scientist in Indian Space Research Organization. He recalls how Prof. Satish Dhawan – the Chairman of ISRO under whom he once worked as a space scientist- took full responsibility at the national press conference for the SLV-3 satellite failure, instead of blaming the project’s humiliating fiasco on his team (that included Abdul Kalam himself). Great leaders, Kalam says, must know to manage success, but more importantly, to manage failure.

5. Good leaders stick to safety, but great leaders continuously learn, evaluate and are always open to change

Great leaders accept change for progress and appreciate constructive criticism. They personally are life-long learners; they always evaluate themselves, their organization and the practices in place to look for better ways of being, and doing things. They accept and seriously evaluate feedback, even when it comes from those who work under them.

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6. Good leaders focus on the present, great leaders anticipate

Great leaders like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are known for their extraordinary skill in anticipating what the trends for their organization, different fields of investment etc. would look like in the future. To become a great leader we must we constantly be vigilant about the future possibilities, opportunities and risks for ourselves, our teammates and our organization so that we can make the best possible decisions in the present to steer into the right path in the future.

6.  While good leaders seek more power, great leaders seek more responsibility

Great leaders love leading not because of the immense power it gives them but because of the important responsibilities it confers on them. Good leaders focus of clinching maximum power and holding onto it; in the long term, this might prove detrimental to the very organization that they are leading. On the other hand, great leaders seek more responsibility and therefore focus on addressing their responsibilities with their best efforts. This helps them deliver the most optimal results for their company and also helps them to utilize more and more of their potential. Because great leaders genuinely care about the organization and the cause they are working for, and because they don’t waste their energy in merely plotting to accumulate more power, they uplift their organizations to a new, stellar level of success.

7. Great leaders have integrity and therefore, reliability and trustworthiness.

Great leaders are trustworthy because they are honest. As integrity breeds transparency, the systems that operate under a great leader are open and therefore reliable. While good leaders might act honest, and look for the quickest way of getting things done, great leaders actually practice honesty, even if it makes a process longer and more challenging.

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8. A great leader leads by example; their actions, not words set the trail for others to follow

Mahatma Gandhi motivated millions of Indians to be self-reliant by being so himself. He weaved his own khadi cloth on his spinning wheel before encouraging the masses to follow suit; he fasted, led a simple life and participated in non-violent satyagrahas (non co-operation movements) himself before propagating these practices to an entire nation. Great leaders make themselves the example. They don’t ask their team to do what they themselves wouldn’t like to.

9. Great leaders don’t simply ‘head’ the team with arrogance, the serve the team with humility

Great leaders know that to be a leader means to serve and not to boss over those who work with you. By changing their attitude to that of rendering service instead of exercising power, great leaders overcome pompousness and obtain humility. This in turn, inspires and evokes admiration and support from his/her followers, improving the performance of the entire team.

10. Great leaders think radically different. They don’t seek faster horses, they think cars.

Great leaders don’t listen to and merely improvise the idea of the crowd. Instead they think of entirely new ways by which things can be done. Henry Ford once said, “if I had listened to the customers, I would have gone looking for faster horses”. Because though people had for long, been discussing the idea of a horseless carriage for transportation in Henry Ford’s time, they only ask faster horses for better transportation from Ford’s company. But as a great, creative leader, Ford came with an entirely new approach for more efficient locomotion: cars.

Featured photo credit: Marc nozell via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

Regardless of how creative you already consider yourself to be, there’s a good chance you would like to level up your creative abilities.

You might want to write a better song, think of better solutions to problems at work or around the home or maybe paint a picture.

In any case, the good news is that creativity is not born: it’s made, and each one of us has the potential to be more creative and come up with incredible ideas.

“Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The definition of creativity is broad, and reminds us that creativity is not limited to artists or musicians. It does however require that we have some kind of impact on the domain in which we create.

Creativity also emphasizes values.

“The process of having original ideas that have value” — Ken Robinson

This makes up for what Csikszentmihalyi misses out. For instance, we can make a change in the world without adding significant value. Any destructive act, like smashing a window, creates change, but it doesn’t necessarily create valuable change.

In short, there isn’t one single definition of creativity It’s up to us to find a definition that feels true and useful. When you know what your standard is, It’s much easier to embrace creativity and start to cultivate it.

And in this article, you will learn how to be more creative and take a good look at what goes into the creative skill:

1. Cultivate Focus

In order to create, there needs to be a focus on creating something, whether it’s a song, a theory, a product, or a sculpture.

You could also call this “drive” – it’s the initial spark that drives the solution to a problem, or the will to get on your laptop and start typing.

However, it’s worth noting there are different stages to the creative process: the divergent stage and the convergent stage.

In the divergent stage, we want a broad focus – we want to be willing to let in lots of different inputs, ideas and insights. This is the time for brainstorming all possible ideas and solutions.

In the convergent stage, we start to narrow our focus, like a camera lens. At this stage, we start to drill down to a handful of ideas or solutions, discriminating throughout the process.

How to cultivate focus?

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Take a 20 Minute Walk

Walking away and getting your heart rate up is the best free tool you have in regaining your focus.

I know it might seem counterintuitive to take a break right when you’re at your busiest, and especially when you’re drowning in your massive to do list, but the effects it will have on your clarity and ability to focus are undeniable.

Walking is physiologically proven to release stress, and clear your mind. In fact, most of my most brilliant ideas (and some pretty terrible ones too) have occurred on my daily walks.

If you give this technique a try, what you’ll find is that you’re much more productive than you were before you took a breather.

Over time, if you do these walks daily, you’ll quickly find that your to-do list starts to feel a lot less significant, and a lot more doable. It’s all about keeping razor focused, and that’s what short daily walks will gift you.

2. Build a Structure

When I wake up in the morning, I start the day with a structure in mind. I know that 15 minutes will be dedicated to meditation, 30 minutes to coffee and reading, 20 minutes to yoga and so on.

The structure of this morning routine might be boring, but the act of each task in itself has the potential to be, on some level, “creative.”

The point of structure is that it gives you the space to make time for something you want to do. It helps you carve out the time to do your creative work. Once you begin that thing in itself, you are free to go about it however you’d like.

Without structure, we can lose focus and can feel overwhelmed with possibility. If you’ve ever looked at a blank page and felt too overwhelmed with possibility to make a mark on it, you’ll know what I mean. How much easier it gets when you are given some guidelines or a deadline?

The trick is finding the right amount of structure for you and your creative needs. Too little structure and we feel overwhelmed. Too much structure, and we risk feeling limited and stifled.

Again, it’s worth thinking about creating in those two stages: divergent (less structure) and convergent (more structure.)

How to build a structure?

Create a Morning Routine

Your morning routine doesn’t have to be rigid or so arduous you dread waking up. In fact, it should feel like the opposite. When you get a routine that works for you, you’ll look forward to starting the day.

We all have different needs and preferences which can shape our ideal routine. In the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, you can be inspired over 160 different creators’ daily routines, from Charles Darwin to Pablo Picasso.

Experiment with any that take your fancy, and see how you feel with a bit more structure to start your day.

You can also take a look at this article about morning routine for inspirations: The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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3. Find Motivation

There is a theory that suggests: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures. This is also known as intrinsic motivation; a drive that comes from within.

Think of a time when you did some of your best work — chances are you were totally absorbed in what you were doing, to the exclusion of everything else. You were completely focused on the work itself, barely noticing time flying by.

Now think of a time when you felt under pressure to perform. Maybe it was an exam, or a commission for an important client, or maybe your boss had told you “there’s a lot riding on this.”

Notice the difference? In the first memory, you were driven by intrinsic motivation, which made it relatively easy, even enjoyable, to be highly creative.

In the second memory however, extrinsic motivation was breathing down your neck, distracting you by whispering about the rewards for success and the horrible consequences of failure: likely making it harder to focus on the task at hand.

For this reason, intrinsic motivation, if you can find it, is what separates the good from great creative work.

This isn’t to say only internal motivators help. I personally get motivated by luring myself to work with a good cappuccino at my favourite cafe. That will get me ready to write or edit or whatever I’ve been avoiding.

How to find motivation?

Connect to Your “Why”

Your “Why” is your fuel: the thing that drives you forward, that gives you a reason to do what you’re doing.

‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’ — Friedrich Nietzche

When you have a reason to do something, a purpose or a goal that matters to you, you can connect your daily actions to it. Then, each act becomes infused with meaning and you find that intrinsic motivation comes naturally.

The trick is to remember your “why” and connect with it on a regular basis.

Think about how you want to feel on a daily basis. What would you like to accomplish in the next year? What would you like for yourself in the next five years? How about in your lifetime?

Ultimately, the tasks you face on a daily basis, or at least some of them, will connect to a greater purpose if you follow this path and you will find you feel more motivated to create and less resistance.

If you aren’t sure where to start looking for motivation, this will help: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

4. Be an Expert in a Chosen Domain

Research has shown that just as expertise in one domain does not predict expertise in other unrelated domains; creativity in one domain does not predict creativity in other unrelated domains.[1]

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So just because you can paint a pretty picture, doesn’t mean you can creatively solve a mathematical problem.

If you’ve taken one of those tests like the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which will ask you to think of a bazillion uses for a pencil, and scored well, unfortunately this is only an indicator of divergent thinking skills. It is not a predictor for creativity all round.

The good news is, you can train your creativity in your chosen domain. Much like a muscle, you can isolate exercises to strengthen it.

Of course you can still do a total body workout – or atotal creativity workout – but it means your creativity-training exercises need to come from a wide variety of domains; not just thinking up uses for a pencil.

How to become an expert?

Make a Mastery Training Plan

Following our physical workout analogy, it’s worth applying the habits of great athletes to your chosen creative domain. For example:

1. Decide what area/s you want to work on

Much like a tennis player who decides they need to improve their serving technique, you can decide what area within your creative domain you want to improve at. Get specific.

2. Decide how much time you can dedicate

Most of us don’t have all day to train like a pro tennis player might, but you can likely squeeze 20 to 30 minutes in a day, if you want to. Whatever the time you can allow is, decide to dedicate yourself to it.

3. Review your progress

Finally, in order to check your progress, you can take regular reviews. Decide what your metrics are, and take time each week to check in with yourself.

How many days did you practice? How did you compare to the previous week? This kind of review can help you stay on track, and actually creates more intrinsic motivation as you see yourself develop.

5. Create a Conducive Environment

A psychologist in 1943 proposed that behaviour is:[2]

“a function of both the person as well as the physical environment they are in.”

I would suggest that the act of creating is a behaviour and that, even though it begins as an internal process, it’s very much affected by and even dependent on the environment we are in.

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I started noticing how environment affects me when I worked in an office. Over time, I realized that the more people who were in or who were talking, the more distracted I was. If I got to the office early before my coworkers arrived, I was twice as effective.

I was even more effective if I was at home. Now that I work from home, I know I’m even more effective when in certain coffee shops. Ideally, places that have high ceilings, gentle lighting, some barely noticeable background music – and excellent coffee.

It’s these little variations in our environment that can really shape our creative output.

If you’re an introvert, you probably do your best work alone. If you’re an extrovert, you probably do your best work in the company of others.

This isn’t to say you should find one way of doing things and stick to it: in fact, varying your environment from time to time is a great way to stoke the creative fire too, which we’ll touch on more later.

How to create a conducive environment?

Add or Subtract Stimuli

Novelty in our environment has been shown to stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases our desire to seek out reward.[3]

If you’re looking for creative motivation, adding some novelty into your environment can be just what you need.

On the other hand, some people are highly sensitive and when it comes to having too much stimulation in their environment, they find it difficult to focus.

Experiment with working in different environments. Note how you feel. Note whether you do better creative work or have more interesting ideas when you’re alone or with others.

Try listening to music, people chatting or try being in complete silence. Try a dimly lit room, try working in bright sunlight.

In each case, note how you feel before, during and afterwards and rate the quality of your work.

The Bottom Line

Creativity is not one particular skill or talent one can have. It comes in as many broad and unique flavors as there are people on this earth.

To be more creative, take little steps each day. Acknowledge where and when you feel most inspired, motivated and original and spend more energy in those areas.

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Featured photo credit: Sticker Mule via unsplash.com

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