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10 Things A Truly Great Leader Do Every Day

10 Things A Truly Great Leader Do Every Day

The annals of history have been illuminated by tales of inspirational leaders, from William the Conqueror and Robert the Bruce to political stalwarts such as the great Winston Churchill. These individuals, though separated by thousands of years and the opportunism of circumstance, retained several key attributes that are inherent among all great leaders. Given that gifted leaders often emerge during times of austerity such as war or famine, however, the absence of these circumstances in developed economies has made it difficult for truly inspirational individuals to stand out in modern times.

Sir Winston Churchill

    This may explain the perceived lack of genuine leaders in 2014, although another argument could also be extended. A recent study by Dale Carnegie Training revealed that nearly 75% of modern-day employees were not fully engaged at work, with a lack of leadership from supervisors and management cited as one of the primary reasons for this. If this is to be taken at face value, it suggests that many of today’s leaders lack the necessary skills and natural attributes to inspire those around them on a daily basis.

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    With this debate in mind, it is worth considering how the accepted traits of great leaders may be translated into everyday actions and decision making in the contemporary age. Consider the following things that a genuinely inspirational leader does on a daily basis.

    1. They communicate in a straightforward and direct manner.

    While many of the historical great leaders have inspired through example, communication is also a crucial weapon if you are to motivate those around you. The finest leaders strive to communicate in a direct and straightforward manner at all times, without ever alienating their staff or creating unnecessary friction. Although this is an easily acquired skill, it also requires an innate ability to listen to those around you and articulate thoughts into understandable words and actions. Whether delivering good or bad news, this philosophy encourages mutual trust and helps to establish productive, long-term relationships.

    2. They delegate tasks to trusted associates.

    There is a romantic ideal which suggests that great leaders tend to stand alone, but this is often far from the truth. The majority of inspirational leaders have relied on a strong and trusted support network, whether you consider the loyal armies that followed monarchs such as Henry Tudor into battle or the political aides that helped great Presidents like John F. Kennedy to effect social change. The same principle applies today, as the very best leaders place faith in their closest allies and delegate tasks so that they can remain focused on executing a single, overall strategy.

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    John F Kennedy

      3. They put people in the right and appropriate duty.

      Great leaders have an innate ability to think analytically, and develop strategies that create a purposeful and motivated team. More specifically, they are able to analyze a group of employees or associates and distinguish between the members who offer value and those who do not. Beyond this, great leaders also ensure that roles are handed out appropriately so that each individual can maximize their own potential. This is part of a continual process, and one which aids the accomplishment of independent and team-orientated goals.

      4. They demonstrate the presence of a clear and concise plan.

      The ability to communicate directly, delegate and think analytically helps to inspire trust in others, and this forms the cornerstone of effective leadership. It is also important that every action or decision is taken with a clearly defined goal in mind, as this strengthens the faith that each individual or team of people has in your leadership credentials. While the strategies that you use to achieve your goals can be constantly adapted to suit your needs, you must remain focused on a fixed final objective and demonstrate this strength of will to those around you.

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      5. They host regular and meaningful one-to-ones.

      In a commercial environment, managers often carry out one-to-ones with individual employees in an attempt to review their performance and develop personal growth plans for the future. While this is a worthwhile exercise in theory, it means little unless the interaction is meaningful and allows both parties involved to express themselves confidently. Great leaders use one-to-ones as a medium to communicate openly and regularly with their subjects, in an environment that empowers people to find their voice and share their opinions without trepidation.

      6. They actively manage conflicts when necessary.

      In between scheduled one-to-ones, leaders may also be required to mediate and resolve conflicts in their team. This is a far more challenging exercise, as conflict tends to be emotive and therefore generates high levels of feeling between the aggrieved parties. Great leaders face these challenges every single day, and use their natural authority to create a calm and productive environment where people can share their views honestly and constructively. By using their natural communication skills to listen and empathize, they can arrive at a fair compromise which satisfies all parties involved.

      7. They exhibit leadership maturity at all times.

      The ability to mediate and resolve conflict is an example of leadership maturity, which is crucial for anyone who aims to gain respect and credibility in a management role. Great leaders understand that this must be exhibited at all times, and used to influence every single decision, action and strategy that they execute. Having maturity as a leader will ensure that you conduct yourself with dignity even during challenging times, whether you are forced to deliver bad news or make a decision that has a negative impact on your subjects. For an example, you need look no further that the former U.S. President George Washington, who was renowned for his enduring dignified and composed manner.

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      Portrait of George Washington

        8. They understand the value of “siege mentality.”

        While the term “siege mentality” hardly sounds positive, it has tremendous relevance when applied to leadership. It is a philosophy which has been utilized by sporting management icons, such as former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who would often use high profile defeats and subsequent media criticism to strengthen his players resolve and draw them together as a more unified group. This has considerable merits in commercial leadership, as it can encourage employees to improve their performance and levels of collaboration to help drive companies forward in a challenging market.

        Alex Ferguson

          9. They plan ahead for the future.

          Great leaders share a great deal in common with entrepreneurs, as they often have unusually high levels of courage and are able to inspire others in the pursuit of a common goal. Another key attribute that unifies these demographics is their vision and capacity for forward planning as they strive to establish a durable legacy for the long-term future. Great leaders are always motivated by effecting change long after they have gone, and constantly plan for a time when they are no longer able to take the helm.

          10. They learn and develop as individuals.

          Perhaps the single greatest attribute that unifies great and inspirational leaders is their level of drive, which enables them to maintain progress even during times of austerity. These characteristics also inspire them to be proactive when pursuing knowledge and personal development, as they constantly want to learn and improve as individuals. Through an insatiable appetite for life and a willingness to reflect on their own performance every single day, great leaders continually evolve and achieve new heights as they grow older.

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          Last Updated on July 17, 2019

          The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

          The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

          What happens in our heads when we set goals?

          Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

          Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

          According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

          Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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          Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

          Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

          The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

          Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

          So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

          Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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          One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

          Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

          Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

          The Neurology of Ownership

          Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

          In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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          But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

          This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

          Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

          The Upshot for Goal-Setters

          So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

          On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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          It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

          On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

          But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

          More About Goals Setting

          Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

          Reference

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