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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 July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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