What does being a great leader mean to you? What traits do you recognize in the great leaders you’ve worked with? Yes, while some of the characteristics we are born with might make us natural leaders, there are things we can learn to become great leaders.
Why would you even care about being a great leader?
Aside from genuinely wanting to help others, leadership development is a guaranteed way to improve the trajectory of your career. Sadly, there are so few great leaders out there. You set yourself apart and become a hot commodity by demonstrating consistent leadership abilities.
Have you ever seen the Disney Pixar movie Ratatouille?
In the movie, Chef Gusteau says “anyone can cook!” This is what inspires Remy to follow his dream of becoming a chef. At the end of the movie, famous food critic Anton Ego clarifies Chef Gusteau’s mantra by explaining, “not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
The same is true for leadership. Not everyone can become a great leader, but a great leader can come from anywhere.
If you want to become a great leader start with these four major areas:
- Practice self-awareness
- Be receptive to feedback
- Be comfortable with discomfort
- Demonstrate consistency
Self-awareness is first for a reason! A leader needs to be able to inspire, motivate, influence – essentially, get people to follow you. To do that, you must build trust and credibility. You won’t be able to do that successfully if you first don’t know who you are.
The idea here isn’t that you become a great leader by imitating someone else’s leadership style. People can see right through that, plus it isn’t going to feel very good for you either. Authentic leadership is in knowing your strengths and acknowledging your weaknesses (plus working to mitigate them). It sometimes means being vulnerable and definitely requires confidence. The more practiced you are at introspection and self-management the more genuine you will come across.
Even great leaders make mistakes. What people watch for is how their leaders bounce back and respond. Think about some of our public national leaders that react poorly to feedback about their performance. It doesn’t inspire much confidence in their abilities, right? They start to lose their credibility and rapport.
To prevent that from happening to you as you are learning to be a leader, practice these techniques:
- Never argue or try and convince someone their feedback is wrong.
- Verify the source of the feedback is trustworthy.
- Do a reassessment of yourself to ensure your perception is matching what you intended.
- Decide how to implement the feedback or move on graciously.
Dealing with Discomfort
I hate to break it to you, but being a great leader means dealing with A LOT of discomfort. That discomfort is going to come from two places: 1) ambiguity and 2) constant development.
When you are a great leader, you are usually tasked with figuring out things (process and people management) that don’t have black and white solutions or a roadmap to success. You have to deal with the ambiguity and show that you can make timely and quality decisions in spite of it.
Additionally, you will be continuously challenged, so knowing how to self-develop is critical. There’s no avoiding it! Growth requires you to be uncomfortable. To go through the awkward phases of not really knowing what you are doing. To accept not being perfect. You must be ready for the discomfort that comes with any change.
Now to be clear, a great leader doesn’t mean handling ambiguity and development perfectly. But you will be expected to handle these things with composure and integrity.
Doing something once doesn’t make you a great leader. Both your performance AND your behavior must be demonstrated on a regular basis in order to build trust and credibility.
That consistency needs to also apply across the board. That means how you treat different types of people. How you handle different types of situations. How you adapt and adjust as things change. Again, this doesn’t mean handling every person and every situation perfectly, but striving to demonstrate those great leadership qualities we thought of earlier to as many people and as often as possible.
For example, a great leader should show compassion, but that should apply to all kinds of people. If the leader is playing favorites or only compassionate with people like him/herself that will alienate a lot of others.
The great thing is, that the better you get at self-awareness, accepting feedback, and dealing with discomfort – the more consistent you will appear.
Now that you know the four areas to start becoming a great leader, I encourage you to go get a mentor, or three!! You don’t have to do this alone. In fact, I don’t know that I have ever read or heard of a great leader who said they got there all on their own. They usually have at least one but typically multiple mentors, coaches, influencers, guides who helped them along the way. If you had a weight-loss goal you might consult with a nutritionist, sign up for a fitness instructor, or get an accountability partner.
The same can be true for you on your leadership development journey!
Don’t hesitate to reach out and see if I am the right Leadership Coach to help with your development. At the very least, I can provide you additional resources to get started.
Anyone can be a leader. Whether you can or cannot is up to YOU!