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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

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    Emilie Chu

    Amateur Performer, Traveller, Optimist and Empath

    True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss

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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

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