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Last Updated on February 19, 2020

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 November 27, 2020

15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

Where you work has an enormous impact on how you work – on your ability to focus (and stay focused) and your overall ability to be productive. That means the design of your office, whether you work at home or in a larger company environment, is of supreme importance. This isn’t just about Feng Shui, this is about producing results and getting things done.

According to studies done on workplace and productivity, the most significant factor in determining an employee’s ability to focus is their physical environment. In fact, it’s been said that a well-designed office can increase your productivity about 20%. However, despite the studies and statistics, nearly half of the employers interviewed don’t consider workplace design a good business investment.

So what is a productivity hack to do? What if you work in an environment that doesn’t promote focus?

Check these 15 factors and make changes where you can. A little adjustment can produce a lot of impact.

Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important factors in staying focused and feeling inspired to create, yet it’s one of the most overlooked and least invested in. Bad lighting can cause fatigue, eyestrain, headaches and overall irritability. Dark spaces can actually produce depression.

If you work in a company office:
You probably have no control over your general lighting so bring in your own, if need be. Consider using natural light bulbs or a light therapy device.

If you work from a home office:
Open the windows and doors and let natural light in. Using lamps in a variety of areas for cloudy days or when it’s dark.

Chair and Table

If you’ve ever sat at a desk to do work but found yourself adjusting, stretching and moving too often to actually stay focused, then you’re aware of the importance of having a correctly fitted table and chair. In today’s work environment where so many of us are sitting for most of our day, it is critical that your throne fits your body probably.

Consider these quick ergonomic checks:

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  • Eyes 24-36 inches from the computer screen. The top of the monitor should be below or at eye-level.
  • Feet should be on a foot rest or resting on the floor.
  • A slightly reclined chair posture is best to reduce pressure on your spine and minimize lower back pain.

If you work in a company office:
Ask for an adjustable chair. Add pillows for your lower back or bum, if you need it. Many companies will also provide risers for computers to adjust the height of your computer screen (and a separate keyboard to keep your hands and wrists in the ideal position)

If you work from a home office:
Invest in a decent chair or at least use a few pillows to make the chair more comfortable. If the table is too high, add pillows to your chair. If it is too low, consider buying leg risers from your local hardware store and using books beneath your computer to raise the screen. Use a separate keyboard.

Clutter

Your mama was right, it’s important to clean up your room. Clutter may help the creative mind create, but it isn’t necessarily helpful for focus and productivity.

If you work from a company office: While you can’t control the cleanliness of the office at large, do keep your own environment around you clean. Spend 10 minutes every morning or evening making sure things are put away, filed, organized and generally out of sight so you’re not distracted by it later.

If you work from a home office: Because you work from home, the entire house or apartment is potential for distraction. If you can afford it, hire a professional cleaning service to keep your home clean. If not, schedule a specific day and time to clean your home. Commit to doing daily pickup at a specific time. And spend at least 10 minutes every day making sure your office  is organized and tidy.

Room Color

The colors around us all have an effect on our moods and brain function. It evokes both a physical and emotional response. So choosing the right colors for your work space has the ability to affect your productivity. For instance, blue has been said to illicit productivity. Mind you, too much of anything can be overwhelming, even color.

If you work from a company office: Bring in items from home that are a certain color that inspire you and keep you focused. Use postcards, magazine cutouts, even just blocks of color will do.

If you work from a home office: If you work from home, you have much more control over the colors around you. Consider repainting a wall, adding color to the table you work at, or hanging pictures that are dominated by a specific color.

Room Temperature

Most offices keep their temperatures around 65-68 Fahrenheit but it turns out that this might not be good for productivity. Warmer rooms actually make people more productive.

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If you work from a company office: Most offices are regulated by somebody else, so bring a space heater, sweaters and blankets to your work space.

If you work from a home office: Depending on the season, open the windows or adjust the heat or a/c so that you’re more comfortable and warm. Pile on the sweaters in the winter or add a space heater to your feet.

Room Scents

Like the color of the space you work in, our sense of smell can powerfully affect our mood, mindset and thus our productivity. Consider adding scents to your work space to jar your mind into focus when you start to notice yourself drifting off.

Try using these scents to stay focused:

  • Pine – Increases alertness
  • Cinnamon – Improves focus
  • Lavender – Helps to relax you during a stressful work day
  • Peppermint – Lifts your mood
  • Citrus (any) – Wakes you up  and lifts your spirits

If you work from a company office: Most people will not appreciate added scents to their work environment so you’ll need to keep it subtle. Keep essential oils in your bag or drawer and when you’re in need of a boost put a few drops on a handkerchief or cotton ball.

If you work from a home office: Use candles, incense or essential oils. You can also simmer herbs and spices in the kitchen to fill your home with a warm scent.

Noise Level

The noise level in a work environment can vary greatly depending on the size of the team you work with, the office design and company culture. But make no mistake, the noise around you affects your ability to stay on task. Not only can it be distracting, it can also raise stress levels making your ability to sustain productivity far more difficult.

If you work from a company office: Bring in noise cancellation headphones and use music services like Spotify or Songza and choose concentration boosting sounds, like white noise.  Find out if your office offers quiet work spaces for times when you need the utmost focus.

If you work from a home office: Sometimes the complete quiet can be as distracting as an office. Use a service like Coffivity to mimic the noise of a coffee shop, which has been said to help with concentration.

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Air Quality

Air quality can drastically affect our ability to focus and think clearly. Get this: OSHA estimates that the total annual cost of poor air quality in office environments costs employers $15 billion “due to worker inefficiency and sick leave.” Yeah, it’s serious business.

If you work from a company office: Talk to them about installing air filters. If there is a way to bring in fresh air through windows or doors, arrange to have them opened for at least a portion of the day. If nothing else, get a personal air filter to have on your desk or nearby.

Also, get a plant (or better yet, have the company buy and use more plants in the office!). Plants are great at filtering the air and providing clean, purified oxygen.

If you work from a home office: Open windows and doors and let in the fresh air. Install an air filter or get a portable air filter to keep near your desk. And, yes, you too should get a plant.

Different Spaces

If you can manage it, give yourself more than one space to work from. Putting yourself in a new space with different qualities and things to look at quite literally shifts your brain and helps you stay focused.

If you work from a company office: Many offices offer a variety of environments to work from: your personal space, lobbies, break out rooms, conference rooms, kitchens and eating areas and, if you’re lucky, they also provide lounge areas. Use all these spaces to vary your routine. Make sure your supervisor knows so they don’t think you’re slacking off and know tat you’re actually getting more done!

If you work from a home office: If you work at a desk, add a comfortable couch or chair to the room. If your space is less flexible or ultra tiny, think about more creative ways to change your work space. Rotate the pictures on your walls every couple of days. Sit on the other side of your desk. Get a lamp and multiple colored bulbs. Or go work at a café, the library or in a park.

Organization of People

Most employers organize employees around job function or in specific divisions. Instead, studies show that people are more creative and productive when they are sitting with colleagues that share the same goal or client. Not only are you able to get answers and generate solutions quicker, but because you’re directly accountable to the people around you, you’re more likely to stay on task and productive.

If you work from a company office: Ask your employer if you can experiment by clustering your group together in a conference room for a day or a week. Get feedback from everybody involved. Show the results. If your company won’t make permanent adjustments, perhaps they’ll allow you to work together a couple times a week when the conference room or lounge area is free.

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If you work from a home office: This is a little bit more difficult because when you work at home you’re not with colleagues. You can recreate a similar space digitally, however. Create a Skype group and have everyone logged in during working hours. You can do morning accountability and check-ins while remaining available for questions, solution-finding and general banter that promotes creativity.

Idea Storage

Ever been working hard when you’re suddenly distracted by a great idea? At first you try to push it away, but then the next thing you know you’re 20 pages deep into an online search on the topic. Ideas should be encouraged and cultivated, but when they come right in the middle of another task it can be incredibly distracting. Instead, create a place to store your ideas that’s easily accessed from your work space.

For both a company and home office: Keep pads of paper around, have a chalk wall, get a white board – when you have a spark of inspiration write it down right away to get it out of your head then return to the task at hand. Then, at the end of the day or when you have free time, collect all the ideas and review them. With a little time and space you can better decide if it’s worth pursuing or better to leave it on the back-burner.

Refreshment

Our brain needs nourishment to keep going, especially when we’re driving hard and staying focused. You can let a rumbling stomach go on for only so long before the brain shuts down. Assuming your different is like wanting your car to keep driving without having to stop and fill it with gas. A novel idea, but not realistic.

If you work from a company office: Pre-make snacks for the day and/or week. Or, bring in prepackaged snacks. Keep in mind that junk food has properties of diminishing returns so if you’re buying your food prepackaged think nuts, fruit, unsweetened yogurts, and hummus and crackers. Likely, your company provides coffee, tea and water so you don’t have to worry about supplying that for yourself.

If you work from a home office: If you work from home, this can be a key distraction. Try to reduce the number of times you walk into the kitchen each day. To do this, keep quick and   easy snacks pre-made or prepackaged ready and near your desk. Keep a water bottle nearby. And consider bringing a kettle into your office and stocking tea and coffee so you’re   not tempted to wander around the house and lose time poking through the pantry.

Bring in Nature

We are biological creatures, first and foremost. So we are deeply affected by our access to (or lack of) the natural world. It’s important for our psychological and physiological functioning, which directly affects our ability to be productive.

If you work from a company office: If you don’t have windows in or near your work space, bring in pictures of the outdoor world. Keep a picture of something natural as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks outdoors at lunch or in between major tasks. Just a few minutes outside in the fresh air and sunshine can boost our mood and shake out the doldrums. Be sure to add a plant to your desk, too!

If you work from a home office: Keep the shades open and, if you can, let in fresh air. If you can’t see anything natural out of your window, keep pictures of the natural world as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks. Or, just step outside and put your feet on the ground. Put plants in your office – research shows that having live plants in your office makes you more productive, happier and less stressed.

Digital Space

For most people, our primary work is housed within our laptops and our physical environment simply the backdrop to our digital lives. Make sure your computer has software that helps you sculpt the digital environment that best elicits productivity. Use focus apps like this one or this to decrease distractions. Or design your day using intervals with an app like this one to keep you at your peak focus throughout the day.

Featured photo credit: Phil Desforges via unsplash.com

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