If you ask everyone you meet the meaning of a good leader, you will probably end up with thousands of responses. We all have our different understandings of good leadership and what one needs to become a good leader.
Leadership entails lots of things, which explains why there is no definite definition of a good leader. Is it someone who leads and gives others a chance, or one who can drive effective communication?
As you brainstorm about that, one thing is sure- leadership requires lots of skills that must be honed and developed day in, day out. It is impossible to become a good leader overnight, even though others argue that they are natural-born leaders. You will have to interact with others and solve several challenges before being successfully referred to as a good leader.
In this article, we will give you eight tips from great leaders in different spheres worldwide to help you develop outstanding leadership skills. We want you to inspire others, motivate them to focus on their goals, and work hard, not sitting back and barking orders.
Here are some tips that should help you develop your leadership skills and become a good leader.
1. Always Be Empathetic
Every leader should be empathetic. Despite being a trait on its own, it can significantly help you to become a great leader. Empathy entails trying to walk in the shoes of your subjects or subordinates to understand how they feel and see things from their point of view.
Whenever you strive to look at things from the point of view of your subjects, you will know how to respond in a way that shows that you have listened to them and have their concerns in mind. Desist from being sympathetic to win the liking of your subjects all the time if you cannot do something to help.
John Turner, the CEO of UserThink, understands the importance of empathy in leadership. He warns leaders from always being sympathetic and trying to be liked every time one presents to them a concern. He argues that they should instead strive to understand these problems and get their point of view.
Empathy will help you tailor your leadership in a way that considers your subjects. People need to feel cared for and respected, be it in their work settings, homes, or social settings. There is no better way to achieve this than by being empathetic to their plight.
2. Be Brave and Determined
As a leader, people expect you to show them the way, guiding them through different situations. They, therefore, need someone who they feel safe following. You can never win people over and advance as a leader if you are not brave and determined. It would be best if you strived to convince your subjects or subordinates that you are brave enough and can get things done through your actions.
Rosa Parks, one of the most incredible civil rights activists and members of the civil rights movement, understood just how vital bravery and determination were to leadership. She is known to have refused to give up her bus seat in Montgomery at the height of segregation, which inspired the bus boycott that followed, pushing the civil rights movement even further. Rosa challenged the system without fear, inspiring a great revolution.
In one of her speeches, she said that making up someone’s mind diminishes fear, and knowing what must be done does away with it. Therefore, as a leader, you have to be decisive and stand by your decision, provided that you know what needs to be done. This is the best way of gaining confidence from those who look up to you.
Also, bravery means that you can take any task head-on and deliver, which makes those who entrusted you with the leadership role satisfied.
3. Practice Persistence
No one becomes a good leader overnight. There are many challenges to be faced, and without the right level of persistence, it is easy to give up midway. If you would like to hone your leadership skills and finally become a leader worth mentioning, you need to be persistent enough.
Persistence means not giving up even when faced with challenges. People need a leader who will be with them through thick and thin. Do not retreat even if people do not believe in you, but stand your ground and fight.
A leader who is consistently lauded for his persistence was Abraham Lincoln, who believed that one’s resolution to succeed is more important than any other. Abraham Lincoln managed to keep America together during one of the worst periods in American history- The Civil War. He is also remembered for making significant contributions to ending slavery by signing the Emancipation Proclamation.
Lincoln faced lots of challenges but did not give up. His persistence at a time when America was almost on its knees made him one of the best presidents in US history.
4. Always Value Teamwork
Leaders do not thrive alone. You need to value teamwork and also allow people to decide some cases collectively. Collaboration ensures that you will get to interact with several people while working on different projects, understanding their viewpoints, and developing people skills needed for successful leadership.
In corporate settings, leaders are gauged by their ability to influence others and achieve excellent results. Teamwork brings people together and encourages them to share their opinions for proper decision-making. Peter Drucker, one of the most revered management gurus, was a great proponent of teamwork. He believed that for effective leadership, leaders have to stop looking at things from a personal angle.
Therefore, instead of the ‘I’ mindset, they should start thinking of ‘We’. Instead of ‘they’, they should think of ‘team’. A leader’s job is to ensure that a team functions optimally. Teamwork also inspires a sense of unity in decision-making.
Subject or subordinates should feel that their input is appreciated. The best way of doing this is by promoting teamwork.
5. Be Passionate About Leadership
You cannot develop leadership skills and become a good leader if you are not passionate about leading. Those who look up to you should see the fire burning in your eyes. You will easily motivate your subordinates if they can automatically see that you love what you do.
The best depiction of passion is in Elon Musk’s activities. Elon is one of the richest men in the world whose contributions to create a healthy environment and reduce harmful emissions have been recognized. According to Bloomberg, he slept on the floor of Tesla’s assembly plant in a troubled production ramp-up. He further told Bloomberg that he felt that he had an enormous debt for people working at Tesla, which shows just how passionate he is about his job.
Such instances inspire people to work and focus on what the organization aims to achieve, making you a good leader. Bill Gates is also known for his passion that has seen him become one of the richest men in the world. He has done an excellent job over the years.
His passion for philanthropy through The Gates Foundation and medicine funding has also made him one of the most respected humanitarians in the world. It is impossible to stand out when you are not passionate about what you do.
6. Empower Others
We rise by lifting others. If you want to hone your skills and become a good leader, you have to encourage others to grow. People who feel intimidated when others advance cannot become good leaders.
You should do this to as many of your subordinates as you can and, if possible, to all of them. Remember, organizational leadership does not end with you, and people need to be groomed to take up related roles in the future. Jack Welch, the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric, was a great proponent of encouraging growth in others.
He believed that great leaders are happy when people grow. The moment they find themselves brooding over other people’s achievements is the day they fail as leaders. One of his most famous quotes on leadership alludes that the definition of success changes once someone becomes a leader. To him, success is measured as personal growth before one becomes a leader, but it lies in helping others grow once someone becomes a leader.
In corporate settings, you improve your leadership skills and become a good leader by teaching other employees and helping them become better. You risk losing employees by retaining them in the same positions and not allowing them to grow. Therefore, make sure that you invest in the advancement of your subordinates, which can be done by creating opportunities for advancement or personally seeing to it that measures are taken to help them grow. You will also learn a lot from that, making you a better leader as time goes by.
7. Have a Vision
You will only grow as a leader if you have a vision that you believe in. Have something that you are working to achieve. When it comes to being visionary, Jeff Bezos, one of the wealthiest people to ever walk the face of the earth, is a classic example.
Jeff turned his idea of e-commerce, something that not many businesses thought of at the time, into a multimillion-dollar investment in a few decades. His vision was to transform how people purchased products and not to be just any standard ecommerce platform.
As a leader, you need to imagine a certain future and strive to achieve it. If you want to be lauded for your leadership, be ready to believe in visions of the future that most people may not have in mind.
This also applies in job settings. You should have a vision that people may consider too hard to achieve and rally your subordinates to achieve it. Once people see that you are serious about achieving your vision, they will join you.
8. Be an Inspiration
People become great leaders by inspiring others. You need to present ideas to people and inspire them. Unlike management, leadership requires you to appeal to people with your ideas and bring them aboard.
If you are ever going to win your subordinates’ hearts, they have to believe in you. Fred Smith believed in a type of leadership where people are inspired to follow their leaders. He defines leadership as getting people to work for someone when they do not have an obligation.
This is one of the most significant differences between management and leadership. Management places an obligation on people. They are, therefore, mandated to work. However, in leadership, your subordinates follow you without feeling obligated because you inspire them.
Therefore, focus on inspiring people to be better and do better. Most people hop on charities because of the causes they promote. If you show people that you are doing something that will help them become better, you will win them over.
You can then learn how to become an even better leader from the discussions that will ensue.
These are just but a few tips on leadership from top leaders. The truth is that being a good leader is not a one-time thing and calls for several qualities. However, that does not mean that you have to take ages to become the leader others can look up to.
Out of all the tips we covered, being an inspiration is the surest way of becoming a good leader to your subordinates. Once people look up to you, they will easily trust you to lead them or show them the way when they encounter obstacles. Do not, therefore, take that lightly.
Also, to develop leadership skills, make sure that you walk in the footsteps of some of the world’s most outstanding leaders. You can read all the books you want about leadership, but the reading will be all in vain if you cannot turn the tips into action. Watch how some of the best leaders in the world do their things and try to emulate them. However, be wise. Only pick the positive things that will build you up.