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10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader

10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader

According to Simon Sinek, organizational consultant, motivational speaker and author, there is a distinct difference between those we call leaders, and those who lead.[1]

Leaders may hold positions of rank, power or authority and try to force behaviors or actions in others. Yet, the real leaders are those who inspire action in others through their example and passion.

Unfortunately, positions of power and leadership in our society are more often than not occupied by the former rather than the later.

What makes great leaders in our businesses, communities, even in our own families, instead of relying on our size or rank?

Here are 10 essential qualities of a leader that make a leader great.

1. True Leaders Often Don’t Know They are Leaders

Paradoxically, most truly great leaders may not even realize the role they have taken on. They may not feel especially powerful, and they don’t necessarily feel ‘better’, smarter or more persuasive than those around them.

But they can and do recognize leadership qualities in others, and will invest their time and energy into encouraging and developing those qualities. The loyalty a true leader inspires is not sought after, but rather a natural by-product of their integrity and authenticity in action.

Great leaders cultivate the ability to see the best in others, and to draw out that potential via positive expectation and encouragement. They inspire and empower others, planting the seeds of leadership in those that surround them.

2. Leaders Know Themselves Well

Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves. They begin by recognizing that they have a voice, and a unique perspective to be shared with others.

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Great leaders possess a strong sense of personal responsibility for their lives, their actions, and their word.[2]

They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.

3. True Leaders Understand Human Nature

The study of human nature may begin with themselves, but true leaders aspire to understand others in equal measure.

A strong leader is aware that leading others requires a willingness on the part of those who follow; it requires ‘buy in’ to what the leader is working to accomplish. For this reason, a good leader will speak from the heart, and speak to the emotions of others through their passion and beliefs.

By acting and behaving with integrity at all times, and by speaking and leading from a passionate set of values and beliefs, they appeal to and inspire passion and action in others.

4. Great Leaders Know Their ‘Why’

Great leaders understand that desired changes in behavior and actions will naturally occur in others when they feel inspired and passionate about something. And so, true leaders share their own passion for their beliefs or cause with others.

Having a strong, clear vision and passion for their cause means truly understanding the ‘why’ behind what they do. Whether in business, sales, politics or family relationships, knowing and sharing the passion of a clearly defined ‘why’ is critical.

Once a leader is clear on his or her ‘why’, the how (behavior, and actions) and what (desired end result) evolve and flow naturally, without the need for coercion or force.

5. True Leaders Believe in Themselves

A great leader knows who they are and understands why they are driven. As a result, they have a confidence that is born from truly believing in themselves and their cause. This is not the false or fickle confidence buoyed by praise or rank or pay scale, but a genuine and solid certainty and poise that lends them the boldness and courage to do what needs to be done.[3]

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The great leaders of our time seem to demonstrate a fearlessness that we aspire to. But what may appear as a lack of fear is actually courage in the face of fear.

Great leaders are passionate and committed to their cause and their mission. They believe so wholeheartedly in themselves that they are not easily daunted by nay-sayers or critics, and are thus able to remain on course when many would lose traction.

However, in spite of having such faith and confidence in themselves, true leaders are quick to give credit and praise to others when it is due, and remain humble enough to recognize and admit when they are wrong.

A great leader understands that it takes the actions and courage of those they lead to give rise to truly lasting change and progress.

6. Great Leaders Think Outside the Box

Inspiring and creating change in oneself and others requires flexibility, and a willingness to bend, shift and evolve when faced with new information.

A true leader understands this, and remains open-minded and ever willing to adjust and reinvent themselves as required.

Effective leaders are innovative, and encourage unconventional thinking in themselves and those they lead. They recognize that thinking outside the box is the best way to remain creative and responsive to constant and on-going change.

7. True Leaders Listen

We often see so-called leaders in our society – our politicians, business CEO’s and managers, self-proclaimed gurus, and those in positions of authority – pontificating and telling others what they should be doing to make such and such happen.

But true leaders are often quiet. They ask questions, listen, and observe. Listening is a skill that requires practice and patience. Listening is even more important than asking the right questions or any other leadership skill.[4]

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They pay attention to what others are saying and doing, and they make note of what needs to be done. And then they set about doing it.

Along the way, via their continual demonstration of passion and integrity, they inspire others to do the same.

8. True Leaders Demonstrate Grace

It may seem odd to attribute the quality of grace to those in positions of power, but being in a leadership position demands it.

Grace means maintaining self-respect and dignity in the face of adversity, failure or opposition. It is showing respect and courtesy towards others, even when those others are your competitors or adversaries. It is demonstrating patience and compassion for those who may not yet understand as you do.

Grace means honoring one’s promises and remaining true to one’s word, even when no one is watching.

9. Great Leaders Persevere

Another quiet and often hidden quality of truly great leaders is perseverance.

Creating change, bringing innovation to the market, sparking progress, and leading others in times of adversity requires a commitment to one’s beliefs and ideas that is not easily shaken by the inevitable challenges and obstacles that arise.

Tenacity – following through when all you want to do is quit – requires a strength of character that many do not take the time to cultivate in themselves.

The great leaders understand the importance of staying on course, of having the grit and determination to push forward when many would turn back.

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10. True Leaders Are Willing to Sacrifice Themselves

This last essential quality is perhaps the most important, and sadly the least prevalent in those who often hold leadership positions in our society.

True leaders realize that positions of power and authority often come with perks and advantages, such as more money or material wealth, more freedoms, or perhaps more access to better life choices. As such, they adopt an attitude of gratefulness for the gifts that may be bestowed upon them by virtue of their position in society.

However, they also understand that these gifts are just one-half of the exchange; when push comes to shove, it is a leader’s duty to step up and defend those they lead.

For a CEO or manager, this may mean stepping in to defend an employee who has been unjustly accused as a whistle-blower.

For the king or president or political leader, it may mean putting aside their own desires or agendas to give their constituents what they need and want.

For the head of a family, it might mean going without personally so that the family as a whole can thrive.

True leaders accept the privileges that come with positions of elevated power, status or wealth, and respect and honor the other half of the exchange when it is required of them. They are willing to make the necessary sacrifices, and are generous with their time, resources and power to keep their team, tribe, company or family safe in times of threat or danger.

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Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Mike Bundrant

Co-Founder @inlpcenter, which offers NLP training and life coach certification to students in over 70 countries.

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Last Updated on May 7, 2021

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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Relocate your alarm clock.

Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

Scrap the snooze.

The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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Change up your buzzer

If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

Make a puzzle

If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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Get into a routine

Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

Have a reason

Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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