Leaders at any and every stage of their careers must be imbued with certain qualities to be truly effective. While many of us view leadership as a prestigious hierarchy, the truth is leadership carries an enormous responsibility. While it is a great privilege, leadership often takes on many qualities of service.
To be a great leader is often to be subversive and to act in unexpected ways. I've come to understand that leadership—true leadership—is often not what it looks like on the outside. That's why it's essential, sooner rather than later, to learn what qualities are truly important in an outstanding leader.
5 Things Every Aspiring Leader Should Learn
This may be the most important quality in a leader. We've all had a boss who believes they're right all the time. They're the type that you can't argue or reason with, no matter how misguided they are. Humility keeps us grounded to reality rather than attached to ego. In leadership, we need humility to allow us to listen to others, admit our wrongs, accept critique, and value the input and insight of others. It prevents us from living in a bubble where our perspective is the only right way.
So stay humble as a leader. Not only will the people around you thank you, but your career will, too.
2) How to Thrive Under Pressure
It's safe to say that leaders are constantly exposed to high-pressure situations. Trials by fire abound in the professional world: be they tough deadlines, major setbacks, big decisions, juggling a laundry list of tasks, or winning a huge contract. There's a lot of pressure to compete and succeed. The trick is not only to not crack under this pressure but to use it to thrive.
Remember, some stress can be good. It can be motivating. It's up to you to stay the course and not let discouragement settle in. Your team will be looking at you. So while the pressure may be high, use it as energy.
3) Growth from Failure
It may sound like a cliche at this point, but we must learn how to grow from failure. This is especially true in leadership, where others look to you as an example. When we inevitably encounter failures, we always have two choices in how to respond: we either lash out and blame others, refusing to examine and learn for the future or we own the failure. In owning the failure, we take command of future outcomes. We can begin to look at things objectively rather than emotionally, gleaning valuable wisdom to better our methodology, skills, and selves.
4) How to Invest in Others
One of the critical errors made in leadership is the assumption that your team exists to prop you up. This is the key difference between a great leader and a bad boss. As a leader, you are to invest in your team. Identify and nurture their gifts and talents. Push them outside of their comfort zones. This not only equips them for further success, but it helps everyone excel and level-jump.
As a leader, champion your team. Pour into them. This is what creates success in the long-term.
5) Bearing the Load
Lastly, a leader absolutely has to get their hands dirty. Great leaders are in the trenches alongside their team, doing the same hard work. While delegation is a critical aspect of leadership as well, a leader who is not working just as hard to accomplish the task as his team is not being effective.
What this does is create a disconnect not only between the leader and the real work being done, but it can breed discontent and resentment between the leader and his team. So get in there and do the work!
The burden of leadership is heavy. While we speak about it in aspirational ways (and it is worth aspiring to!) we must understand that leading others is a challenge as much as it is a privilege. For us, we must be willing to do the work of truly leading others. That means carrying those heavy burdens of failure, pressure, and growth.
When you humble yourself to carry these burdens, you will find leading to be more rewarding than ever.
Who has been the most influential leader in your life? Share how they left an impact on your leadership style in the comments.