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Why A True Leader Doesn’t Need to Be the Smartest and Most Talented One

Why A True Leader Doesn’t Need to Be the Smartest and Most Talented One

Alibaba’s Jack Ma, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn all have one thing in common: They’re widely regarded as some of the best leaders in the world today.

But what really makes a great leader?

Is it about knowing how to manage – or is it something entirely different?

What Everyone Is Wrong About Leadership

You may assume that great leadership is all about management – but you would be mistaken.

As you’ll see shortly, leadership encompasses much more than just good management skills.

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However, before we dive into exactly what makes a great leader, let’s first take a look at some of the common myths about leadership:

  • Great leaders can be trained – While knowledge can be valuable, leadership is more about attitude.
  • Great leaders only give orders – Giving orders will at times be necessary, but powerful leadership inspires actions.
  • Great leaders know everything – This may appear to be true, but in reality, great leaders are learning all the time.
  • Great leaders never fail – It’s impossible to achieve great success, without experiencing many failures along the way.
  • Great leaders work alone – You may think of a leader as a lone wolf, but in most cases, leaders love to work with others.

Hopefully, as you’re beginning to see, real leadership is not about macho posturing and dictatorial management.

What True Leadership Really Means

So, what exactly is true leadership?

John Quincy Adams described it this way:

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

It’s an excellent quote, that I’m sure will help you to gain a new perspective on leadership.

Whether it’s politics, business or social causes – great leaders have a definite vision, and know how to inspire and motivate others to help realize that vision.

They do this through traits such as:

  • Promoting values.
  • Encouraging creativity.
  • Building morale.
  • Offering guidance.
  • Fostering initiative.

As an example for you, do you remember Mahatma Gandhi?

He was able to change the destiny of India by using true leadership characteristics such as: determination, humility, honesty and non-violence. His authentic manner and powerful beliefs led to millions of people following and supporting his cause.[1]

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What Makes up a Great Leadership

While the world’s top leaders may be hard to emulate, fortunately, there are several things you can do to begin boosting your leadership qualities.

Let’s take a look…

1. Treat your staff like you expect them to treat your customers.

If you expect your team to be friendly and courteous to customers – then make sure you’re the same with your team members. I remember a manager telling me: “Staff should always be treated like customers.” Adopt this attitude, and your team (and other teams) will be motivated and inspired by your leadership.

2. Practice things that you’re uncomfortable with.

To be a great leader, you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone. If you’re uncomfortable with networking or public speaking (for example), then work on strengthening your skills in these areas. Instead of learning on the job, why not enlist the help of a coach or mentor?

3. Stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends.

Let’s face it, change is the new norm in the 21st century. Whatever your niche or industry, no doubt there are constant amendments, updates and innovations happening daily. As a leader, you need to be aware of these changes. However, don’t become a news junkie, instead, learn to seek out the key trends.

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4. Grow yourself, grow your team.

Stop and think about your personal growth. Does it positively impact your team? Of course it does. But you can take this even further by making sure your staff have continual training and development opportunities. Here’s a suggestion for you… Why not take your team to an industry conference, so they can learn and be inspired by some of the best and most successful people. This is a win-win situation. You and your team will both gain valuable knowledge and skills. And you’ll also be helping to promote a healthy team spirit.

5. Learn to keep promises.

Your credibility can be crushed by unfulfilled promises, such as giving your team an expectation of financial bonuses – that never materialize. To be a successful leader, you must always try to keep your promises. Sure, it takes discipline and integrity to achieve this. But in the long term, it will definitely be worth it.

6. Set inspiring goals.

Outstanding leaders always have goals and aims that they are working towards. These could be financial goals, subscriber numbers, or even customer satisfaction targets. Of course, goals can be big, small, short or long term. But you must have them, if you want to achieve success. If your staff know the specific goals that you want to achieve – this will help and inspire them to assist you in reaching these goals.

7. Seek honest feedback.

It’s not easy listening to honest feedback, but often it’s the difference between mediocrity and excellence. Rather than waiting for unsolicited feedback, go ahead and ask your staff and customers what they really think about you and your leadership style. You could also ask them whether they have any suggestions for building your effectiveness as a leader. Just remember, great leaders are not afraid to listen to criticism. Instead, they look on this feedback as an opportunity for learning.

You may not be a natural born leader – but by following the above suggestions you’ll be able to progressively develop your leadership qualities.

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Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

Reference

[1] History: Mohandas Gandi

More by this author

Craig J Todd

UK Writer who loves to use the power of words to inspire and motivate.

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

There is a great deal of advice in the world telling us how to succeed in life, but often we are given advice that isn’t tailored to our needs, desires and priorities. Success means different things to each of us, and living a life that feels genuinely successful to me might be very different to your idea of a successful life.

Naturally, when we follow the advice of someone else, which is tailored to their life goals and personality, we can end up with something that doesn’t deliver on the promise. We don’t get rewarded with our vision of success: we get theirs.

This is why I’m a proponent of self-discovery, introspection and personal sovereignty. So how to succeed on your own terms?

These 7 essential steps are not going to tell you exactly what to do, but they will provide you with the tools and the questions to ask so that you can discover your own path, so you know how to succeed in life on your own terms.

1. Know Thyself

One of Socrates’ most well-known quotes is,

An unexamined life is not worth living.

I argue that an unexamined life is not a successful one. Self-knowledge is something we could dedicate our lives to, but I’m not suggesting you sit around and navel-gaze in order to find happiness and meaning.

Thankfully, there are people who have created techniques and systems that less us fast-forward through a lot of personal philosophizing, and quickly identify some key aspects of what makes us, us.

You might want to find out what your ideal daily schedule is,[1] and you can take tests that reveal just that. Or you might want to figure out what you need to get things done – and yes, there’s a quiz for that too.

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None of these tests are infallible, and some are more scientific than others, but the process of asking yourself questions about your behaviors and traits is invaluable when it comes to determining your path to succeed in life.

For example, if you know you are an introvert and are unhappy in your current workplace, it might be worth considering why that is (an open plan office space perhaps) and what you would prefer.

It’s these little questions that will provoke answers in you that can guide the decisions that truly improve your life now and in the future.

2. Figure out What Matters to You

What lights you up? This is a question that often gets forgotten as we age. A fortunate child will be given the stimulation they desire in the form of bright toys, affection and entertainment. Little by little, the things that bring a child joy get replaced by what society demands on their behalf.

When we return to that question, and ask ourselves what really matters and what brings us joy, we can move closer towards a successful life. It can help to think back to your childhood, and the times in your life when you were in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state.[2]

In a state of flow, time slows and our focus is directed like a laser. We are fully present.

Whilst not everything in life that matters to you will conjure up a flow state, it’s a good indication of the kind of activities and experiences you can try to incorporate into your life on a regular basis.

A successful life is made up of moments like this, and when you know what matters to you and brings you a sense of joy and purpose, you can go about creating more of that.

3. Play to Your Strengths

Why spend your time only on mitigating your weaknesses, only to feel average? Instead, playing to your strengths and amplifying those skills and qualities you already have will help you go from average to extraordinary.

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If you’re great at big picture thinking and love dreaming up new ideas, but often lack attention to detail, acknowledge that. Then instead of trying to improve your analytical skills, focus instead on developing your existing skills of imagination and insight. When you need someone with a keen eye for detail, you can collaborate with those people.

Jackson Pollock was an extreme introvert, with no real desire to get his artwork in front of people. Fortunately, he had Clement Greenberg, who was much further towards the extrovert end of the spectrum, to popularize his work and get Pollock the publicity he needed.[3]

Start by identifying your strengths and what comes naturally to you. Then work on developing those and becoming known for those strengths. You can always find someone who will help you in fill in the gaps.

4. Listen to Yourself

It isn’t always clear to us that we’re on a path that leads us to failure or to success. People can spends decades in a job that is unfulfilling and slowly breaking their spirit, without even realizing it – until it’s too late. This is usually because they haven’t learned how to truly listen to themselves.

The challenge we face is that we’re listening to so many other sources of information; whether it’s the news, television, social media, family, friends or colleagues. Many may want to help, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best for us. Only you know what success means for you, and working this out begins with listening to yourself.

Listening to yourself requires practice. It’s a daily effort, which over time, does get easier. That inner voice of wisdom will get clearer, and the decisions you make will feel more convincing.

To start, you could try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes when you first wake up, in silence. Rather than look at your phone, checking emails or social media, simply sit in silence, listening.

Ask yourself a simple question like, what am I feeling right now, in this moment? Notice the answer that bubbles up, without getting lost in the story. Starting an inner dialogue, without judgment is one of the key tools you can use to start making better decisions in your life.

Learn more about listening to your true self in this guide: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

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5. Listen to Others (But Not Everyone)

Listening to yourself is one thing, but listening to others is crucial in order to learn, empathize and be of benefit to your community.

Truly listening to others is not just waiting patiently until it’s your turn to speak. Active listening requires focused attention, and the intention to understand where the other person is coming from.

When you do this, you can ask better questions and discover more about the world and everyone in it, as well as learn how to interact with others in order to succeed in life on your own terms.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone you come across. Trolls on the internet may come into the category of people not to listen to. Some people’s opinions will do more harm than good, as not everyone has your best interest in mind.

It’s worth identifying a shortlist of people whose opinions you will listen to. Brené Brown, author of the New York Times best-seller Daring Greatly, recommends taking a 1-inch x 1-inch square of paper and make a list of people whose opinions matter to you. These are the people who love you and will genuinely support and help you. According to Brown,

“If you need more paper, you need to edit.”

6. Make Time for Reflection

It’s easy to go through life without taking inventory of what you’re actually accomplishing. Missing this crucial step means we end up jumping from one goal to the next, without feeling like we’re getting anywhere.

Make time, ideally each day to reflect. You might keep a paper journal, or an online document. Either way, jot down:

  • What went well today
  • Something you’re grateful for
  • What would make tomorrow even better

Doing this can have measurable benefits to our overall sense of well-being, as well as keeping us focused for more success in the future.[4]

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It also helps combat feelings of lack and doubt, that arise when we compare ourselves to others. When we look at someone who appears to be more successful than us in an area of life, we can forget how far we’ve come and how much we have to be grateful for.

Making time to reflect on what you have accomplished is critical to keep you on track, and just not looking at what others are doing.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind

Arguably the most important step of all:

Remember that there’s nothing wrong in changing your mind and correcting course.

The path to a successful life is not straight and narrow. It meanders and there’s no harm in going back and picking a different (and better) route.

“I think our life is a journey, and we make mistakes, and it’s how we learn from those mistakes and rebound from those mistakes that sets us on the path that we’re meant to be on.” — Jay Ellis

Be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and change your mind. Ultimately, there’s no better way to succeed in life on your own terms.

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Featured photo credit: Shirly Niv Marton via unsplash.com

Reference

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