Advertising
Advertising

Published on May 22, 2018

10 Qualities of a Leader (Advanced Version for Leaders Who Aim High)

10 Qualities of a Leader (Advanced Version for Leaders Who Aim High)

Whether you’re trying to start your own business, manage a team of employees or just run an effective neighborhood meeting, you understand the challenges of leadership on a personal level. You’re expected to have the answers to every question, you’re responsible for inspiring and motivating people (no matter how unmotivated they started), and worst of all, there’s no one above you to turn to for advice or direction—it all has to come from you.

There’s no blueprint for how to become a successful leader, and there’s evidence on both sides of the argument for whether great leaders are born or made.[1] You can’t expect to naturally be an effective leader, nor can you ever expect to become a perfect leader. But if you study the qualities of a leader from examples of the past and scientific evidence, you can steer your behavior, your habits and your outlook in a more favorable direction.

So let’s take a look—what does it take to become a great leader?

1. Hold firm convictions to inspire followers and radiate confidence.

Holding firm convictions means you’ll be almost stubborn in your adherence to your values, beliefs and vision for the future. That doesn’t mean you ignore people when they disagree with you (in fact, as you’ll see, flexibility is important), but it does mean you have significant integrity, and you’re likely to stay true to your values, no matter what happens.

Research shows a high correlation between uncertainty and stress;[2] if your employees aren’t sure what you’re going to think about a new idea, or if they feel like you change your positions too frequently, they may not be able to focus on their jobs or be as productive as they could. They might also have less respect for you as a leader.

There’s a famous anecdote about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs that demonstrates his ruthless convictions.[3] when introducing a prototype of the iPhone, a friend criticized the touch keyboard, stating that users would strongly prefer traditional keyboards on their phones. Jobs’s response was “they’ll get used to it.” He’d already made up his mind, and was sure this was the correct path forward.

How to get started

To get started with this one, think carefully about which values and visions matter most to you. Then, frame them in your mind as unbreakable.

2. Use emotional intelligence (EQ) to improve both client and employee relationships.

Emotional intelligence (or EQ) is your ability to understand both your own emotions and the emotions of others.[4] It gives you more control over your own emotional states, meaning you’re less influenced by raw feelings and it allows you to handle interpersonal relationships with your employees with more empathy.

One study within a Fortune 400 insurance company found that individuals with high emotional intelligence received more merit increases, held higher company ranks and got better ratings from both peers and superiors.[5] This is attributable to EQ’s many benefits. These employees have better control over their own emotions and behaviors, work better with other people and are able to quickly resolve conflicts before they get out of hand.

How to get started

Getting started may prove difficult here. While some people naturally have high emotional intelligence, others take years to fully develop it.

If you’re just getting started, spend time paying attention to what other people are feeling and ask yourself why they’re feeling it. Regular periods of introspection will also help. Here you can find 7 Practical Ways To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Advertising

3. Master the art of communication to operate more efficiently (and boost morale).

Communication unfolds in many ways during your tenure as a leader. You’ll be leading in-person meetings, holding phone calls with clients and sending emails regularly. You’ll also be a part of heavy conversations, whether it’s breaking bad news to a client or firing an employee. Learning to communicate effectively is crucial to your success.

Ask any leader what the most valuable skills for success are, and they’ll likely list communication skills among them. Billionaire and serial entrepreneur Richard Branson, for example, has called communication “the most important skill any leader can possess.”[6]

Communication not only makes processes run smoother (thanks to efficient transmission of instructions and details), but also allows you to convey mood and urgency through your tone. Accordingly, it has objective and subjective impacts on your audience.

How to get started

Email is the easiest place to gain mastery here since you’ll have time to think through your sentences and use email productivity hacks to get even better.

Pay attention to your purpose, wording, and tone, and experiment until you find the right combination.

When speaking, try to speak slower and think through your sentences carefully. You’ll appear more confident and buy time to find exactly the right words for any situation.

4. Always favor action over inaction to preserve your team’s momentum.

Great leaders typically have the mentality that action is favorable to inaction. If you’re facing a problem, procrastinating is the worst thing you can do. Instead, commit to moving forward however you can, even if that means making a temporary “duct tape fix,” or even making a mistake.

U.S. President Harry S. Truman is quoted as once saying,

“Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.”

This is the man who dropped the atomic bomb—an action that’s been criticized for ending thousands of innocent lives, but also praised for possibly preventing even further casualties worldwide. It was a risky and heavy decision, but one that kept things moving forward.

How to get started

When you’re facing a problem or a decision point, think carefully about your options, and start leaning away from options that don’t require action (i.e., “let’s wait a month,” or “let’s keep things the way they are for a while.”)

Advertising

This article about making decisions can help you: 5 Tips for Lightning-Fast Decision Making

5. Be diplomatic to encourage new ideas and thorough discussion.

As important as it is to stay true to your convictions, it’s a terrible idea to lead through dictatorship. Instead, be diplomatic and encourage your employees to bring their ideas to the table—even if they outright contradict your own. Open discussions and listen to every idea that comes across your desk.

Many companies have made it a general policy to encourage ideas from their employees from the ground up. Google, for example, for a period of many years, gave its employees 20 percent of their working hours to work on any kind of projects they wanted to.[7]

And according to Dan Glaser of Marsh and McLennan Companies,[8]

“We have found that innovative ideas bubble up when you tap into an element of dissent.”

The research here indicates that companies that not only allow, but encourage and take advantage of disagreement, stand to benefit greatly.

How to get started

You can encourage this behavior by giving every employee time to express their ideas, whether it’s in meetings or a private setting. When you disagree, don’t cut down the idea; make a case for why yours is stronger and thank the employee for voicing their opinion.

The “safer” it is to voice a dissenting opinion, the more your employees will be willing to do it. Some more tips to help you make your team feel safe here.

6. Remain humble and admit your mistakes to discourage resentment or intimidation.

Not all of your strategies and decisions are going to work out. Learning to admit your mistakes and note the flaws in your thinking can actually be a strength. If you pretend you’re perfect or refuse to admit to your mistakes, one of two things will happen: your employees will become resentful of you, believing you to be narcissistic or delusional or they’ll be intimidated by you, thinking that mistakes are unacceptable.

At least one study has found that CEOs who demonstrate humility tend to perform better than their counterparts.[9] When a CEO is approachable, fallible and humble about their status, employees are more appreciative. Workplaces tend to be calmer and more unified, and leaders earn more respect.

How to get started

Humility is hard to teach but you can embody its core principles. If you make a mistake, admit it and laugh it off, and don’t be afraid to let down your guard in front of your employees. You’re human too. In fact, showing vulnerability actually proves your strength.

Advertising

7. Use patience to stabilize your emotions and make more logical and long-term decisions.

Stabilize your emotions when making decisions, and steer those decisions toward the most logical long-term approach. The most effective marketing strategies, for example, take months to years of time for development, but if you’re hasty and emotional in your decision-making, you might opt for a short-term strategy that yields rewards quickly, but has no distant future.

Jeff Bezos is one powerful anecdotal example here, almost every decision he makes as CEO is done with the future in mind.[10]Amazon is one of the most powerful and respected companies in the world, yet it doesn’t make much of a profit. Its excess revenue is constantly funneled back into the company to help it grow into new markets and investigate new opportunities for expansion.

How to get started

Before making a decision or choosing a path forward, remove yourself from the situation. Pretend you’re an unbiased onlooker and think about how you’d advise a stranger in this same situation. Then, imagine the consequences not just a week from now, but a month, a year and a decade from now.

8. Stay organized to set a good example for your employees.

Leaders are busy, so small levels of organization may seem like an unnecessary waste of time. However, staying organized is important not just for your own productivity, but also for your employees—who will be looking to you as an example.

This idea is illustrated by the fact that 75 percent of office workers believe that a disorganized office is a sign of deeper problems within a company.[11] If your desk is cluttered with papers, or if they can see your email inbox has 2,000 unread messages, they may believe something is wrong with the company—or with your approach as a leader. They may also have an excuse to be disorganized in their own roles, which can lead to even more productivity problems.

How to get started

Start paying closer attention to how you organize yourself and try to consistently present a clean, tidy image—even if things are more chaotic beneath the surface. Keep track of your own productivity and schedule 15 minutes a day to keeping your work and belongings organized.

9. Empower your employees to become leaders in their own realms.

You may be the head honcho of the organization but your business will run far smoother if you allow the people beneath you to be leaders of their own domains. Empower them to make their own decisions, discipline and reward their own underlings, and communicate how they see fit. This will take some of the pressure off you, improve the morale of the people you’ve inspired, and add more diverse opinions and approaches to your company culture.

Several amazing leaders have taken this approach. Elon Musk, for example, recently wrote an email to his staff about the importance of employee empowerment.[12] In it, he describes managers, in general, as a “bad idea.” In his view, every person within the company should take ownership of their own responsibilities and be empowered to make decisions and take risks as any leader would.

Former President Ronald Reagan, as another example, is quoted as saying,

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.”

It’s a policy many presidents have taken to heart.

Advertising

How to get started

It’s hard to introduce this idea to a workplace that’s been without it, but you can start by telling your managers and employees how much you trust them. Delegate decisions to them and don’t micromanage.

Set expectations in meetings and in individual employee reviews that you trust your employees to make their own decisions. When they start moving forward, making their own decisions, reward them for their independence and confidence to encourage the behavior even further.

This guide can help you to know how to delegate works for the best: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

10. Be decisive to demonstrate your authority.

Finally, exercise decisiveness to prove and radiate your authority. Leaders are primarily decision makers, which means you’ll be held accountable for the outcomes of those decisions, however they come.

Great leaders aren’t afraid to face the consequences, especially during periods of uncertainty. Instead, they make decisions quickly based on all the evidence they can gather, and hold firm to those decisions. This not only makes you appear more authoritative, it encourages more decisiveness and resolve within your employees as well.

Successful leaders are shown to be more decisive than their less successful counterparts.[13] This could be due to any number of secondary effects. For example, it could be that decisive leaders are better decision-makers overall, thinking through problems more comprehensively. It could also be that decisive leaders are more confident and inspire more from their underlings.

How to get started

Despite the advantages here, you still shouldn’t rush your decisions. Gather as much information as you can in a situation and pull the trigger as soon as you think it’s appropriate.

Delaying a decision or presenting yourself as “on the fence” can weaken your position. Changing your mind on a decision after it’s already been made (like allowing an employee to convince you not to fire him/her) will compromise your projected authority.

Making decisions under pressure is hard, some tips here maybe able to help: How to Make Decisions Under Pressure

Understand leaders to become a great leader

There are many different styles of leadership to consider, so naturally, these qualities of a leader may transform as you come into your own approach. But, how you use them isn’t nearly as important as understanding them and learning from them.

The better you know and understand the leaders who have come before you, the more tools you’ll have to shape your own style of leadership and become successful in any application you choose.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

More by this author

Anna Johansson

Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends.

20 Best Productivity Apps for Mac You Should Have in 2019 10 Uplifting Positive Affirmation Apps That Help You Re-Center on the Go 10 Qualities of a Leader (Advanced Version for Leaders Who Aim High) hourglass as time is wasting 15 Ways You Are Wasting Time During the Day (And How to Stop) When You Have These Recipes, You No Longer Need to Suppress Your Appetite for Dessert.

Trending in Smartcut

1 The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career 2 How to Be a Successful Businessman (The Complete Guide) 3 How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work 4 Best 5 Language Learning Apps to Easily Master a New Language 5 Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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

    Reference

    Read Next