Hearing the word “leader”, what first comes to mind is often “managers”. But what about Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa? They were great leaders though they weren’t managers. Both won the respect of millions, both started important social movements, and both are remembered as key influencers.
Real leadership isn’t about managing people actually, it’s about influencing people. And real leaders have these 10 qualities in common:
1. Leaders are here for change
No true leader accepts the status quo. They always seek to improve the system, and they have no problem with challenging long-established routines. Even when change is an uphill battle, a leader is ready to take charge and realize their vision.
Many people aspire to make a change too. While it’s never an easy process and requires more than one person’s power. Teamwork becomes vital. And this is how leaders can help make the whole thing possible.
2. Leaders are always looking at least 5 steps ahead
A leader’s role is to provide direction and guidance to a group of people, even when everyone has different opinions. They need to understand the implications of their decisions, and to keep one eye on the future. This helps them make a reliable roadmap for the future. At the same time, a leader is sufficiently flexible that they can change their plans if required.
When some team members are planning the second step or the third step, leaders are already foreseeing the fifth step. Such vision helps make sure the direction is right and no efforts of team members would be wasted.
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3. Leaders never skip their routines, no matter how busy they may be
A great leader does not seek instant gratification. They know that success is built on a foundation of solid routine and incremental progress. They don’t believe in overnight success. They just make sure their efficiency is high so that they can keep following their routine and would not skip a single one.
Here at Lifehack, every employee receives half an hour of coaching each week. This is a significant time investment, but it pays off in terms of personal growth and business productivity.
4. Leaders’ know their followers’ stories
Strong leaders take a sincere interest in their followers’ personal lives, aspirations, and motives. This allows them to tap into other people’s deepest desires, and use this to provide motivation and encouragement whenever they start to flag. That’s why I keep private profiles for every team member. This allows me to tailor my approach whenever we interact, and understand what their work means to them as an individual.
5. Leaders love to empower others
The best way to motivate someone is to provide them with real control and power over their work and lives. This increases their productivity and sense of belonging as well. As great leaders know who they attracted are really talented people, they have trust in them and would let them make their own decisions. Micromanagement is avoided all the time.
Google embraces this principle with their “20% Rule.” Employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their working hours on their personal projects, rather than assigned tasks. This provides them with a sense of ownership and personal responsibility.
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6. Leaders are talent magnets
Very few people aspire to work with a narrow-minded, bad-tempered leader. A great leader knows that they will only attract the best people if they exhibit positivity along with their passion and grand vision.
7. Leaders don’t believe in the existence of failure
To a good leader, the only true failure is the failure to act. Otherwise, the worst that can happen is that they learn a valuable lesson – and that isn’t actually a bad outcome at all! By this logic, there is no such thing as failure. If an idea doesn’t work out, it just signals a need for a change in direction.
They know one of the biggest regrets people have is they never try. So be bold to try, and “fail”. It’s always better than sitting there doing nothing.
8. Leaders aren’t proud of being “busy”
Being busy is often used as a status symbol in today’s society. However, being busy is not necessarily a sign of productivity. Leaders know this, and are always questioning how they can work more efficiently. They know that time management skills, together with the ability to identify and prioritize important tasks, are vital to success.
When they find themselves busy, they know something is wrong. They would check if they delegate enough tasks and are focusing on the right things.
9. Leaders trust their intuition
Some people maintain that trusting a hunch or gut instinct is never a good idea, but a true leader knows that, occasionally, it’s a good idea. A classic example is the case of Ray Kroc, the founder and former CEO of McDonald’s. Against the advice of those around him, he borrowed over $2 million to set up his first restaurants. He later explained that he was acting on his “funny-bone instinct.”
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10. Leaders always keep the concept of leverage in mind
A leader is always thinking about the positive effects of their actions. They know that both small-scale and large-scale efforts are an opportunity for leverage. For example, a speech at a conference can provide them with a wonderful opportunity to spread their message, so they will invest the time needed to make it memorable. They ensure that they make the best possible use of their assets.
Aim to be an influencer, and you are more likely to trigger real change.