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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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    Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

    Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus

    There’s a dark side to the conveniences of the Digital Age. With smartphones that function like handheld computers, it has become increasingly difficult to leave our work behind. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to be accessible 24/7.

    How often are you ever focused on just one thing? Most of us try to meet these demands by multi-tasking.

    Many of us have bought into the myth that we can achieve more through multi-tasking. In this article, I’ll show you how you can accomplish more work in less time. Spoiler alert: multi-tasking is not the answer.

    Why is multitasking a myth?

    The term “multi-tasking” was originally used to describe how microprocessors in computers work. Machines multitask, but people cannot.

    Despite our inability to simultaneously perform two tasks at once, many people believe they are excellent multi-taskers.

    You can probably imagine plenty of times when you do several things at once. Maybe you talk on the phone while you’re cooking or respond to emails during your commute.

    Consider the amount of attention that each of these tasks requires. Chances are, at least one of the two tasks in question is simple enough to be carried out on autopilot.

    We’re okay at simultaneously performing simple tasks, but what if you were trying to perform two complex tasks? Can you really work on your presentation and watch a movie at the same time? It can be fun to try to watch TV while you work, but you may be unintentionally making your work more difficult and time-consuming.

    Your brain on multi-tasking

    Your brain wasn’t designed to multi-tasking. To compensate, it will switch from task to task. Your focus turns to whatever task seems more urgent. The other task falls into the background until you realize you’ve been neglecting it.

    When you’re bouncing back and forth like this, an area of the brain known as Broadmann’s Area 10 activates. Located in your fronto-polar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain, this area controls your ability to shift focus. People who think they are excellent multitaskers are really just putting Broadmann’s Area 10 to work.

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    But I can juggle multiple tasks!

    You are capable of taking in information with your eyes while doing other things efficiently. Scientifically speaking, making use of your vision is the only thing you can truly do while doing something else.

    For everything else, you’re serial tasking. This constant refocusing can be exhausting, and it prevents us from giving our work the deep attention it deserves.

    Think about how much longer it takes to do something when you have to keep reminding yourself to focus.

    Why multitasking is failing you

    Multitasking does more bad than good to your productivity, here’re 4 reasons why you should stop multitasking:

    Multitasking wastes your time.

    You lose time when you interrupt yourself. People lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting themselves back on track when they switch between tasks.

    In fact, some studies suggest that doing multiple things at once decreases your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s a significant loss in efficiency. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be 40% less productive while you’re on the operating table, would you?

    It makes you dumber.

    A distracted brain performs a full 10 IQ points lower than a focused brain. You’ll also be more forgetful, slower at completing tasks, and more likely to make mistakes.

    You’ll have to work harder to fix your mistakes. If you miss an important detail, you could risk injury or fail to complete the task properly.

    This is an emotional response.

    There’s so much data suggesting that multitasking is ineffective but people insist that they can multitask.

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    Feeling productive fulfills an emotional need. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Why accomplish just one item on the to-do list when you can check off two or three?

    It’ll wear you out.

    When you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel invigorating for a little while. Over time, this needs to fill every second with more and more work leads to burn out.

    We’re simply not built to multitask, so when we try, the effect can be exhausting. This destroys your productivity and your motivation.

    How to stop multitasking and work productively

    Flitting back and forth between tasks feels second-nature after a while. This is in part because Broadmann’s Area 10 becomes better at serial tasking through time.

    In addition to changing how the brain works, this serial tasking behavior can quickly turn into a habit.

    Just like any bad habit, you’ll need to recognize that you need to make a change first. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to adjust to a lifestyle of productive mono-tasking:

    1. Consciously change gears

    Instead of trying to work on two distinct tasks at once, consider setting up a system to remind you when to change focus. This technique worked for Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut onboard the space station, Mir.

    As an astronaut, he had many things to take care of every day. He set alarms for himself on a few watches. When a particular watch sounded, he knew it was time to switch tasks. This enabled him to be 100% in tune with what he was doing at any given moment.

    This strategy is effective because the alarm served as his reminder for what was to come next. Linenger’s intuition about setting reminders falls in line with research conducted by Paul Burgess of University College, London on multitasking.

    2. Manage multiple tasks without multitasking

    Raj Dash of Performancing.com has an effective strategy for balancing multiple projects without multitasking. He suggests taking 15 minutes to acquaint yourself with a new project before moving on to other work. Revisit the project later and do about thirty minutes on research and brainstorming.

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    Allow a few days to pass before knocking out the project in question. While you were actively work on other projects, your brain continues to problem solve-in the background.

    This method works because it gives us the opportunity to work on several projects without allowing them to compete for your attention.

    3. Set aside distractions

    Your smartphone, your inbox and the open tabs on your computer are all open invitations for distraction. Give yourself time each day when you silence your notifications, close your inbox and remove unnecessary tabs from your desktop.

    If you want to focus, you can’t give anything else an opportunity to invade your mental space.

    Emails can be particularly invasive because they often have an unnecessary sense of urgency associated with them. Some work cultures stress the importance of prompt responses to these messages, but we can’t treat every situation like an emergency.

    Designate certain times in your day for checking and responding to emails to avoid compulsive checking.

    4. Take care of yourself

    We often blame electronics for pulling us from our work, but sometimes our physical body forces us into a state of serial tasking. If you’re hungry while you’re trying to work, your attention will flip between your hunger and your work until you take care of your physical needs.

    Try to take all your bio-breaks before you sit down for an uninterrupted stint of work.

    In addition, you’ll also want to be sure you’re attending to your health in a broader sense. Getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular breaks into your day will keep you from being tempted by distractions.

    5. Take a break

    People are more likely to head to YouTube or check their social media when they need a break. Instead of trying to work and watch a mindless video at the same time, give yourself times when you’re allowed to enjoy your distracting activity of choice.

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    Limit how much time you’ll spend on this break so that your guilt-free distraction time doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.

    6. Make technology your ally

    Scientists are beginning to discover the detrimental effects of chronic serial tasking on our brains. Some companies are developing programs to curb this desire to multitask.

    Apps like Forest turn staying focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help you track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time.

    The key to productivity: Focus

    Multitasking is not the key to productivity. It’s far better to schedule time to focus on each task than it is to try to do everything at once.

    Make use of the methods outlined above and prepare to be more effective and less exhausted in the process.

    If you want to learn more about how to focus, don’t miss my other article:

    How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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