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9 Traits Truly Successful Leaders Should Possess

9 Traits Truly Successful Leaders Should Possess

Being a natural leader is a characteristic that not many people possess, though it can be learned if you have the potential. It requires a certain mindset that enables leaders to stay on top and lead their team to success. Here are a few traits that successful leaders have in common.

1. They believe in teamwork

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” — Michael Jordan

Every leader has to be a strong individual and capable of solving some problems on their own. However, they do know that working in a team is the key to success, and they consider themselves to be a part of the team — not just a person who gives orders. They know that the leader is just one part of the bigger mechanism, and that they are there to ensure the other parts, the team members, all work as efficiently as possible together. Leadership is a power that requires cooperation and not competition in order to achieve a desired end goal. Don’t be arrogant, win the championship.

2. They take full responsibility for the team’s mistakes

“The day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, that’s the day you start to the top” — OJ Simpson

It is perfectly normal that a team makes a mistake and fails at some project. However, a successful leader will not blame the team, but will take the full responsibility while defending his or her people. Mistakes don’t mean that the leader, or even the team, is bad. On the contrary, in order to achieve great things, you need to make a few mistakes along the way.

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A good leader won’t come up with various excuses and search for a person to blame, but will take the responsibility and correct their mistake with their team without making a fuss about it.

3. They focus on solutions, not on problems

“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.” — Paul Hawken

A successful leader will not focus on the problem and who made the mistake which led to failure. They will focus on finding the perfect solution and will approach all the possible solutions with a positive attitude. If you focus on the problem, you won’t be able to find the solution — you’ll only get lost in chaos and become stressed out.

4. They listen, then act

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” — Winston Churchill

Everybody has their own opinion, and the leader has the right to act according to his or her own opinions and conclusions. However, a good leader will first listen to the team, or, if there is a problem, listen to everything regarding it before making a decision. Sometimes, there is a simple solution that we aren’t aware of, but somebody else is, and that person might become a very valuable part of your team.

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Moreover, if you don’t act in the heat of the moment, you will be able to think well before making a decision. Successful leaders don’t only act immediately, but they also listen and talk to the team, and are calm and collected when making decisions.

5. They don’t panic

“I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself.” — Robert E. Lee

It doesn’t matter if you didn’t meet a deadline or if something went wrong along the way, if a leader starts overreacting and panicking in such situations, know that he or she isn’t a good leader. The ability to stay calm is the main characteristic of every successful boss. If the head of the team starts panicking, it negatively affect all the team members, who are then supposed to work under pressure. Having a boss who overreacts and stressed-out employees will not solve any problem, it will just make things worse.

No one wants a drama queen in their office, especially not a leader who acts like a bridezilla when you have to reach a tight deadline.

6. They dress for success

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” — Gore Vidal

It might not sound important, but how one dresses actually affects the opinion that other team members, upper management, and clients have of that person. If a leader wears inappropriate or overly casual clothing to work, they will be seen as an unprofessional and potentially incompetent individual. This won’t reflect the professionalism which the company is trying to convey to its clients. No one says that they should wear expensive formal clothes, but you need to know the difference between casual and professional attire. Men should definitely forget about wearing sneakers or college sweaters and focus on stylish clothes, which make them look more sophisticated.

In business, clothes matter, and not just to show money and power, but to increase your credibility, trustworthiness, and professionalism.

7. They understand their employees

“The trick is to ensure that your staff feels empowered. As your team members grow into their jobs, give them real responsibilities: They’ll respect you for it and do everything they can to rise to the challenge.” — Richard Branson

Knowing your employees and understanding them is of great importance if you want to have a motivated workforce. They aren’t robots, but people who cannot accomplish everything without encountering certain problems, which may make them insecure and a bit unproductive. A successful leader knows when their employee has a problem and has time to discuss it. A bad leader will offer to give that task to someone else, but a good one will approach the problem and solve it with that employee.

Every natural leader looks after their team, and works on making them feel accepted and respected.

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8. They inspire other workers

“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” — Ralph Nader

You know you are a successful leader when your workers wish to become leaders just like you. It is a hard task, but when you succeed in it, you know that your work has inspired them to achieve more in life and contribute to the company by working harder. Successful leaders constantly inspire their team to improve and challenge them to do more. If you are sitting in your office, thinking that that’s all you’ll ever achieve, know that you are working for the wrong person.

Also, a good boss will inspire their employees to finish demanding tasks and motivate them to work harder, without making them feel pressured.

9. They are the kind of leader that they would like to have

“Success is not what you have, but who you are.” — Bo Bennet

Never be the kind of leader you would hate to work for. This isn’t only related to a friendly relationship with your team members, but to the tasks you are giving them to work on as well. Sometimes, bosses can demand certain tasks without thinking about if they are even possible, and how much time is actually needed to complete them effectively. In order to be a successful leader, you have to put yourself in your employees’ shoes and see if you would be capable of reaching the goal you expect of them. Be professional, considerate, authoritative, but still friendly. All in all, imagine who you would like to work for, and be that person.

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Katarina Milovanovic

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Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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