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True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss

True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss

No matter how small (or big) the team you're trying to lead is, there're always challenges that make leadership difficult. Maybe your team is experiencing some setbacks and the morale is kind of low at the moment. Maybe there're members who can't keep up with the progress like everyone else. Or maybe your team always misunderstands what you mean, making it difficult to keep your vision and their work in sync.

Leadership is never meant to be easy. But if you understand what leadership really means, you're one great step closer to becoming a successful leader.

Leadership is an art of enabling others to work toward the same goal together.

    There is not a single definition of leadership and it varies depending on the type of leader — the CEO of a company, the captain of a sports team, a religious leader, a political leader, etc. However, when we talk about leadership in general, according to leadership expert James McGregor Burns, leadership is a process in which "leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation".[1]

    A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.

    With a good leader, people are motivated to grow and will perform their best to reach the goal.

    A leader is the charismatic head of a group of people, who possesses the skills to lead, inspire and influence the others to pursue their personal growth and the team's goals. Leaders are important as they have a great impact on a team's performance. Good leaders will maximize the team's productivity, shape positive cultures and promote harmony and open communication within the team.[2]

    A great leader is the source of inspiration and motivation for the team.

    A good leader works together with the team when facing difficulties,[3] while at the same time giving them great freedom with how they complete tasks. This fosters creativity and eventually benefits the team as a whole. They also ensure a friendly working environment for each member to make contributions, and compliment and encourage the team from time to time.

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    A great leader promotes values by setting examples.

    A great leader is the role model for their team. They set standards that they themselves follow consistently through their own behaviors, such as punctuality, honesty and integrity, etc., which are beneficial to the success of the team.

    All successful leaders share the same traits, no matter what kind.

    If you want to become a better leader, learn about the following traits that all successful leaders share.

    1. Visionary

    Vision is the ability to foresee the future and set goals for the team to achieve. A leader helps the team to start and continue working toward the right direction, doing the right thing at the right time. Without visions, a leader might make confusing and misleading plans for the team, which would eventually harm the results of the team.

    2. Committed

    Commitment to the role of a leader means leading by example. If you are a team member, would you be willing to follow a leader who acts differently than the rules they set for you? Very unlikely. A leader must have high standards for themselves and act consistently, so that the team members will respect their leadership.

    3. Curious

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    A leader must be knowledgeable about what they work on in order to help solve any problems that arise. They should always be curious and never stop learning. They should also know the team members well enough to act for their own good. Without knowledge and a strong curiosity, one is unlikely to be able to lead the team to solve problems. Team members are also very likely to challenge the authority of the leader.

    4. Confident

    Confidence is to be self-assured without being aggressive. A leader needs to be assertive at times to show their authority and confidence, so the team members are convinced to follow their orders and plans. A leader also represents a team with its own benefits and concerns. For instance, in a company with complex organization, the leader represents the rights of their team members and that is when confidence is required.

    5. Morally good

    Integrity is a must for a respectable leader. A leader without integrity, who says one thing and does another, can hardly convince team members to respect them. Without respect, a leader won't be able to persuade the team to do anything for the company and leads to inefficiency in the team.

    6. Trusting

    A leader should trust the team members' abilities. Walking around every 30 minutes to check on the team's progress, or challenging them for everything they do will not build trust in the team. Give team members a little faith and space to do their jobs, no one wants a pushy paranoid leader.

    7. Decisive

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    Decisiveness is essential to every business and company. As a team, we will have to make hard decisions within a short period of time under a high-pressure environment. That is when a leader should assume their role, and utilize their own knowledge and perhaps the opinion of the members to make a decision before it is too late.

    8. Positive

    Optimism is a crucial part of leadership. There will be times when the team has low morale or feels lost in the middle of a project. A positive leader finds the positives in the midst of the negatives and encourages the team members to keep moving forward. A pessimistic leader at work can hardly believe anything good will happen in the end.

    9. Humble

    A humble leader keeps track of their own performance, decisions and accomplishments and reflects constantly if there's anything they can do better. By having self-reflection everyday, a leader can understand more about what they're good and bad at, and can improve themselves accordingly.

    It is not easy to acquire all these characteristics in a short period of time, but you can learn and practice more to become a better leader.

    To become a good leader, try to start by following the leaders you look up to.

    There is always something that we can learn from successful leaders. Following the one you look up to is exactly the way for you to kick start your journey to being a good leader.[4]

    Pick out 5 of your favorite leaders and ask yourself why you like them. Is it because of their speaking skills, their attitude to work, their confidence or the way they can make everyone listen? Start by learning what you think are the necessary characteristics and skills that a great leader possesses, and put it into practice in your daily life leading positions.

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    Remember, you can learn not only from their success but also their mistakes! Look at Henry Ford. Ford Motor Company may be a success today, but Ford did not build it without first failing hard. It was through paying attention to his every tiny mistake and working out the underlying problem that led him to the eventual success.[5]

    In order to be able to teach others, learn something new about your expertise every day.

    Although it might sound cheesy, it is always right to "stay foolish, stay hungry".

    Learn a new thing about your expertise, job or market every day to better equip yourself as a great leader. Never stop learning. Do not forget to make records of what you have learned simply jotting down notes in a notebook or in an note-keeping app, because one day your team members will need your advice, and your knowledge has to be accumulated.

    Always ask for feedback, an active leader never waits.

    One of the traits some successful leaders possess is that they are always looking to improve. Instead of waiting for the team members to give you feedback, actively ask them for feedback.[6] Stay open to criticism because everyone has their blind spot, and having honest team members sharing their feedback is valuable for a leader's growth.

    Are you ready to become a leader? Stop wasting time and kick start your journey now by learning from the leaders you admire. Remember, mistakes might happen along the way and that is completely normal. Believe in yourself and do not be afraid to make mistakes.

    Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Emilie Chu

    Amateur Performer, Traveller, Optimist and Empath

    True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss

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    Last Updated on March 21, 2019

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

    You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

    But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

    To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

    It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

    “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

    The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

    In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

    Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

    1. Start Small

    The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

    Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

    Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

    Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

    Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

    Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

    It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

    Do less today to do more in a year.

    2. Stay Small

    There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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    But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

    If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

    When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

    I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

    Why?

    Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

    The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

    Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

    3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

    No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

    There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

    What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

    Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

    This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

    This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

    4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

    When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

    There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

    Peter Drucker said,

    “What you track is what you do.”

    So track it to do it — it really helps.

    But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

    5. Measure Once, Do Twice

    Peter Drucker also said,

    “What you measure is what you improve.”

    So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

    For reading, it’s 20 pages.
    For writing, it’s 500 words.
    For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
    For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

    Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

    6. All Days Make a Difference

    Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

    Will two? They won’t.

    Will three? They won’t.

    Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

    What happened? Which one made you fit?

    The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

    No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

    7. They Are Never Fully Automated

    Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

    But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

    What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

    It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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    The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

    It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

    It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

    8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

    Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

    Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

    When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

    The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

    Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

    9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

    The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

    Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

    You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

    But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

    So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

    If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

    This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

    The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

    Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

    10. Punish Yourself

    Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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    I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

    It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

    You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

    No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

    The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

    But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

    11. Reward Yourself

    When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

    Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

    The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

    After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

    If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

    Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

    If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

    In the End, It Matters

    What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

    When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

    And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

    “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

    Keep going.

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    More Resources to Help You Build Habits

    Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
    [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
    [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
    [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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