Everybody wants to be a leader in some way. Whether you wish to lead in your respective career, family, peers, or industry, few people are willing to take the plunge and become responsible for the outcomes of decisions. Leadership is your ability to stand out and inspire.
In fact, accountability is the largest fear that goes hand in hand with leadership, the idea that the leader is solely responsible for the actions of their people. Leaders are people with the following characteristics (in no order of importance):
The 10 Laws of Leadership
These are the characteristics of truly effective leaders. Let’s take a look into each one in more detail and how we can cultivate growth and development in your cause!
Leaders are consistently optimistic, but never escape the realities of their situations. Leaders are those who constantly “Hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.” Whether “the worst” ever happens is irrelevant because the leader finds and communicates the true meaning of the actions of the group.
Hoping for the best ensures that they will not employ a debilitating mindset based on the possibility of failure. Preparing for the worst ensures that they will do everything necessary to succeed despite any potential hardships.
Leaders should inspire others through their unwavering commitment to success. It is the magnanimous amount of conviction they feel towards the purpose of the group that inspires others. Leaders never have a “lone-wolf” mindset because they recognize the importance and power of organized efforts.
These efforts are larger than themselves, but always in line with their vision of the future. Leaders inspire because they can accurately and effectively communicate the desired future that should be evident in the reasoning behind their actions and the actions of their people.
Leaders cannot do it all. Most of these points are connected in some way. Delegation is how leaders dismiss the idea of a “lone-wolf” attitude presented in the “Inspiration” point. Proper delegation follows a theme that should be implemented well. The theme is this: Leaders always strive for commitment, not compliance.
What’s the difference? Simple. Leaders who inspire commitment will communicate the importance of a delegated action. They communicate this importance by describing why this action must take place to the person whom they assign the action. This person, who now understands the reason behind his action, can continue to get results because they understand the result that must be achieved, not simply the actions that must be taken.
Even if conditions change, this person can continue to produce the desired result because they recognize the bigger picture. Compliance is the result of saying “Do it because I told you to!” If the leader isn’t present, or if the reasoning behind the action is not clear, nothing would be accomplished! The best workers are those who understand the importance of their actions, the worst are those who only do what they are told and never ask “Why?”.
Without confidence, the leader likely wouldn’t be the leader in the first place. Confidence is absolutely necessary. Most people have confidence in something, but what is even better is developing efficacy.
A leader with confidence is always willing to try new things, a leader with efficacy can re-produce results. Ultimately both are needed in good leadership. Confidence is the initial trial-and-error that puts you into a position to succeed. Efficacy is needed to continue your success over and over again!
Having confidence in yourself instills confidence in the minds of others about your effectiveness. I would much rather follow a leader who displays confidence than one that is timid and unsure about themselves, strictly because decision-making is such a current issue in leadership. Most people are so worried about making decisions that they fail to act in the first place! Vision without execution is just a hallucination!
Creativity often goes hand in hand with confidence because it requires more than just problem-solving. Creativity requires the ability to problem solve in ways that others wouldn’t and taking action on that solution. Creativity is the ability of a leader to think outside the box.
Good leaders don’t ask questions like “How can we solve this problem.” That is a short-term mindset. Instead, they ask questions like “Is this the real problem?” and “Why does this problem exist in the first place?” Asking these questions helps you drill down to the root of the initial problem. Doing so allows you to solve the problem, and not only one of the problems many potential side-effects.
Creativity is the leader’s ability to think in terms of the desired future and pursue any means necessary to achieve it the way they wish.
A leader without good communication skills is likely a figurehead who isn’t truly pulling the strings. Leaders must be able to communicate their goals, their processes, and the future they envision as a result.
Without the ability to properly communicate, the leader will always fall short of commitment from their people. It is entirely possible for people in power to fall short of leadership. Think of it this way, power does not always produce a leader, but a leader is always powerful.
Communication is necessary for power to be given to a leader. There is a saying in marketing, “Reputation does not break companies, obscurity does.” What this saying means is that, oftentimes, any amount of communication is better than none. This point is also evident in the saying “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”
Empathy is one of the single most important characteristics of good leaders. Let me ask, why do you think they say that “Wealth skips a generation”? I believe this saying exists as a testament to the power of learning. More specifically, the power of learning through experience.
Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone because you can imagine what they feel. Empathy is feeling sorry for someone because they are feeling the way you have felt before.
Empathy is much more powerful and often becomes the driving force behind the actions of leaders. Many large and up-and-coming organizations are led by people who have first-hand experience with the purpose that the organization provides.
For example, the “Me Too” movement is led by a victim behind the movement’s purpose. It is a feeling of converting experience and the potentially negative aspects of life into strength that gives leaders their unwavering commitment.
Leaders who are not honest are represented by the saying “The bigger they are the harder they fall.” A dishonest leader ruins their chances of being truly exceptional. Honesty is one of the top values that people search for in good leadership.
For example, as a consultant, my job is NOT to tell management that everything is roses and daisies with their businesses, leadership skills, or productivity. My job is to be honest, to provide resourceful recommendations, and to make owners happy through continued results, not praise.
Honesty, in fact, can be your number one ally as a leader. Those who are honest, even when it is difficult to do so, often cultivate so much trust with those they form relationships with that they are continually relied upon. Trust isn’t formed by familiarity; it is formed by honesty. That is why a single lie can ruin relationships formed over years, business or personal.
Leaders are intuitive, believe it or not, intuition is very closely connected to honesty, here’s how. Intuition is required to form opinions and actions based on your understanding of a thing or situation. Intuition is relevant to honesty because following your gut instinct is a form of intuition.
Your gut instinct cannot be lied about, it is a reflection of your true intentions. Ultimately, to be an effective leader, you must demonstrate that the honesty you have shown to your people is reflected by your intuitive gut-instinct. This is because honesty is perceived by others, but your gut instinct is truthful to you, the leader and decision-maker.
If your intuition is out of line with the perceptions of the people you lead, you will quickly lose rapport.
Success is resilience in the face of adversity. Resilience in a leader is the willingness to push through any obstacle, find any solution, and believe wholeheartedly in their vision.
Resilience is required for results to be attained. Failure is inevitable, but only true failure can exist when you decide to give up and become content with mediocrity.
Resilience begins by asking the question “What can I learn from this?” and “How can I apply what I learned to my next attempt?” Only by asking these questions will your practice true resilience.
Wise people look at mistakes as learning opportunities, nobody becomes an overnight success the first time they try something. There is a common saying, “It takes 10 years to become an overnight success!”
Who Can Learn to Lead?
Ultimately, each of these characteristics is needed to form good leadership habits. And they can be used anywhere at any time. Not all great leaders have experience leading large groups of people, and not all people who manage large groups are effective leaders, but everybody can learn to be one.
I have experience in leading groups of 2 to 150 people for years at a time, and I guarantee that scale has nothing to do with effective leadership.
Here is the order in which a leader enacts their vision for the future. Answer the questions with respect to your organization in order to become more clear in your leadership direction and duties.
1) Form the vision:
What is it you wish the future to be like?
What kind of role do you play in it?
How does this inspire you?
2) Build a team:
Who shares your visions?
Who can help you achieve your goals?
Who is immediately available to you, and who do you need to search out?
What kind of attitude would you like to inspire in these people?
What kind of attitude in people would you like to attract to you?
How do you plan on communicating your vision to others?
Are there resources you can use to help you do so?
What is the timeframe you have given yourself?
How can you attract more people to your cause?
4) Manage actions and results:
Have you set up proper goals for the vision (refer to my goal-setting post HERE)?
Have you made these goals apparent to others?
How can you communicate them well?
How can you get started on achieving them?
Have you set aside time to review, reanalyze, and adjust (for more on goals and bigger-picture thinking click HERE)?
How have you made a difference so far?
Are you inspired and inspiring to others?
What is the endgame here?
This represents a vague order of events and questions you can use to set yourself on track for successful leadership. Remember, develop a vision so vivid you can almost taste it!
The key to achieving your goals is knowing which direction you wish to head in life and setting goals that way, do NOT set your goals without finding a purpose. The most effective leaders are those who consistently improve themselves and others. Thank you for reading!
– Austin Denison