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10 Essential Skills for Great Leadership

Learn what it means to be a leader, and the 10 essential skills you need to become a great one!

Matin Luther King Jr. speaking at a podium.
Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most influential leaders of all time.

Everyone's a leader

We often think of leaders as the people running groups, organizations, or even nations. We think of CEO’s, managers, governors, or presidents and prime ministers. We may think that only certain people are cut out to be leaders, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

A leader is more than just a position in a company or society. In the simplest terms, a leader is someone who sees possibilities to make things better, takes the initiative to make it a reality, and inspires others to help. This is good news because anyone can be a leader!

Here are 10 essential skills for being a great leader:

1. Take ownership and responsibility for creating your life

Leadership begins at the personal level. When you take responsibility and ownership of your life, you recognize that you have the power to shape your own future and make choices that align with your goals and values. Rather than letting life pass you by, you become the leader of your own destiny. The discipline and initiative you take in your personal life transfers externally, and you become better equipped to lead others and create a positive impact on the world.

2. Have an empowering vision for your life

An empowering vision is an inspirational and emotional view of the future you want to create. It is something that is bigger than you, that doesn’t exist today. An empowering vision gives you direction. It defines the path you’re headed in, which allows you to effectively plan your day-to-day activities and eliminate what doesn’t serve you. When you feel lost, it provides you with purpose, motivation, and the inspiration to keep going in the right direction.

3. Learn new things

Learning new things allows you to build on your current skills and adapt to the rapidly changing world we live in. It’s also important to learn from new perspectives. New perspectives allow you to gain insights and ideas you may not have considered before. This can help you think more critically and creatively, and come up with innovative solutions to problems. Furthermore, when you are exposed to different perspectives, you are forced to challenge your assumptions and biases. This can help you become more open-minded and empathetic towards others.

4. Be humble

While it is important to acknowledge your strengths, it is equally important to remember that you are a human being who makes mistakes. Instead of becoming defensive, or boasting and bragging, be willing to learn from others and admit when you are wrong. You will get farther in life when you learn from your mistakes, rather than frantically trying to cover them up. Being humble also helps you work better with others, because you’ll be more understanding of their mistakes.

5. Create an authentic environment, internally & externally

It is crucial that you create an authentic environment, both internally and externally. Authenticity is power. It means that you’re comfortable being yourself and expressing your views. Your internal environment is your relationship with yourself. Make sure you’re honest with yourself. Sometimes, we pretend that life is going better (or worse) than it actually is. We may also bury our true thoughts, feelings, and interests in order to fit in with society. Set up a time and place where you can reflect on where you’re not being authentic with yourself. Awareness is critical, and the truth will set you free.

Your external environment consists of where you work and live, what you do, and who you do it with. If you can’t be yourself at home or at work, then you might need to make some changes. You may be able to create healthy relationships with some of your current friends and family members, or you might need to find new people where you can completely be yourself. You may even need to set aside time outside of home and work where you can be authentic.

6. Persist in spite of failure

Persistence means you keep going, even when things don’t go as planned. You don’t give up; you just find ways to make things better. There are two things you can do. First, access your creativity and unlimited resourcefulness, which consist of your contacts, experiences, knowledge, strengths, skills, and abilities. Second, ask yourself powerful questions like “What’s not working?”, “What can I do to make this work?”, or “Who has done this before?”. Questions like “Why does this always happen to me?” can end up being unproductive. Your goal is to find solutions, whether through introspection or by examining your environment, so that you can take action to improve your situation. Combining powerful questions with your unlimited resourcefulness, you will be able to maneuver yourself out of many tough situations.

7. Lead by example

As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words”. Your actions model to other people what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. As a leader, other people will naturally look up to you. When you model excellent behavior, you will inspire others to act the same way. In contrast, when your actions contradict your words, your team will take you less seriously. They will also understand that poor behavior is perfectly acceptable, and act accordingly. Don’t be a boss who says, “do what I say not what I do.” Instead, be a boss who says, “Do what I say and do what I do.”

8. Take initiative

Leaders don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do. Leaders start things and lead the way for others. You can’t lead the way unless you take initiative. But don’t worry. You don’t have to do all the work. Inspire others to be leaders, provide them with direction and guidance, set them on their way, and support them on their journey.

9. Build meaningful relationships

Meaningful relationships are built on mutual trust, understanding, and care. These characteristics build the foundation for strong relationships and strong communities. You can trust that your friends, family, and team will support you and look out for your best interests, and vice versa. Open and clear communication is critical. Learn to understand, accept, and appreciate others.

10. Create win/win situations

In a win/win situation, all parties feel satisfied and valued. This leads to increased trust, collaboration, and goodwill between them all. Win/win outcomes are ideal for strengthening relationships and promoting long-term success. In contrast, win/lose situations can lead to resentment, mistrust, and even hostility. This can damage relationships and make it difficult to achieve future cooperation. Win/lose really becomes lose/lose in the long run.



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