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11 Qualities Of A Truly Great Leader

11 Qualities Of A Truly Great Leader

Whether it’s the president of a nation or the captain of your kickball team, it is easy to tell when you are in the presence of great leadership. Studies have shown that one third of the qualities that make a successful leader are innate while the rest of what makes up true greatness is learned.The following are qualities of an effective leader.

1. Great leaders make tough decisions and take responsibility for the consequences.

Every decision, whether it be to go to war, to run a clinical trial with a new cancer treatment that you believe in, or to refuse to listen to racist jokes at the playground, has consequences.  Leaders are able to make a choice and defend their actions. The greatest leaders admit their failures, learn from their mistakes, and go right back to work, taking strides to prevent future shortcomings.

2. Leaders are focused on the final goal and committed to achieving it.

Nelson Mandela, the first South African president, remained committed to the anti-apartheid movement, even after serving an almost 30 year jail sentence. Great leadership requires sacrifice and determination despite your losses.

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3. Leaders are focused on the future, aware of the present, and have learned from the past.

Great leaders learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. They have the insight to predict where the future is headed, and even though progress might be slow, they are able to keep their focus as they manage the daily challenges of the present.

4. They are able to filter out what is important and what is not.

NFL quarterback Drew Brees stated that the best advice he received was “never let anybody tell you that you can’t accomplish something that you are willing to work for.” There will always be people around to tell you that you’re not good enough and that the task ahead cannot be achieved. The ability to listen to the motivating voices and shut out the deterring ones propels leaders toward success.

5. Leaders are visionaries: they are willing to see things outside of the current status quo, ignore the lines already drawn, and draw new ones of their own.

Mahatma Ghandi found a way to protest the atrocities he saw in India without violence, later inspiring Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. Madeleine Albright paved new roads for women in politics. Mark Zuckerburg believed he could change the way we communicate with one another. Society will always make boxes with labels and people will always be more comfortable putting things in their pre-assigned place. It takes courage, determination, and creativity to change these categories. While this is often a lonely road at first, it is astonishing how one person can open the door for countless others.

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6. They are devoted to ethics.
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    Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Great leaders see something wrong and they are unable to look the other way. Whether it’s changing the operations of a large company, fighting for civil rights, or standing up to a bully on the playground, these people do not stay quiet to the injustices around them.

    7. At their core, great leaders pursue a purpose to improve mankind and work for the greater good of others.

    Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, was told by her mother to “leave behind more than you take.”  Great leaders are focused on benefiting the whole. They are focused on making policies that improve the conditions for not only themselves, but all those around them. They work to empower people to become stronger individuals and thus create a stronger whole.

    8. Great leaders know how to communicate with their audience.

    They are able vocalize their ideas and their mission. They explain their actions and the rationale behind them. They understand that everyone has something to teach them and often the best communicators are the ones who are best able to listen.

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    9. They are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of those around them.

    While leadership requires immense initiative, great leaders know that no goal can be accomplished alone. They can accurately identify the abilities of others and they delegate tasks appropriately in order to maintain efficiency and maximize potential.

    10. They rely on their intuition.

    In the book Blink, the author Malcom Gladwell argues that our “intuition” is based on a subconscious collection of our past experiences. This “gut feeling” works like a computer in that it aggregates all of our previous interactions with the present situation. The “feeling” is then your brain’s first impulse based on the data collected. Great leaders know when to rely on this ability and when to wait for more information to make a decision.

    11. They lead by example.

    In your own life, who is more inspiring: the person who continually talks about dieting and weight loss or the person at the gym everyday bringing their own lunch to work? While effective communication is extremely important to the success of a leader, actions often speak much louder. This explains why so many politicians are dismantled not by poor political decisions, but by mistakes in their personal life such as affairs and drug use (ie. Anthony Weiner and Rob Ford).

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    The great leaders of our world often do not set out for glory, fame, or fortune, but believe in doing the right thing and commit themselves to that goal. They lead by example, make sacrifices, and are not deterred by challenges that would defeat the average person. If you look at the great leaders in your life— your boss, your mother, your religious leader—you will notice the above probably applies to them. Being a leader only requires that one person follow you, and at some point everyone will be in this position. Keep these qualities in mind: you never know how many people are already looking to you for direction.

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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