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15 Signs You Will Become A Great Leader

15 Signs You Will Become A Great Leader

Throughout the ages, great leaders have forged new societies, built great companies and advanced progress toward social change using a set of skills and abilities that are the awe of anyone who wants to inspire people to take action.

So often confused with one’s position within a hierarchy, leadership is not a title, a role or a position of authority. Leadership is the sum of many different moving parts — it’s definition difficult to pin down and for most, a matter of opinion.

For me, great leadership is a set of values, attitudes and beliefs brought to life through an individual’s actions and behaviors while working towards achieving progress.

A leader is as such no matter their position within social or organizational structures. And sometimes, people with the greatest potential for leadership, don’t even realise they have it.

Here are 15 signs you are going to be a great leader, even if you don’t realize it right now.

1. You empower others

Leadership is not a position of privilege or power. It is a position of service. A leader’s job, first and foremost is to help and guide people achieve what they want to achieve; not to make them subservient to their own whims and agenda.

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Research out of Penn State University, Claremont McKenna College and Tsinghua University found that so-called “transformational leaders,” those who empower self-guided teams by cultivating trust and autonomy, lead teams that achieve more and are personally more effective and successful in their job.

2. You have emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is one of the single most important characteristics of good leaders. Without it, the most intelligent, skilled and ambitious people will still fall short of achieving greatness in leadership.

Studies undertaken by psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence, found that emotional intelligence was twice as important for “excellent performance” as IQ and technical skills for people in jobs at all levels.

3. You use logic

Logic is the principles of reasoning. Among the discourse of leadership and management, logic, reasoning and rational thought are often overlooked in favour of intuition and gut feelings.

Although intuition is important, the ability to follow and create logical processes, arguments and strategy is a cornerstone of high-performance and success.

4. You start with why

According to recent studies, 70% of the American workforce are disengaged from their work. So what’s missing? Inspiration!

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Simon Sinek, author of global best seller Start With Why explains that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Whether you’re starting a social movement or building a great company, you need followers. Great leaders use the power of why to find people that believe what they believe and inspire them to take action.

5. You focus on solutions, not problems

When the pressure is on and deadlines are approaching, what separates great leaders from the rest is their ability to focus on solutions, rather than problems.

Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company and pioneer in establishing mass production said “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” Great leaders only spend enough time focusing on a problem to learn from it what they need to overcome it.

6. You are a learner

Albert Einstein, one of the most prolific leaders of scientific progress the world has ever seen believed that “intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”

A commitment to life long learning is one of the most important attributes of great leaders. The ability to challenge one’s own assumptions and learn lessons from he successes of failures of themselves and others is the cornerstone of progress.

7. You make others better

Great leaders are not interested in subordinating their followers. Instead, they want to create more leaders. Personal and professional development of team members and building an army of capable and effective drivers for whatever cause a leader is working toward is a great-leader’s top priority.

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8. You think outside the box

Great leaders challenge the status quo. They disrupt the natural order of things to find new and better ways of doing things. Anyone can tow-the-line. Great leaders achieve great things because they’re willing to ask questions, be critical and create change where it’s needed to drive progress.

9. You are a good follower

Great leadership comes from being a great follower. Robert Kelley, author of The Power of Followership, says that good followership is the opposite of what you might think.

A good follower is not a sheep or a yes-man. A good follower is active, independent and is constructively critical of directions and decisions before carrying them out. Most importantly, a good follower can function at a high level without a leader present.

10. You listen more than you talk

Great leaders are life long learners, and nobody has ever learned anything from talking. Arguably one of the most successful leaders in history, Richard Branson, swears by the power of listening over talking and says that the most successful business people he knows all have the habit of listening in common.

Listening over talking gives you the full picture when trying to tackle challenges. It puts things in full and proper perspective which gives great leaders an advantage.

11. You give frank and fearless advice

Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.” What he meant was that we shouldn’t compromise what we know is right for personal gain.

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One of the most important attributes of a great leader is integrity. A great leader stays true to their convictions, even when the advice they’re giving is not what the people around and above them want to hear — and even at their own expense.

12. You communicate effectively

Leadership and effective communication go hand in hand. Great leaders spend most of their time in some kind of interaction with other people. Whether it’s the people they want to influence at the highest levels or future leaders who need inspiration to take action, a leader cannot lead without the ability to communicate effectively.

Peter Economy, author of Managing for Dummies, says that effective communication can be achieve by sticking to the 7 C’s: Clear, Consistent, Credible, Confident, Civil, Concise and Compassionate. Get these right and you’ll find your interactions with others to be more successful.

13. You are compassionate

Great leaders care about the well being of the people around them. And it pays dividends. A recent study found that employee loyalty is influenced more by having positive relationships at work than by the salary.

Great leaders are so effective because they’re able to generate loyal followers, in part due to a compassionate approach to their relationships.

14. You ask for forgiveness, not permission

People are hard wired to resist change. Triggers for change resistance include fear and habit. Great leaders know this and, guided by their belief in what’s right and their ability to think outside of the box and challenge the status quo, will move ahead with new and sometimes controversial projects in the interests of progress.

15. You are not afraid of making the big decisions

Stepping up to make the big calls is hard. That’s why it takes an extraordinary leader to do it. They don’t do it because it’s easy. They do it because they know that, in many cases, failure to make a decision is worse than making a bad one.

The ability to lead can be learned and this list is a great starting point. What leadership characteristics would you add to this list?

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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!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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