How to become a leader: The qualities that make a good leader are different from those that make a good follower. So, how can you learn to lead? As I’ve learned from my own experience and from my coaching clients, it’s not enough to have a good idea. You need to be able to sell your idea to others and be able to persuade them that you’re right. So, how can you learn to lead? Here are some qualities that make a good leader, and suggestions for how to develop them.
Self-Awareness The ability to recognize when you’re overthinking something. When I was younger, I thought a lot about leadership, but I wasn’t always successful at selling my ideas. I was too worried about what others thought about me when I should have been focusing on my ideas. A lot of leaders, including entrepreneurs, do this to some extent. When it comes to making a product, selling the idea, or even making sales calls, they are trying to make sure they’re saying the right thing and people are responding. This is actually the worst way to be because it’s distracting you from focusing on what matters: getting results. You’re wasting your time trying to make sure you’re saying the right thing.
First and foremost, communication is what makes a good leader. Leaders should have a plan and communicate regularly with their team members. In his book “Managing My Boss”, Tom Mash has several suggestions for communicating well: Talk to the person on your right (so you’re not talking over each other). When someone makes a suggestion, consider it first. If you don’t agree, then say so, and why. If you agree, let the other person know that you’ve heard their suggestion and that you’ll be working on it. If someone is interrupting you, stop and let them finish their point before you continue. Be clear with your messages.
So, you want to become a leader. How do you do that? You want to set clear and compelling goals for yourself. Why? A goal is a dream, a desire for a future. A goal helps you decide how to work with your passion and your values. You can’t just show up every day and hope that people follow your lead. You have to set a goal that will inspire them to follow you. So, set goals! Set Goals that Get Results. How do you set goals? First, make sure that you’ve defined your core values. What are your values? Are they passion, inspiration, authenticity? Then, define goals that can get you to where you want to go. Your goals need to be measurable, realistic, and attainable. Don’t give up when you’re not getting immediate results.
Managing Your Time
Being able to manage your time means you can stay focused on what you need to accomplish. It’s easy to lose track of time when you have a lot on your plate and you’re always putting out fires. As one of my clients said, “I never seem to get a moment to catch my breath. I’m always in a crisis mode.” Being able to manage your time takes energy. How can you begin to manage your time? Practice mindfulness. Take a moment to pause and acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. When you notice your mind racing, remind yourself to stay present. If you catch yourself getting stressed, let yourself feel the emotion, then bring your attention back to your breath.
“Leaders set a tone, not an agenda.” Your role as a leader is to create an environment where other people can come to the table and share their ideas and make their own contributions. It’s critical that you do that without pointing fingers, showing others where they’re wrong, or trying to impose your idea on others. Let other people make their own mistakes, discover their own best solutions, and think for themselves. When they make mistakes, don’t try to “save” them. If they don’t learn from them, they’ll keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
I’m a big believer in starting the meeting with “small talk.” The purpose of small talk is not to figure out what you have in common, but to build rapport with your audience. It doesn’t matter if the meeting isn’t about you. You’re getting a read on their skill level. First impressions are important, and they need to be the right impressions. It’s easy to think that you need to impress people with your expertise, but that’s not enough. What makes a good leader is engaging with people and being more than just an expert. Teach and Grow If you’re going to be a great leader, you’ve got to be someone who’s willing to learn and teach others. I see many leaders who want to lead, but they aren’t interested in teaching or learning from others.
Leaders should have a plan and communicate regularly with their team members. They need to create an environment where other people can come to the table and share their ideas and contributions. You have to set goals that can get you to where you want to go, such as setting goals that are measurable, realistic, and attainable.