Every one of us is a leader in our own right. Whether we lead an entire company, or a team of people, or a group of friends, or our families, or just ourselves…we are all leaders in some form or fashion. Whatever size our circle of influence may be today, if we work to improve as leaders, that circle of influence will enlarge.
I have been in positions of leadership my entire career, and during those years I have learned much about the difference between being a bad leader and being a good leader. Some lessons I learned the hard way, through trial and error followed by the humility that comes from overcoming those mistakes. Other lessons I learned through observing those I esteemed to be great leaders whose example I sought to follow. Through it all I found several traits that I believe are necessary for someone to be what I consider a true leader:
True leaders know who they are and what they stand for. They know their values and the rules they will abide by, regardless of the circumstances they face. They allow their people to understand the values they are committed to uphold, which lays a foundation for the rules their people will be expected to adhere to. True leaders both know and communicate their values openly with the people they lead, creating an atmosphere of certainty and trust.
True leaders have integrity. Integrity is the very core of their influence. Living the values they profess to believe is what gives them credibility and allows others to place their trust in them. True leaders are able to say “do as I do” rather than just “do as I say”, because they lead by example.
True leaders work right alongside the people they lead in order to get to know and care about the people they are leading. Working with people allows leaders to lift and inspire their team.
True leaders listen without being condescending. They are willing to hear what others have to say without rushing to judgment. They are patient and genuine in their desire to understand the thoughts and feelings of the people they lead.
True leaders are forthright with their people. They communicate openly and often. True leaders take the time to communicate often to their team in order to show that their team is valued and important to them. They understand that as the leader they have an obligation to communicate directly with their people so they never allow a void that someone with mal-intent can fill. True leaders take on the responsibility of communicating for themselves.
True leaders reprimand their people from a place of love and a genuine desire to help them improve. They reprimand without anger, and they relay feedback in a direct, yet kind and respectful way. Even when they see a bad behavior needing to be corrected, they don’t view the person doing the behavior as a bad person. They listen and attempt to understand what led to that person making the mistake or exhibiting the bad behavior in order to understand the underlying cause that needs correcting. True leaders understand that when a person feels valued and cared for by their leader, they will be far more willing to take the feedback and implement the needed changes. They understand that no value comes from the use of sarcasm, beating around the bush, or sugar coating things that need to be communicated. They understand that using those things breaks people’s trust and leaves them feeling uncertain or belittled, which ultimately lead to harboring bad feelings toward their leader, none of which inspire a desire to change or improve their own behavior.
True leaders don’t control their people, they inspire them to do great things. They give them the values and rules, which set the boundaries to operate within. Then they encourage people to go out and make choices on their own. True leaders understand that employees cannot grow and progress until they are given the freedom to make choices, to try things, and yes, even to make a few mistakes so they can learn from those and improve.
True leaders delegate. They give important and specific tasks to their people that will allow their people to learn and grow in their positions. Often times it would far easier for the leader to simply do the task them self. They could get it done more quickly, effectively, and exactly to their liking. However, true leaders understand that doing so allows no growth for the people they are leading, and therefore they see their greatest role as a delegator and a teacher to the people they lead.
True leaders are not afraid to make demands of the people they lead. True leaders understand that it is a mistake to be too soft, just as it is a mistake to be too harsh. They have the courage to direct people in the work that needs to get accomplished, expressing their belief in the people’s abilities, delegating duties, and teaching and correcting their people along the way. They help people grow by making reasonable but real demands. They don’t assign people tasks that are beyond their ability, but they do assign tasks that cause people to stretch themselves. They recognize the possibilities of what their team can accomplish and they motivate each person to recognize their potential.
True leaders use their time wisely. That doesn’t mean they can’t take time for leisure and fun, it simply means they do their best not to waste the time they have. They are selfless and they work tirelessly to help make their team a success.
True leaders hold themselves and their people accountable. They hold themselves to a high standard so they can hold their people to a high standard as well.
True leaders keep things in perspective. They don’t rush into making short term decisions that will benefit their organization today only to cause even greater problems in the future. They try to take all the facts into account, keeping a long-term view in their approach, with the desire that any fixes they put in place today will be to the benefit of the organization and the people both now and in the future.
“True leaders understand that leadership is not about them but about those they serve. It is not about exalting themselves but about lifting others up.” –Sherry Dew
We all have room to improve as leaders, but our ultimate goal should be the same: To be leaders who are loved, admired, and respected by the people we lead as we motivate and inspire those people to achieve their full potential.
This article was written by Amy Rees Anderson from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.