“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” ~John Maxwell
Hey, did you know that you’re a leader? No?? Well, now you do! ☺
Let’s face it—simply hearing the word leader can kick up some serious emotions. As a “power word”, it feels strong. It feels smart. And yep, it feels powerful. Yet, leadership is a strangely misunderstood phenomenon. Even the greatest leaders in the world don’t always feel “strong” or “smart” or “powerful” (they’re human, too). Even “born leaders” walk their own unique path to discovering their strength, smarts, and power. In fact, any successful leader will tell you that their failures—yes, their failures—were an important part of their success.
That’s right: To be a good leader, mistakes are often “what it takes”.
As you gain strength, smarts, and power, surprise! You become a pillar of leadership to those who are lucky enough to have you in their life. You may not realize it, but others view you as a bold thinker, a creative visionary, and a trusted collaborator—someone “who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”.
So, go ahead and make it official: Add “leader” to your list of amazing qualities!
And here’s the greatest part: There’s a leader in all of us—that is, we each possess our own unique elements that enable us to affect positive change in our lives and in the world around us.
As we channel our “inner leader”, I’ve shared, below, some elements that have guided my own leadership journey (I’ll bet you already see many of these elements in yourself!) That’s right—the “seeds” of effective leadership are already in you…just waiting to be “grown”.
Here’s 10 ways to bring out the leader in you.
- Be open to learning. An effective leader is open to the idea that learning can take place at any time, in any place, and from any source. Fact: Any interaction with any person contains a potential learning opportunity. As the old proverb says, “When we’re open to learning, the teacher is everywhere.”
- Lead by example. An effective leader would never direct others to do something that they themselves wouldn’t do. When leaders fail to lead by example, morale can erode and teamwork can implode. If we speak from experience when making suggestions to others, we enhance the respectability factor.
- Be a unifying force. If we have more expertise in a specific area than others, we could inadvertently separate ourselves from (instead of integrate ourselves with) others. Effective leaders are able to push that worldly knowledge and expertise to the side and convey a “we’re all in this together” attitude that promotes unity and equality.
- Respect individual differences. Each of us possesses a unique set of attributes that impact our attitudes, beliefs, and values. Effective leaders don’t simply acknowledge the uniqueness of others—they tend to value uniqueness in everyone. Fact: One of the quickest paths to irrelevance is to surround yourself with people who are exactly like you.
- Create a safe haven. As leaders, we need to create an atmosphere that promotes tolerance and inclusion. Effective leaders go out of their way to establish a mentally open, emotionally safe platform for critical thinking, creative vision, and personal empowerment…in everyone.
- Be the “sorcerer”, not the “source”. Effective leaders don’t simply act as an information source; if anything, they silently encourage others to become information gatherers. As we empower others to become “independent investigators”, they enhance their self-sufficiency for acquiring (and applying) knowledge.
- Emphasize communication. Effective leaders are excellent communicators—trusted messengers who ensure that information is clearly expressed and warmly received. In this sense, successful leaders are exceedingly aware of their communication style—how the power of their words could impact the quality of their relationships with others.
- Promote self-regulation. To be an effective leader is to be an effective self-regulator—that is, someone who acknowledges stress as a “constant”, yet who never crumbles under its weight. As we role model healthy stress regulation practices, we prove to others that they, too, can adaptively manage their stress.
- Adopt “multiple identities”. As effective leaders, we’re “mental managers”. We’re “emotional ambassadors”. And lo and behold—we’re just as much a “student” as we are a “teacher”. As the scope of our leadership role continually expands, our leadership identity continually evolves.
- Embrace the mentor in you. Our capacity for mentorship comes alive through every nurturing, humanistic interaction we have with others. No doubt, mentorship is a “gift”—but it’s not ours to “keep”: It’s ours to give away. As we teach others how their contribution can make a difference, the “seeds” of empowerment are “sown”.
Clearly, being a good leader doesn’t mean “ruling with an iron fist”. Quite the contrary—good leadership is about collaboration and synergy. It’s about trust and reciprocity. It’s about solid communication and a deep respect for individual differences.
It’s about inspiring positive change…and helping others to discover—and become—their best self. And without a doubt, “leader” means being a lifelong “learner”—a student in a class that’s never “dismissed” ☺
About the Author: Joshua GARRIN is one of Your Monthly Mentors, an Award-Winning Health Psychologist, Author of “The I-Way to Well”, Personal Trainer, Health Coach, and Self-Motivationalist. He holds a Ph.D. in health psychology, an M.S. in cognitive psychology, and a B.S. in general psychology and journalism and currently resides in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Following the completion of his doctorate in 2014, Joshua was the recipient of Walden University’s Harold L. Hodgkinson Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research for his inquiry on health beliefs, outcome expectancies, and stress appraisal in college seniors. Read More…