When most people envision a leader, they think it’s all about their rank or job title.
But whether you’re a CEO, a manager, or an unpaid intern, what really makes for a great leader is your ability to carry others to greatness.
As author/speaker Simon Senek says, “Leadership is putting the needs of others ahead of our own. It’s not about being ‘in charge,’ it’s about taking care of those ‘in your charge.’”
It’s about being a mentor, not just someone who delegates tasks. It’s about taking responsibility, being the first person in and the last person out, and doing whatever it takes to bring your people to the next level — because if your people don’t have what they need from you to succeed, can you even lead them anywhere at all?
You must strive to protect and serve your employees — not the other way around.
In short, being a great leader requires a lot of hard work. You’ve absolutely got to be willing to put in the work to become a strong leader, and if you want to cultivate a positive environment that people want to be a part of, you need to lead by example. After all, “Monkey see, monkey do.”
But what kind of traits do the best leaders have, and how can we go about implementing them into our own daily lives?
Let’s do a deep dive into some common characteristics of great leaders and see what we find.
“Selflessness is humility. Humility and freedom go hand in hand. Only a humble person can be free.” –Jeff Wilson-
Nobody’s perfect, and everybody knows that — so don’t spend so much time worrying about trying to come off as such.
If you want to be a good leader, leave your ego at the door.
Think about it: The best leaders don’t spend time talking about how awesome they are or trying to make themselves seem better than everyone else. They spend time being confident in themselves and their abilities while remaining approachable, humble, and open to feedback.
Confidence is key; cockiness will drive people away.
If you practice humility, you show your peers that you’re not afraid to consider the opinions of others. Doing so will cultivate an environment that’s open to collaboration, full of support, and saturated with growth. In addition, being humble doesn’t mean you don’t have adequate knowledge or skill — it simply means you are open to learning other ways of doing things.
A good leader is willing to admit to their weaknesses and ask for help when they can’t do things on their own. As such, it’s totally okay if you don’t always have all the right answers. Someone might know how to do something better than you — that doesn’t make you a bad leader, but rather makes you a good one because you recognize the skills of others and how you can all work together to make progress.
Ways to Implement Humility Into Your Daily Life
- Spend time truly listening to your people
- Seek feedback early and often
- Ask for help when you need it and make yourself available to help others
- Show gratefulness to those who helped you
“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving. We get stronger and more resilient.”
If the road to leadership was easy to travel, we’d all be at our final destination by now.
But it’s not.
It’s hard. Life is hard. Leading is hard, and you’re going to make mistakes. But you want to make mistakes, because mistakes are how we learn.
If you want to be a strong leader, you’ve got to practice resilience and be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone, fall down, and get back up again.
If you aren’t resilient, you’ll be stopped in your tracks by things you absolutely have the power to overcome. And if you can’t progress, those following you won’t be able to progress either.
You absolutely have to believe in yourself and your ability to overcome any challenges life may throw at you. If you don’t believe in these things, who will?
Ways to Implement Resilience Into Your Daily Life
- Understand that things take time, and that’s okay
- Practice self-awareness and learn how to overcome negative thoughts
- View mistakes and failures as a learning experience
- Be flexible and understand that things may cause you to change course
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” -Bob Marley-
There is no place for lying where leadership is concerned. The best leaders don’t cut corners or try to deceive people — they have a strong ethical and moral character that inspires others to carry out good lives.
People get away with lying all the time, but this shouldn’t tempt you. When lies are revealed, the results are catastrophic. How many times have you seen news articles that expose all the bad things large companies have done? It causes a tsunami of backlash and makes people want nothing to do with you. Especially with society’s recent enchantment with “cancel culture,” this simply isn’t a risk you should be willing to take.
Leave the lying to the villains in the world and focus on following a strong moral code, building trustworthy relationships, and always, always remember to be honest.
Ways to Implement Integrity Into Your Daily Life
- Live up to the promises you make, even if it takes extra time and effort
- Don’t throw others under the bus and own up to your mistakes
- Don’t take credit for that which you did not achieve
- Be open and honest in business deals by laying everything on the table
- Always adhere to any rules, policies, or procedures that are present in your environment
“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.” –Courtney Lynch-
The blame game, the “he said, she said,” the “I know you are, but what am I?” — all of these phrases serve to make you unaccountable for your actions.
Being a good leader means being responsible for things that go wrong under your control and holding yourself and your team accountable for what you did. When mistakes happen, good leaders focus on doing what they can to make them right and get everybody through to the other end — not wasting time figuring out who should take the blame.
Because when you’re a leader, things are always 100 percent your fault. You’re the one in charge, after all.
In addition, holding others accountable for their actions doesn’t make you the bad guy. As a leader, you can’t let things slip through the cracks — but that doesn’t mean you leave your people to the dogs when they do. Instead, when someone messes up, it’s better to coach them through their task and show them how to do it right the next time.
You, as a leader, are responsible for providing your people with what they need to succeed. If you’re not doing your job, they can’t do theirs.
Ways to Implement Accountability Into Your Daily Life
- Set clear expectations and stick to them
- Make yourself available, especially when things go wrong
- Accept blame for your mistakes
- Provide your team with what they need while supporting autonomous actions
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Yes, your people might be workers, employees, or followers — but at their essence, they’re just people.
People who live full lives, who have goals and dreams, and sometimes, who have bad days.
If someone under your control is having a bad day and it impedes their work, are you going to beat them into the ground because of it, or will you offer them a hand so they can stand back up and try again?
If you want to be a strong leader, you have to be empathetic. Without this, human connection falls flat, and you risk driving off the very people you’re trying to build a relationship with — and you’ll find you’re headed down the path alone.
Ways to Implement Empathy Into Your Daily Life
- Schedule weekly “mental health check-ins” with your team
- Identify your biases and prejudices and work to overcome them
- Set a policy of antidiscrimination and speak up against it if/when it occurs
- Walk a mile in the shoes of someone less fortunate than yourself
- Understand your privilege and how you can use it to help others
- Listen to people when they talk to you
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”
Negativity is all too common for how harmful it is. It eats you up and spits you out, sucks the life right out of your soul, and makes you believe that you don’t have what it takes to accomplish your dreams, goals, or anything at all.
But by focusing on promoting positivity, you empower people to overcome their negative thoughts. We all have negative thoughts, but that doesn’t mean we can’t train our minds to see the positive side of the situation — and by creating a positive environment, everyone is able to truly thrive.
In short, there is no place for negativity where leadership is concerned. People do not want to follow someone who sees nothing but darkness and chaos in the world — they want to be around someone who shows them the light.
Ways to Implement Positivity Into Your Daily Life
- Create a journal where you write down positive daily affirmations
- Practice gratitude for your life and those around you
- Practice positive self-talk and work to overcome negative thoughts
- Change “I can’t” statements into “I can” or “I’ll learn how”
- Offer praise and support your people
- Take note of the happy moments in your life by practicing mindfulness
“One of the best ways to influence people is to make them feel important.” -Roy T. Bennett-
In order to be a good leader, you must be influential if you want people to follow you. But strong leadership isn’t merely about task delegation — it’s about motivating and inspiring people to achieve their goals.
It’s about acting as a mentor, not a ruler who points fingers and barks orders. It’s about leading by example, as you can’t expect to influence others to do what you want if you yourself don’t follow the same code of conduct.
But the best leaders don’t force their influence upon people — they live out their lives in such a way that drives people to want to do the same. They’re also open to influence themselves. You can’t be rigorous in thought if you want to convince others to change their way of thinking.
It’s also incredibly important to understand that if you want to be influential, you have to be passionate about whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. Nobody wants to follow someone who’s going to drag their feet through the mud the whole way there.
Ways to Implement Influence Into Your Daily Life
- Listen first, delegate second
- Work on cultivating personal relationships with your people
- Continue to develop your expertise in your related field
- Change “I” statements to “we” to create inclusivity
- Show your people that you value their opinions
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” –John F. Kennedy-
This might seem obvious, but if you want to be a good leader, you must possess the relevant knowledge and skills within your respective field.
You wouldn’t go to a foot doctor if you’ve got an eye problem. You wouldn’t turn to a marketing expert if you’re really interested in learning about politics. You can’t lead someone “here” if the only place you know how to go is “there.”
If you want to provide people with value and set yourself up as a strong leader, you first need to saturate your mind with the necessary expertise so you can show them why they should choose to come to you.
You must deeply understand what you’re talking about, you must be willing and open to trying new things, and you must never, ever stop learning.
Ways to Implement Knowledgeability Into Your Daily Life
- Talk to people who know more than you
- Listen to or read content about your respective field as much as possible
- Attend relevant conferences, webinars, events, etc. (maybe even with your team!)
- Seek to learn more about yourself and others
In short, a great leader is someone who creates a positive environment where people can achieve their goals, learn new things, and thrive for years to come.
And the biggest takeaway where leadership is concerned? It’s really about your followers and what you can do to help them grow.
If you think you could still use a little guidance in leadership, don’t forget to tune in to my podcast, Tuesday with Terry, airing every Tuesday at 11:00 AM CST.