No matter your position in life, opportunity for leadership abounds. Leadership qualities aren’t bestowed on you the moment that you are knighted with a fancy job title; they must be carefully developed and tended. At work, school, or in any community, you can cultivate leadership qualities that will make an impact on how you lead your life. But wait! Before you read on, what top leadership tips would you espouse? After you write them down, see how closely you and I match.
1. Lead yourself. Leading by example allows others to observe you. Don’t just dole out orders; be a contributing member, work hard, and produce results.
2. Realize your reach. We never can fully know the reach of our words and actions. At times are you are a Negative Nelly, a Gossiping Gwen? Realize that your disposition affects the world around you. You are powerful, and your influence is incalculable.
3. Listen. Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I recently attended a workshop for coaches: “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life.” I see listening as a skill I can constantly work on honing.
4. Leadership does not equate dictatorship. In groups, people should equally share the floor. Do not fall prey to the belief that leadership means that your voice overshadows all.
5. Build trust. Build relationships. Pay attention to others’ needs, suggestions, and likes. Care about them. Without this, your attempts to inspire and motivate are futile.
6. Determine what success means. When working in a group, have quantitative measures that let the collective know if you’ve reached your goal. Peter Drucker, one of the most well-known management theorists, says, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Then celebrate your successes!
7. Speak up. Be assertive and know the difference from being aggressive. Participate. If it’s for a project that suits your strengths, participate. If it’s a topic in which you aren’t well versed, try. If it’s a task of which all others are afraid, volunteer. Leaders take risks.
8. Attitude of gratitude. Appreciate others and tell them. Search for their strengths and communicate how much you value them. Not only will people feel a boost from the recognition, but you will be supporting a culture of positive acknowledgement. Whenever I feel frustrated with doing taxes, having a less-than-perfect parenting moment, or missing a flight connection, stopping and listing what I am grateful for that moment can turn things around.
9. Make learning a part of your daily practice. Learn from your mistakes; accept them as setbacks, not failures. Learn from others’ feedback. Seek out opportunities. As Eric Butterworth says, “Don’t go through life, grow through life.”
10. Be open. Remember that many heads have more creative/resourceful/ productive ideas than just one. Don’t drown out the voices of those who think differently than you. Try new ways of doing things and stay flexible.
11. Follow through. Stephen Covey’s number-one habit in his acclaimed book is to be proactive. Develop a plan and do what you say you will. Remember the adage: talk is cheap. Remember that you are the one that steers your decisions, and that in every moment, you have a choice.