What is Leadership
The definition of outstanding leadership has evolved thanks to a better understanding of social psychology and research. Nevertheless, when someone thinks of leadership, the image of an influential person with an impressive title often comes to mind.
According to Brené Brown, a social psychologist known for her book “Dare to Lead,” good leadership involves seeking out the potential in other people and processes. Following this definition, a leader is a person who works towards developing another person’s potential.
Ken Blanchard takes a similar approach, stating that leadership is the act of doing something with people, not to people. In this regard, leadership is like a service. Having a service-oriented mindset when taking on a leadership role is one of the most powerful tools to being an effective leader.
When looking at how to be a leader, your goal should be to encourage those you work with to utilize their values. You should also help them expand upon their skills. By doing so, their performance will thrive, and you’ll be collectively closer to reaching your community’s goal.
Why Leadership is Important
Leadership is important because it empowers people to utilize their strengths and work together towards a common goal. According to Lolly Daskal, good leaders understand that being a great communicator is essential, but being a better listener is more important.
When being a leader in your family, community, or with an online presence like social media, you’ll inevitably encounter people who clash and have varying opinions. An effective leader manages polarizing personalities and ideas, leaving all parties feeling positive and valued.
The effects of excellent leadership are unmatched for a group of people working together towards a common goal. Leadership is important for quick, decisive decision making, leading by example of the values you want others to embody, and maintaining a productive environment.
Good leaders share a variety of common leadership skills. They include:
- Living into Your Values
- Share Information About Yourself
- Vision and Mission
- Constant Learner
Now we’ll break down each of these leadership traits in more detail.
You must show kindness and compassion for the people you interact with to be an effective leader. Part of being a kind leader is making an effort to create genuine connections with the people you lead. According to Brené Brown, care and connection create a healthier, more productive relationship between leaders and community or team members.
Brown also acknowledges that there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you don’t feel connected with a particular person. Despite your greatest efforts to promote healthy relationships, it’s equally important to recognize when you’re not the best fit to serve a particular person or group of people you lead.
Being a leader means having the courage to change and acknowledge difficulties. Leaders understand that behaviors aren’t hard-wired. Regardless of your age, you can observe, measure, re-assess, and re-learn beliefs and concepts.
Talking about what a person wants is easy. However, having the courage and vulnerability to acknowledge fears and hardships that get in the way of reaching a goal are traits of a great leader.
Courage also involves having difficult conversations and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Learning involves discomfort, so you should bring your best self even during the most challenging times, being the leader you would want yourself.
Good leaders are vulnerable every day. There is always a risk, uncertainty, and handling of human emotions when being a leader. For this reason, it’s critical to be self-aware, open, and honest. By encouraging those around you to do the same, you’ll develop a deeper, more trusting relationship with those you lead.
Vulnerable leaders do not blame other people. That being said, everyone has a bad day, and even the best leaders will deviate from their strong leadership skills. In these moments, a leader who embraces vulnerability will reflect, analyze where they went wrong, and take steps to fix it without blaming anyone else.
Vulnerable leaders build rapport with those they lead because they don’t pretend to know everything. It’s a common belief that admitting you don’t know something is a sign of weakness. However, everyone can’t know everything. So, by having the vulnerability as a leader to admit you don’t know something, you’ll strengthen trust with those you lead.
Trust is a valuable skill in leadership and life. The people you lead must trust you to maximize their potential. For example, if there’s a problem with a community event you’re leading, people should feel comfortable coming to you. They should trust that you’ll support them in finding a solution instead of fearing that you’ll think or talk poorly about them.
Another leadership factor that goes into building trust is addressing hard conversations. It’s human nature to fear making a mistake and ridicule. Good leaders build trust with those they lead by conveying that failures are okay. They instill a positive mindset by establishing that trying and failing is still succeeding, thanks to knowledge gained from experience.
It’s equally important for you as a leader to bring up difficult conversations as it is for those you lead to do so. If the people you lead lack trust in you as a leader, they’ll avoid bringing up those hard conversations, which will create barriers to achieving your shared goal.
Establishing yourself as a trustful leader equates to increased productivity, honest discussions, and mutual respect. Approach people with the trustworthiness you want to receive from them, and you’ll likely reach your goals more quickly.
Living into Your Values
As a leader, you arrive with a set of beliefs that are important to you. However, having the traits of a leader means that not only do you cherish your values but that you actively practice them.
When leading those in your community, it’s vital that you encourage them to recognize their own values and how they can uniquely contribute to the goal you’re collectively trying to achieve.
Furthermore, good leaders remind those they lead about the value they provide, showing gratitude and humility.
By continually bringing up a person’s values, those you lead will gain confidence in their abilities to achieve goals. It will also encourage other people to remind each other of their values, keeping everyone accountable, and creating a positive, more productive environment.
Ken Blanchard believes that sharing information about yourself is a critical trait of a good leader. In fact, he promotes the micro skill of Sharing Information About Yourself.
An excellent way to share with a new group of people you’re leading is by talking about the people who have influenced your life. It would be best if you focused on how these people taught you about leadership and how it’s developed you into the leader you are today. By doing so, those around you will gain insight into your values and purpose.
Although this trait inherently requires you to talk about yourself, you should speak knowing what you say ultimately isn’t about you—it’s about creating a connection with those you’ll be leading. Avoid oversharing, and speak in ways that will help people relate to you and make them feel comfortable working alongside you.
As a leader, you don’t—and can’t—know everything. However, you should have the confidence that you can work through inevitable issues that’ll arise, ease potential tensions between community members, and help those around you feel at ease with your ability to find solutions.
As Brian Downward addresses, confidence is closely linked to having the courage to face experiences in your life. The more knowledge you gain through experiences, both difficult and positive ones, the more confidence you’ll have in those areas.
For this reason, part of gaining confidence in your leadership abilities is by spending time being a leader. Through trial and error, you’ll develop the strengths to shine as a leader in your community.
No one wants to work alongside a grouch, especially if that grouch happens to be the person leading them. Traditionally, many people think of leaders as being strict and perfectionists. However, having good leadership traits means incorporating humor into almost everything you do.
By showing you can handle conflict and issues with humor, those you lead will see the human side of you. They’ll understand that if you laugh at a mistake you make, you’ll laugh along with theirs too as you work together on resolving it.
Humor is also a useful tool for creating a positive environment, provided that you know your audience. As a leader, you should have good judgment on the degree of humor appropriate for the group with whom you work. For example, using humor for a community gardening group may differ from the kind of humor you’d use when leading a school event.
Continuing with personality traits, having a positive, optimistic attitude is essential to be an effective leader. It’s no secret that positivity is a contagious feeling. Even when everything that can go wrong does go wrong, your job as a leader is to maintain a positive outlook on the situation.
Not only does a positive leader bring fun and happiness to those working towards a collective goal, but it also makes those you lead excited to work alongside you. Positivity promotes inspiration for new ideas, potentially sparking an improved vision and mission.
Vision and Mission
As a leader, you’ll likely be guiding various groups of people through different activities that all add up to a common goal. For this reason, it’s your job to ensure you have a clear vision and mission of how you want success for that goal to look.
In order to develop a vision and mission, you must have a plan. Organize the steps you need to take to reach your goal and consult with those you’re leading for their advice and opinions. Remember that as a leader, you’re not expected to know everything. Being able to articulate your vision and mission to those around you is critical for successful leadership.
Having a vision also leads to an expedited decision-making process, which we’ll cover in more detail next. By involving those working towards a set vision and mission, your family or the community members you lead are more likely to stay motivated to achieve collective goals.
Decision making plays a critical role in leadership. One of the traits of a good leader is the ability to make quick, decisive choices. When offered many options, people who haven’t worked on honing their leadership skills might get stuck in analysis paralysis by taking too much time to research the choices and stressing over their potential outcomes.
However, strong leadership means having the skill to quickly look at the options available and choose one with confidence. It’s not to say that leaders will make the best decisions every time; it just means they understand the balance of research versus time. After all, no outcome is certain until it happens.
To improve upon your leadership skills, try making quick, small decisions every day around your household. Once you make a decision, don’t rehash the other options and wonder what could have been. Make your decision and move on with your day. Then work your way up to more significant decision making in your community or with your online presence.
The path to getting good at something is by studying it, and the only way to get better at something is by studying it more. Good leaders understand that they are students for life. There’s always room for improving upon or incorporating new leadership skills.
Leaders become learners by reflecting on their recent leadership interactions and identifying areas that went well and ways they can improve. They may read books, listen to podcasts, and stay up-to-date on the latest trends in leadership development.
Learning involves intelligence, but book smarts alone aren’t enough to get you by as an effective leader. Great leadership involves having a high level of emotional, social, and intellectual intelligence. Skills like these are gained from practice and studying the behaviors of successful leaders.
Since you’re reading this article, you’re interested in broadening your leadership skills. Consider connecting with experts like Brené Brown, Ken Blanchard, Lolly Daskal, and Simon Sinek to continue your leadership development.
How to Be a Leader in Your Life
Simon Sinek, the man behind the concept of finding your “why,” is a firm believer that leadership is a muscle that needs constant practice. Since leadership is a skill requiring development, you might be wondering how to be a leader with your family, in your community, and on social media.
Below are some steps you can take today on your journey to becoming a leader:
- Become self-aware
- Follow your intuition
- Make others feel safe
- Establish your mindset
- Be Service-minded
- Practice humility
- Be Empathetic
- Encourage Motivation
- Dedicate yourself
- Embrace Forward-Thinking
Now, let’s take a look at each in more detail.
Leadership is about serving others, but it’s impossible to be a good leader if you’re unaware of your own abilities and weaknesses. According to Wake Forest University, nearly 60% of a survey group volunteered to improve their psychological wellbeing, which encompasses self-awareness.
To become a leader in your life, assess your strengths, and identify areas of improvement. Often, we’re blind to certain parts of our personality, particularly weaknesses. So, consider tapping into the vulnerability trait of leadership and asking trustworthy people in your social circle about their opinions on your strengths and weaknesses.
Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, harness your good qualities, and improve your downfalls. Reading, listening to podcasts, and consulting trusted colleagues are all ways to improve your self-awareness and character.
Follow Your Intuition
Being a leader in your life means following your intuition. According to leader coach Lolly Daskal, intuition is the accumulation of experiences, books read, people met, and facts collected throughout a lifetime.
The other kind of leader is analytic. An analytic leader is prone to overthinking and using facts as their driving force rather than life experiences. As a leader in your family, community, and social media, you’ll be more effective by connecting with them via the creativity that comes from intuition.
Make Others Feel Safe
As social beings, humans are naturally drawn towards people who make them feel comfortable and secure. As a leader in your life, making others feel safe should be one of your top priorities.
Simon Sinek claims that building trust is one of the best ways to make people feel safe. In order to build the trust of your family, community, and online social circles, be a good listener.
When two or more people clash over different opinions, make each side feel valued by pointing out their arguments’ positive sides. Then as a leader, make it your responsibility to show where their opinions align. By making your reaction one of listening and positive reinforcement, people in your life will feel safe and drawn to your leadership style.
Establish Your Mindset
In order to be an effective leader at home and in your community, it’s important to practice getting yourself in the right mindset. When it comes to leadership, having a growth mindset is vital. A growth mindset means that you recognize and want to change or improve your talents and knowledge.
Similarly, good leaders have a learning mindset. Motivation and practice towards mastering a new skill or improving an area of development make leaders more adaptable and open to seeking out feedback.
Finally, it would be best if you develop a deliberative mindset to become a leader in your life. Synonymous with being open-minded, people with a deliberative mindset are receptive to all kinds of information. They then use the information to make unbiased decisions.
We’ve already established that being a good leader is a form of service, but giving back by means of traditional community service is an excellent way to be a leader in your life.
Your passion for being service-oriented will radiate throughout your community, encouraging others to join. You can do countless community service activities, such as fundraising, volunteering at food banks, and helping with environmental cleanups.
As a bonus, you can participate in community service while practicing the skills we covered here with developing effective leadership skills.
The best leaders recognize that those they lead have strengths that they don’t. Practicing humility as a leader in your life means that you admit when you don’t know something and seek feedback with the goal of personal growth. It also means putting the needs of others before your own.
Admitting when we’re wrong is one of the most difficult psychological things to do as human beings. Doing so and making a genuine, public effort for self-improvement shows others around you that you’re a strong leader, not a weak one, like our minds are keen on letting us believe.
Making time for personal reflection is another crucial aspect of humility in leadership. Your family, community, and online followers will notice your efforts and follow your lead, thus helping you achieve good leadership through example.
Empathy is the practice of understanding how other people feel, which can encompass a cognitive, emotional, or compassionate level.
By being empathetic, you’ll hone your leadership skills because you’ll be better able to understand differing opinions. When people come to you with conflicting views, you’ll be able to acknowledge everyone’s opinions and make each person feel validated in their own way.
When it comes to family and community, empathy often translates to offering help. Suppose you lend a hand to an elderly neighbor to help them carry in their groceries or shovel snow out of the driveway for a busy single parent. In that case, you’ll establish yourself as someone empathetic, trustworthy, and a person that they want to see as a leader in their community.
As a person desiring to become a leader in your life, you likely already have internal motivation. However, great leaders know how to drive their own motivation into sparking the desire for change in others.
A part of being a motivational leader is by being an inspiring one. If you’re passionate about the work you do in your community, choose to live a happy life, and follow through with what you say you’re going to do, those around you will feel inspired—and motivated—to follow in your footsteps.
Choosing to become a leader in life means that you’re choosing a life of dedication. Leaders who only show up sometimes or start but never finish a project don’t embody genuine leadership.
By being a leader in your community, one of your goals is to foster change. Change takes time, meaning that if you commit to a project at home, in your community, or with your social media followers, you should be sure that it’s something you’re passionate about since you’d be dedicating lots of your time to it.
Dedicating yourself to leading social projects doesn’t just benefit recipients. People who volunteer are prone to living longer, healthier lives, giving you even more potential to develop your leadership skills.
It’s easy for the average person to get stuck believing the same concepts and theories they were taught as a child and in school. But as a person looking to become a leader, never underestimate the importance of forward-thinking.
When it comes to incorporating forward-thinking leadership skills in your family and community, one of the best ways to do this is to consult with and involve the next generation.
Effective leadership involves setting goals with the future in mind, which could potentially challenge your current beliefs. Embrace this change of mind by practicing humility and empathy.
Final Thoughts on Leadership
Leadership is a gift that few people try to seek out. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies worldwide spend about $356 billion on improving leadership development for their teams. However, as you’ve seen, leaders aren’t exclusive to the corporate world, nor is leadership a skill that requires money to learn.
Leadership is a skill worth incorporating into your life. Learn to act out your values, encourage others to reach their full potential, and be vulnerable. Your family, community, and followers on social media will notice your efforts, and before you know it, they’ll see you as an influential leader.