Leadership is not a destination point. It is a lifelong journey – one that is guided by a constant effort to set a strong and positive example. Some people merely strive for the title and “prestige” that comes with being a leader. That is not really leadership. I’ve got news: Leadership is hard work! A true leader is one who is constantly striving to get better personally while also helping others better themselves. Here are 10 ways that you as a leader – aspiring or established – can stay sharp and on top of your game:
A significant benefit for any leader is a voracious appetite for knowledge. Reading is one of the best ways to improve your knowledge base and gain perspective on innumerable issues that may arise in your organization. Many people in leadership positions read books by other leaders that are essentially “how to” manuals. These can be very helpful, but it is important to also read fiction and other works of literature. Some of the classics can say more about leadership than any book written as a business success story. Reading is a great way to expand your understanding of others and improve your ability to connect.
Being a great leader is not about being popular. People do not trust those that they do not perceive as honest or authentic. If you have an opinion or value, it is best to stick to that without compromising. Likewise, those in leadership positions should avoid playing favorites. Fairness and sound judgment are highly valued traits in a leader. Obviously it is permissible to waver from one’s previous stance when common sense will not allow any other possibility. It is important for any great leader to be both consistent and reasonable. People will respect those that hold their values even if they may differ from their own.
Understand Your Team
It is important for leaders that wish to be successful to see each of the members of their team as individuals. Those that are not great leaders may see the people on their team as numbers or data that they need to adjust in order to get better results. A great leader understands the individual personalities, strengths, and weaknesses that they are dealing with within their team and uses those for the benefit of the team as a whole. Knowing and understanding assets is an important way to cultivate strategies in order to meet and surpass goals. Any leader worth their salt will come to understand their team members on a personal level and will often end up helping them in their lives while still maintaining a highly professional relationship.
One of the best ways to be an effective leader is to be respected by members of the organization. Being physically fit and being active is a great way to help earn that respect. Let’s be honest. It is much easier to respect someone that leads a healthy and active lifestyle than someone who is out of shape and always tired. Exercise helps develop endurance and mental alertness that will last throughout the day. This is why regular exercise is such a great catalyst for effective leadership. You look better. You feel better. You are healthier – all of which is extremely valuable.
You’re Not in a Popularity Contest
It is important to be respected by your team members. But this is not accomplished by “being liked.” A leader who is always making an effort to “be liked” will probably have to go outside of their value system in order to do so. This will lead to inauthentic leadership – not one of the characteristics of a true leader. An authentic leader will not let the opinions of other members of their organization unduly affect their actions. It is thus important that you do not change yourself in order to be liked or win the popularity contest. You will find that when your integrity is on a high plane, people will naturally like you anyway, and those that don’t will be found to be rather self-serving and probably not a good fit for your team.
Establish Long-Range Goals
Any person that wishes to lead effectively must set long-range goals (ideals, objectives, visions) for their group. These goals can change over time as more and more is learned about the process. It is vital to work toward a precise destination so that the unit is not directionless in their actions. When the entire team knows and understands the long-range goals, it will be easier for them to make decisions, work independently, and get the desired results. A great leader has a vision and makes sure that everyone in their group knows and understands what that is.
Set Short-Range Goals
Short-range goals work very well because they are the stepping stones that help any organization get to their desired long-range goal. These short-range goals should be set on a monthly, weekly, daily, and even hourly basis within a team. They are the small checkpoints along the way that will guide one and all toward the broader vision. They also serve as a way for a leader to manage a team effectively while he or she works on broad strategic planning. Short-range goals set and met along the way are an effective tactic for goal attainment.
Everyone needs some level of independence in order to feel like they are valued within their team. A great leader strives to cultivate an environment of independence within their organization. I have found that this helps in two ways. The first way is that team members feel more valued when they are entrusted to work independently and make choices on their own. The second way is that it frees up the leader’s time that would otherwise be spent micromanaging. A balance can thus be achieved with much less stress for the person in charge.
Failure to be punctual is a great way for anyone to lose respect among their peers. It can be especially catastrophic when it comes to someone in a leadership position. Want to lose the respect of others in an organization? Constantly be the last one in the building in the morning or don’t show up at the time you said you would. Being on time (or early) is something simple that goes a long way in gaining respect and trust and maintaining that edge you seek.
This is the most important skill of any great leader. The ability to communicate with your associates, your clients, your superiors, and even your rivals is a priceless ability. This often boils down to getting your intentions across and ensuring that others fully understand the process for getting there. Great communication, accurate and alive, is paramount in the success of any business or endeavor. Like anything else, great communication starts at the top. Set an example and it will be followed.
Those are 10 things that a leader can do every day in order to be effective and increase the “edge” factor. They may seem simple or obvious to some. But often the most simple and obvious actions are the ones that get overlooked. Like a great athlete or musician, a great leader must perform the fundamentals every day to stay on their game, set an example for their team members, and help those team members raise the quality of their work.
Great leadership is composed of time-tested attributes. Fundamental among these are a thirst for knowledge, authenticity, understanding, vitality, integrity, vision, independence, reliability, and the ability to truly communicate!