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The 5 Most Important Things You Need To Do To Be A Better Leader

The 5 Most Important Things You Need To Do To Be A Better Leader

Great leaders inspire others and have some traits in common. Here are the top five things you must do to become an even more effective leader.

1. Be humble.

One of the greatest lessons we can learn from the example Gandhi set is how to be humble. Although he was from a powerful family, he sat with his fellow man and led people by example, inspiring great devotion from his followers. He pushed for real change, without violence, and successfully brought in sweeping changes.

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Often, egos get in the way of people with power and prevent them from realizing their full potential. The more senior the leader, the more likely this is. Leaders can become focused on playing an important role, and forget why they were put into a position of leadership in the first place. The ability to serve others and learn things from people you might not otherwise come into contact with is important. To understand what people in your business are thinking, spend time with them on a regular basis.  Remember that because they serve your customers directly, their insights can be critical and provide you with ideas for how to do your job better than ever. The more you are seen, the more they will trust you and share.

2. Show empathy.

The ability to show empathy is very important in any leader. Understanding the unique challenges, skills and talents each person on your team has, will help you to plan your workforce strategy which will in turn have a positive impact on your bottom line. You can’t fake empathy, it has to be genuine. Knowing when people need support and providing it, will pay off many times in loyalty. It can also help you recruit others to your company, by having a loyal employee base who will refer their friends and family.

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3. Listen

Listening is truly under-rated in today’s world. People are so distracted by hundreds of emails and other interruptions that they often forget to hear what is being said to them. Sometimes we get wrapped up in conveying our view, and guess what we think others are going to say, by saying it ourselves. Yet what we say is often not what they had on their minds at all. When a leader does not listen well, people stop sharing new ideas because they don’t feel that what they say matters. Listening to your colleagues, team and managers will help you build a stronger and more meaningful relationship with others around you.

4. Communicate

Strong leaders share news, good and bad. They know that when things are tough, the best approach it to tell people what to expect, and when things are good, it’s important to celebrate. People need to know what is happening, and why. If you are experiencing problems that could affect profitability or people’s jobs, they need to know. The tendency to keep information within the executive suite is a dangerous one, because it undermines trust. When employees find out information from sources outside the company, or are the last to know critical information that affects them, they feel let down by leadership. Communicating key information often to all employees is a way to stay in touch with your team and to get real time feedback from everyone who works in your organization.

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5. Be patient

Some CEO’s are under enormous pressure to deliver results fast. Most leaders are. But the temptation to make knee jerk decisions and react immediately should be tempered by taking a thoughtful approach to any action and considering the implications of any bold decision.  Taking the time to do some blue sky thinking and turning it into strong strategic and practical plans will give you a major lead on your competitors who are more likely making snap decisions.

Featured photo credit: LauraRandell via join.deathtothestockphoto.com

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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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