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11 Inherent Traits Of Real Leaders

11 Inherent Traits Of Real Leaders

The success of our companies and countries ultimately depends on our leaders. In addition to skills, real leaders bring a set of important traits to their work. These traits are often developed and refinded through experience. These insights have come from a variety of leaders and leadership experts working in many different fields.

Let’s dive in and find out if you are a real leader by examining these inherent traits.

1. They are honest

In their classic leadership book, “The Truth About Leadership”, James M. Kouzes and Barry S. Posner surveyed people across the world regarding leadership. The far-ranging study found that honesty is the number one trait people want in their leaders. Without this strong moral foundation, a leader has no credibility.

TIP: Honesty matters to your work even if you are not in a leadership role – 4 Reasons Why You Should Always Be Honest.

2. They want the best for their people

Real leaders deeply value the people that work under their leadership. For example, entrepreneur Jon Taffer (known for his TV show Bar Rescue), demonstrates his belief in people by training them and giving them feedback to improve. As a result of his leadership, his company sees a turnover rate far lower than the industry average.

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To apply this principle to your leadership role, take the time to understand what your people want. Some staff may want schedule flexibility, while others will be focused on career advancement.

Resource: Four Leadership Tips to Bring Out the Best in Your Team.

3. They know their strengths

A key principle in management research tells us that top performance comes from working on our strengths. In their study of 2 million people, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton found that working in your strengths is vital. Their insights are explained in greater detail in the book, “Now, Discover Your Strengths.”

TIP: Read Why Knowing Yourself Is Essential To Leadership.

4. They know leadership is influence

Leadership author and expert John C Maxwell has taught the principle that leadership is influence for decades in his speeches and books. Real leaders understand that they cannot simply rely on their title or formal authority to get results. Instead, they have to build up influence through relationships, setting a good example, and other means. A focus on influence means that you can begin to lead people, no matter your job title.

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TIP: Read 10 Ways to Positively Influence Others In The Workplace to discover how to use your influence skills for the common good.

5. They know motivation, inside out

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan, NBA Basketball champion

Motivating yourself to work and achieving results is the foundation for an effective leader. A good leader knows the importance of mastering their own motivation, even to keep working through dull activities. Armed with that understanding, real leaders motivate their people to keep working.

TIP: A few words, at the right time, make all the difference to motivation – 50 Motivational Quotes That Will Put Your Motivation on Overdrive.

6. They keep growing

Without a growing leader, an organization will struggle to grow. Dedicated leaders keep learning by reading books, working through conferences, and meeting with top performers. This principle holds true even if you fail to observe it. For example, Sarah Palin was unable to name any magazines or periodicals she reads to stay informed about current affairs during a 2008 interview with Katie Couric.

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TIP: Keep growing yourself through personal development – 22 Killer Personal Development Resources You’re Missing Out On.

7. They are ambitious for their organization

Real leaders know the importance of focusing on their organization, rather than their personal glory. Management researcher Jim Collins found that the best CEOs seek growth for their organization. While some “celebrity CEOs” achieve their results during their tenure, those results fade once they leave the C-suite.

To apply this principle, use it to make decisions. Ask the question, “Is this decision best for the organization or is it good for me?”

8. They keep working through challenges

Every leader faces major challenges and disappointments. What sets real leaders apart from the rest is their ability to work through setbacks. For example, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was declined admission to military school on his first application. He kept studying and applying until he was granted admission. Churchill’s determination to keep working at a challenging goal is a key trait that led him to success later in life.

TIP: Different challenges require different responses – 10 Challenges Leaders Always Face And How To Deal With Them.

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9. They value effective communication

Communication is a key skill that real leaders take the time to master. For example, Demosthenes became a highly successful public speaker and leader in ancient Greece through years of effort. For years, he struggled to speak effectively. How did he improve? He used a variety of methods, including speaking with pebbles in his mouth. Working through discomfort to grow your communication skills is an important trait among real leaders.

10. They are willing to admit when they are wrong

Leaders are constantly making decisions. From time to time, they will make mistakes. When those mistakes occur, real leaders know the importance of admitting the mistake and moving on. For example, President Obama admitted to making a mistake regarding a decision regarding Tom Daschle shortly after taking office. It is rare for a U.S. President to admit mistakes in office, yet Obama and other Presidents have done it on occasion.

TIP: To inspire you to own your mistakes, read How to Admit Your Mistakes.

11. They focus on the future

A future focus is a key trait for leaders. In “The Truth About Leadership,” the second most admired trait in leaders (after honesty) is to be forward-looking. While there is value in understanding the past, real leaders realize that they cannot change history. Even better, leaders know that their people are inspired by future potential, rather than revisiting past mistakes.

Resource: For a broader perspective, read The Seven Qualities of Visionary Leaders

Featured photo credit: Steve Jobs/Bob Stanfield via flickr.com

More by this author

Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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