I really like the idea of being a leader. Of course, I probably have a different idea of what it means to be a leader than you do. And you probably have a different idea than the next guy. When we talk about leadership—whether that’s in a business, of a community, or in a country—a lot of things come to mind.
Every leader finds something in the act of leading that is the most valuable to them. And together, those elements paint a picture for us of what true leadership really is.
Here are just a few of the best aspects that make up true leadership.
A true leader...
1) Nurtures the potential in others.
One of the difficult lessons about leadership is, simply put, it’s not about you. Ouch. It hurts, but it’s true. Being a leader, in many respects, is about service. While you are driving your team towards a cause, or leading your employees in your vision for a business, ultimately, you’re helping them grow and learn. That’s what will advance your goals.
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
— Jack Welch
2) Is a good critic.
Good leaders know the meaning of tough love. While good leaders are never needlessly harsh or insulting, they do know that there is value in constructive criticism and pushing their team. They tackle problem areas head on rather than sugarcoating a situation for the sake of sparing someone’s feelings. They know that the only way to grow is to learn from mistakes and get uncomfortable.
“My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.”
— Steve Jobs
3) Holds steady under pressure.
True leaders keep a cool head even when things look tough. Anyone can lead when times are good, but when there are big problems to solve—that’s when you’re put to the test. Being able to not just operate under pressure, but succeed, is crucial in leadership.
“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.”
— Publilius Syrus
4) Trusts his team.
If you don’t trust your team, it’s hard to get much of anywhere. Have you ever been stuck in a group project where one person wanted to do all of the work because they were concerned about the ability, commitment, or quality of the other group members?
Something like that probably happened in grade school, but it’s not uncommon for bosses and managers to micromanage and check every little thing. True leaders surround themselves with people they can trust, so even if they’re tempted to meddle, they know they don’t have to.
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
5) Shares the glory.
Good leaders aren’t glory hounds. Instead, they understand the value in playing on the strengths of their team and working together for the effort—and getting credit together. He understands that their success is his success, and he doesn’t need to steal the spotlight to feel validated.
“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.”
— Andrew Carnegie
6) Inspires the best in us.
Whether it’s a boss, professor, parent, or mentor, the people that we choose to follow are inspiring figures. We see things in them that we also want to be. Because of them, we want to be better people. True leaders don’t just tell people what to do. They make us want to be something more.
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
7) Guides with wisdom.
Even though every leader is at the top of the pack, they know that they don’t have to be in the spotlight. Guidance can be subtle, quiet, and in the background. They have the wisdom to know that they aren’t needed all the time. Sometimes, all that’s necessary is a watchful eye.
“A leader...is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”
— Nelson Mandela
8) Never takes leadership for granted.
And, finally, true leadership is defined by gratitude. People in these positions know that they were earned, not deserved, and they can only lead so long as the people around them choose to follow.
“Earn your leadership every day.”
— Michael Jordan
Together, these qualities create a well-rounded leader worth following. Even if we have different ideas of what matters most in leadership, we can look to the leaders in our life for great examples to follow.
Who inspires you to lead well? Let me know in the comments.