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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

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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 September 22, 2020

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

You have probably heard the success stories about people who wake up early. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, and Olympic medalist Caroline Burckle all talk about the positive impact of waking up early on their lives.

Even though many assign a portion of their success to waking up early, many find it difficult to make the switch. While most people know what needs to happen to change their life, they find then difficult to implement consistently. To understand how to wake up early, you need to tap into the wisdom of those already doing it.

Here are the 6 things early risers do:

1. Stop Procrastinating

The first thing you need to do when you want to learn how to wake up early is to go to sleep earlier. Stop procrastinating. You will find it much easier to wake up when you are getting the proper amount of sleep. Set a bedtime that allows you to get 8-hours of sleep and hold yourself accountable.

The problem most of you will have at first is how tired you will feel. If you are someone who goes to sleep after midnight, waking up by 6 a.m. will not be easy. The reason you need to push through that initial difficulty is that you are going to be very tired at the end of the day. Realistically, you probably would fall asleep at your desk or doze off on your lunch break. Either way, waking up early no matter how you feel will motivate you to go sleep at the proper time that night.

Think of it as someone who procrastinated until the night before their project was due. Having done this myself, you do what you need to do to complete the project, whether that means working all night or cutting some corners because you don’t have time to triple-check your work.

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After you turn in your project, you feel both exhaustion and jubilation. After you make it through the workday and crash at home, you promise yourself you’ll never wait until the last minute again. This same feeling will happen when you force yourself to wake up early no matter what time you went to sleep. You are going to promise yourself you will go to bed at the right time.

Most people don’t go to bed when they should because they know they will ultimately make it up in the morning.

2. Pace Yourself

If you want to start waking up a couple of hours earlier each day, you may not be able to make that change all at once. It stands to reason the more drastic the shift, the more difficult it will be.

So, instead of trying to adjust your sleep pattern by several hours, start in 15-minute or 30-minute intervals.[1] If you wake up 30 minutes earlier each week, you will be a morning person by the end of the month. This may feel like you are drawing out your goal but in reality, you are accomplishing it much quicker than most. Most people who are naturally night owls find it difficult to completely change their sleep habits overnight.

Think of it as someone who is trying to quit drinking coffee. Outside of the fact you may enjoy the taste of coffee, your body is used to operating with a certain amount of caffeine and sugar. Some will be able to quit overnight and their body will adjust accordingly. And if you are one of those people, then do what works for you.

However, if you were to take an incremental approach, then you may first start drinking your coffee black. Then, you could switch to decaf before slowly lowering the amount of coffee you drink each day. As you can see, this approach will help minimize the feeling of withdrawal while getting the results you want.

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3. Watch Your Lighting

Light reduces your body’s production of the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone. In practical terms, your body naturally wants to be awake when the sun is up and go to sleep when the sun is down. This is called your circadian rhythm.

In the technology-driven world we currently live in, you likely look at a screen or two before bed. Studies show television and phone screens trick your body into thinking the sun is up. As a result, your body starts producing less melatonin. To help you fall asleep, you should stop looking at screens at least an hour before bed.

This can also mean that if you want to wake up before the sun, looking at your screen when you wake up can help you to stay awake.

Peter Balyta, the President of Education Technology for Texas Instruments says he wakes up at 5:20 a.m. and scans his emails before starting his day. This is also true for M.I.T. president L. Rafael Rief. He wakes up around 5 or 5:30 a.m. and checks his phone for anything urgent.[2]

4. Make It Worth Your Time

Have you ever woken up early but went back to sleep because you didn’t have a reason to stay up? To put it another way, have you ever fallen asleep because you didn’t have anything better to do?

If you want to be excited about going to sleep and waking up early, then you need to give yourself a reason to be excited. You can accomplish this by listing the three things you want to accomplish the next morning. Notice I said “want” and not “need” to accomplish. You don’t want to be dragging yourself into the next morning kicking and screaming.

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Your list should not only include what you want to accomplish but also why you want to accomplish it. If you want to take it a step further, list the consequences of not waking up early.

People who have figured out how to wake up early are shown to be more successful, persistent, and proactive in their life. They tend to be happier and handle stress better. It is also shown that people who wake up early procrastinate less.[3] If you find any of these benefits something you want to add in your life, then waking up early is shown to help.

5. Avoid Binging

There is a difference between sleeping and getting a good night’s sleep. Sure, you can drink alcohol and fall asleep, but you will not be getting quality rest. You will wake up feeling as though you slept for only a couple hours.

It is best to stop drinking at least 4 hours before bedtime. Binge drinking is known to impact your sleep-inducing melatonin hormone levels for up to a week. The same holds true with eating a large meal right before bed. It is not that your body can’t process food and sleep at the same time. The main concern has more to do with the possibility of indigestion or heartburn than anything else.

If you find yourself dealing with either of these symptoms, then you may want to stop eating at least two hours before bed.

6. Get the Blood Flowing

Those who have mastered the technique of how to wake up early tend to start each morning with movement.

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Your first movement is to get out of bed. To help you get out of bed, have your alarm far enough away that you need to get up and turn it off. Before you allow yourself to contemplate going back to sleep, take a moment, and do 10 push-ups or 10 jumping jacks. Think of each exercise as you taking one step further from being able to go back to sleep.

Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments wakes up at 4 a.m. each morning. She starts each day by exercising. Her exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and cycling.

You decide for yourself how you want to get your blood flowing. Whether you want to go on a walk, workout at the gym, or do something at home, make sure you are scheduling time to exercise.

Final Thoughts

The key to understanding how to wake up early is to recognize that it is heavily driven by the actions you take the night before. You will wake up early if you go to bed at a good time and get the proper amount of sleep.

By taking the time to prepare yourself both mentally and physically each night, you can ensure you are positioned for success the next morning. Once you have taken the proper actions the night before, make sure you use that momentum to start your day, on time.

The goal is to make the actions you want to take as easy as possible. The key to changing your life is to discover a way to have the wind at your back, going in the direction you want.

More Tips on How to Wake up Early

Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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