Some say leaders are born, others claim they’re made. Whatever the truth may be, one thing is for sure - being a leader can be truly rewarding, but at the same time it’s a very difficult venture to keep up with.
That said, the key thing to being a good leader is to listen to other leaders’ stories, work on your leadership skills, and understand what leaders do and how they’re supposed to behave.
While this sounds fairly easy in theory, in practice many struggle with their leadership skills. Here at Skillsprout, we believe everyone can be a leader if they have access to the right information. That’s why we prepared this article - to show you why leadership matters, how you can further develop your leadership skills, and on the whole, how to be a better leader.
What Is Leadership?
Leadership is a very practical skill that refers to the ability of an individual to guide a specific person (or a whole group) toward obtaining a common goal. The word leadership has interesting origins. Namely, according to the Arcade Dictionary of Word Origins,
One describes the metal, which “may have come ultimately from an Indo-European source meaning ‘flow’ (a reference to the metal’s low melting point)”. The other traces lead back to “a prehistoric West and North Germanic laithjan,” which was derived from laitho, meaning way or journey, from which comes the English word load. Etymologically then, “lead means ’cause to go along one’s way.”
Of course, today we mostly focus on the modern definitions of the term, so if you check the meaning in the Cambridge Dictionary, here's what you'll come across: “the quality or ability that makes a person a leader, or the position of being a leader”.
That said, although the definitions are helpful, it feels as though we need a much deeper explanation of such a complex skill. After all, leadership isn’t a skill one obtains overnight. In fact, working on your leadership skills is a very thorough and lengthy process, as there are many aspects that need considering, such as: what the best method(s) to upgrade your leadership skills is/are; which leaders you should look up to; how much time it would take to see some changes; and so on.
Still, the need for an all-encompassing, and a more creative explanation of leadership remains. Here’s one we’re fond of - and it’s by Sun Tzu:
Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage, and discipline ... Reliance on intelligence alone results in rebelliousness. Exercise of humaneness alone results in weakness. Fixation on trust results in folly. Dependence on the strength of courage results in violence. Excessive discipline and sternness in command result in cruelty. When one has all five virtues together, each appropriate to its function, then one can be a leader.
Leadership vs. Management
Contrary to popular belief, leadership and management aren’t as synonymous as most people initially believe. In fact, according to Peter Drucker “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
That said, this witty wordplay doesn’t fully explain the distinct features between these two disciplines. For instance, one of the key differences between leadership and management is the approach managers and leaders have.
Namely, leaders aspire to be motivating, visionary, and approachable, whereas managers tend to be organizational, practical, and more commanding. Also, leaders tend to establish a common direction to succeed; managers can be more concerned with budgeting and practical planning matters.
Leadership is also about aligning people and connecting their ideas and thoughts, but management is all about staffing and getting the job done.
Finally, leadership is concerned about growing, inspiring, and empowering individuals, whereas management aims at solving problems and following a stricter set of rules.
Many CEOs, employers, and even leaders and managers agree that these two aren’t the same. Hence, Kurt Uhlir, the CEO and co-founder of Sideqik, is also of the opinion that management doesn’t equal leadership. He says,
"Too many people view management as leadership. It's not. Leadership comes from influence, and influence can come from anyone at any level and in any role. Being open and authentic, helping to lift others up and working toward a common mission, to build influence. True leadership comes when those around you are influenced by your life in a positive way.”
To sum up, both leaders and managers have an important place in the grand scheme of things. They both have a role to play in order to carry out a project, make a specific idea come to fruition, and so on. However, being aware of the differences is crucial so that each can do their tasks and focus on their responsibilities.
- the act of leading a specific person, a group, of people, a whole organization, a project, and so on;
- motivating and inspiring others, while doing your part too;
- having not only a vision but also a plan;
- keeping an open mind;
- being aware of your emotions and subjectivity, but without allowing them to interfere with your major decisions;
- emphasizing innovation and constant progress;
- a combination of various skills put into practice in order for individuals to reach a specific end-goal;
- cooperation, guidance, and thorough assistance;
- influencing others where you invest yourself enough to make an impact, but you’re not completely imposing your views onto others;
- setting clear leadership principles, but being open to changes, ideas, and potential solutions you may have never considered before;
- mentoring, coaching, and setting boundaries;
- always striving to deliver the best performance (doesn’t have to be perfect or flawless, it just needs to reflect your current best skills);
- embracing your creativity in a highly productive way.
- commanding others and expecting them to follow your orders blindly;
- having all the answers and solutions;
- about taking credit;
- being self-absorbed, critical, and patronizing to others;
- being always in control;
- avoiding personal responsibility;
- flawless (it comes lessons which you need to learn to appreciate over time);
- about doing everything yourself, or having things done in the way you only approve of;
- about having power, control, and authority (at least not in the sense that it feeds your ego-self);
- being concerned with interpersonal issues;
- bossing around and making others intimidated;
- being under pressure 24/7;
- belittling others so that you can look good.
The History of Leadership
We all recognize a good leader when we see one, but where did the concept of “leaders” and “leadership” come from? How can we trace its beginnings?
Talking about this can be tricky, as the term leadership along with its connotations didn’t quite always exist as such. So, in the past, there were kings and queens that ruled the world, generals that started and ended wars, commanders, admirals, war heroes, captains, despots, dukes and duchesses, emperors and empresses, barons and baronesses, and so on. You get the point.
While there are many such examples from history that clearly illustrate the different leadership alternatives we gave, we won’t really dwell on it so much, as that isn’t the main focus of our article. However, what all these “titles” show us, is that all of them stand for some type of a leadership activity based on the historical period these titles were characteristic for (as well as the corresponding society).
So, today we have different ones - teachers, politicians, presidents, CEOs, feds, governors, and so on.
The concept of the word leader basically adjusts to the society and the era we live in. Thus, the leadership skills a great leader needs to possess change accordingly. So, if in the past commanders had to have persuasive skills to strike deals with other countries and plan wars and attacks, nowadays, leaders are asked to have skills which correspond to the requirements of the modern society, such as emotional intelligence, creativity, compassion, problem-solving abilities, and so on.
Why Is Leadership Important?
It goes without saying that being a leader and possessing leadership skills is an invaluable asset nowadays. And this goes much deeper than just people thinking highly of certain leadership positions (it’s about the experience that comes with these positions). So, here are some of the key ways through which leadership enriches our lives:
- it reveals true character traits (both strengths and weaknesses);
- it makes people both a better speaker and a listener (this is highly significant, as most people tend to listen only to reply, not to actually listen and engage in a two-way conversation);
- it helps in solving conflicts (addressing problems may not be one of the easiest things a leader is asked to do, but solving issues certainly brings a lot of valuable lessons);
- it boosts your confidence levels (this truly is one of the best pros!);
- it initiates action (helps beat procrastination, self-sabotaging thoughts, and limiting behaviors);
- it makes people become a role model for others (this doesn’t mean we should behave like a celebrity, or have our head in the clouds - it simply means that, over time, they could be people that look up to us, which is why we need to pay attention to our actions and overall attitude);
- it encourages empathy (we can really put ourselves in other’s shoes);
- it helps understanding characters (being a leader helps us better understand a wide range of people, their characters, their flaws, their skills, and so much more);
- it assists in guiding others (a sense of responsibility and commitment);
- It teaches patience (leaders have to deal with a wide range of people, meet a lot of deadlines, schedule meetings, postpone certain events, and while doing all of these they shouldn’t lose track of their overall work and leadership purpose).
How to Develop Leadership?
So, by now you know what leadership is, and why having proper leadership skills matters. And now the first thing that probably pops up in your brain is “Well, how do I work on developing my leadership skills then?”, and it’s a perfectly legitimate one.
Luckily, nowadays there are many ways to upgrade your leadership abilities and embrace your newly-acquired skills. First of all, understand that great leaders never stop learning. So, be open to new information, ideas, and concepts. If you’re unsure of something, ask others, and don’t let this stop you from embarking on new projects.
Also, try to understand all the situations from different perspectives - yours, your teams’, your competitors’ (if any), and so on. Having awareness about the things that happen in your environment can really help you build better relationships.
It’s very useful to find what motivates you, too. So explore different methods, see what type of learner you are (visual, auditory, or another), and stick to it. Try to work on your discipline as well (we’re living in such a fast-paced world, that often we forget that not all things can be achieved overnight).
Additionally, ensure your organizational skills are almost impeccable. As a leader, you’ll have to delegate a lot of tasks and guide a lot of people to achieve your mission. You also need to work on your critical thinking skills - all leaders need to be good and fast thinkers if they want to succeed in their undertakings. Plus, they need to foresee problems (sometimes even before they even happen).
Lastly, all good leaders are good orators. You can’t attain your end-goal or attract people to you if you haven’t mastered the way you express yourself. To inspire you and to illustrate how it’s done, we’ve chosen to share excerpts from some of the most remarkable leadership speeches throughout history.
So, read on!
“I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that one day out in the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
-An extract from Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech.
“Africans want to be paid a living wage. Africans want to perform work which they are capable of doing, and not work which the Government declares them to be capable of. Africans want to be allowed to live where they obtain work, and not be endorsed out of an area because they were not born there. Africans want to be allowed to own land in places where they work, and not to be obliged to live in rented houses which they can never call their own. Africans want to be part of the general population, and not confined to living in their own ghettoes. African men want to have their wives and children to live with them where they work, and not be forced into an unnatural existence in men's hostels. African women want to be with their menfolk and not be left permanently widowed in the Reserves. Africans want to be allowed out after eleven o'clock at night and not to be confined to their rooms like little children.
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
-Taken from Nelson Mandela’s famous “I’m prepared to die” speech.
“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
“All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort -- a sustained effort -- to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings. It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There's one rule that lies at the heart of every religion -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples -- a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.
We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.
The Holy Koran tells us: ‘O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’
The Talmud tells us: ‘The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.’
The Holy Bible tells us: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.’
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.”
-Barack Obama’s remarks on a new beginning in Cairo, Egypt.
“Third question: are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past? There's an expression: Go along to get along. But if you follow this advice, chances are as a leader, you're going to keep doing what's familiar and comfortable. Great leaders dare to be different. They don't just talk about risk-taking, they actually do it. And one of the leaders shared with me the fact that the most impactful development comes when you are able to build the emotional stamina to withstand people telling you that your new idea is naïve or reckless or just plain stupid. Now interestingly, the people who will join you are not your usual suspects in your network. They're often people that think differently and therefore are willing to join you in taking a courageous leap. And it's a leap, not a step. More than traditional leadership programs, answering these three questions will determine your effectiveness as a 21st-century leader.
So what makes a great leader in the 21st century? I've met many, and they stand out. They are women and men who are preparing themselves not for the comfortable predictability of yesterday but also for the realities of today and all of those unknown possibilities of tomorrow.”
-Roselinde Torres, “What it takes to be a great leader”, a TED talk.
Examples of Leadership in Everyday Life
Business and Politics
The first association people make when they hear the word “leadership” is business. So, they immediately think of company leaders, CEOs, project leaders, and so on. While that’s true, we also need to be aware that having a leadership position in the workplace certainly comes with its challenges.
You need to think outside the box at all times, and even collaborate with people you don’t really see eye to eye. However, great leaders can also find a way to use this as an advantage. As Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda, says: “If you hire only those people you understand, the company will never get people better than you are. Always remember that you often find outstanding people among those you don’t particularly like.”
There’s also a plethora of stats that shed light upon the importance of leadership skills within a corporation. Here are some of them:
- 79% of employees will quit their jobs because of the lack of appreciation from leaders.
- Only 15% of women are said to have board-of-director roles in the workplace.
- 69% of Millennials think there is a lack of leadership development in the workplace.
- 83% of enterprises believe developing leaders at all levels in a company is important.
1 in 5 employees is at risk of burnout due to low employee and leadership engagement.
- Only 5% of companies have integrated leadership development in their corporations.
Finally, politics is also very closely connected to the notion of leadership. In fact, citizens even refer to their presidents as leaders. Political leadership is highly important, as its implications and decisions determine the lives of many people. Plus, whether a specific group of people follows a specific leader depends on how much that political leader is likable and charismatic. Of course, the promises the leaders make and the actions they take are a determining factor as well. As Bernard Baruch put it: “A political leader must keep looking over his shoulder all the time to see if the boys are still there. If they aren't still there, he's no longer a political leader.”
How to approach this?
- How do you usually monitor the performance of the people that you lead? Think of several examples.
- How would you describe your leadership style? (If you want to learn more about the different leadership styles, check out our FAQ section).
- Can you delegate responsibilities efficiently?
- How do you motivate your team members? What are your incentives? Do they work? How can you tell?
- How do you present your arguments to others? What happens if a team member has counter-arguments? How do you react?
- How do you cope with stress?
- What are your weaknesses and how do you perceive them? Do you think they make you a less effective leader?
- How do you tend to respond to criticism? Does competition intimidate you? How do you keep up with the latest trends in your field?
- What values are significant to you as a leader? Can you identify these values both in yourself and your team members?
- How do you handle a situation where one team member disagrees with your ideas?
- Do you enjoy collaborating with others or you want to do things yourself?
- How do you measure your team members’ performance?
- How do you know whether you have a loyal team? What strengths have you identified in each team member?
- Do you accept compliments? And more importantly, do you compliment others?
- What are some of the most difficult decisions you’ve ever had to make? Why did you find them difficult?
- How do you approach everyday challenges?
- What changes would you do in your workplace if you had the chance? Is there anything that’s bothering you in terms of organization, hierarchy, workload, and so on?
- Why do you want to be a leader? What significance does this position hold for you personally?
Leadership in interpersonal relationships is oftentimes a two-edged sword. First of all, it may be perceived as a means of manipulation (for instance, when one partner tries to control the other one; dominate all conversations; have the final say). The problem with this is that many won’t even consider this to be leadership, as manipulation does not equal leadership, or at least it shouldn't!
On the other hand, instances of “normal” leadership, such as when a partner takes initiative to make a reservation at a nice restaurant, buys a ticket for a distant destination, and so on, are much better examples of “pure” leadership intentions. If you’re a leader in your relationship, it means you’re wearing the trousers!
Please keep in mind that there are all sorts of different jokes about being a leader in the relationship - it usually means there’s always one person bossing around, yelling, and/or ordering their partner to do this or that. That is NOT how we interpret leadership.
A leader in a relationship is the person who knows how to diffuse a tense situation, protect their partner if they’re being attacked (physically, verbally, you name it), is fully actionable for their actions, and knows how to fight for the relationship to go to the next level.
Of course, such examples can be found in various dynamics among people. It can apply to family members, colleagues, friendships, and so on.
However, the interesting thing about discussing leadership as part of interpersonal relationships is that this type of leadership is a much more spontaneous one rather than what we discussed in the previous section. Namely, when we are talking about a leader in a business context or a political position, we’re talking about someone who has been formally given the right to be a leader (so he’s expected to do leadership-based stuff and engage in such activities).
That said, in interpersonal interactions, the need to take a leadership position happens more organically. Usually, those who are more extroverted and/or in need of attention tend to “occupy” these positions. So, they may always know how to get a discount for upcoming concerts, how to make reservations to get the best table in a restaurant, and so on.
How to approach this?
- Do you want to be the dominant person in all conversations? Do you feel others are slightly intimidated by your behavior? If yes, why do you think that happens?
- Do you find it easy to open up to others? And the opposite - do people tend to open up to you?
- Have you ever lied in order to get away with something?
- How willing are you to compromise?
- Do you enjoy bossing around? If yes, have you considered what that looks like from other people’s perspectives?
- What relationships in life do you find the most challenging? Think of specific examples.
- Are you a control freak or you have no problem allowing others to lead the way? Why?
- Do you make sacrifices?
- How do you hold your ground?
- Do you show appreciation to other people for the things they may have done/said? How do you do it? How do you show your loved ones you care for them and appreciate them?
- How often do you make assumptions about your loved ones?
- How can you improve your relationships with others? What changes can you do starting today?
- Are there any issues you may be ignoring? If yes, why? How do you feel about confronting people?
- How does an ideal relationship look to you? What character traits does the other person need to have? What flaws are you willing to tolerate?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you with the people in your life?
Leadership can also be a way of living. Yes, if we really wanted to, we could apply it to the most random of situations on a daily basis. This section is very closely related to the previous one as interpersonal relationships do play a huge part in our lives and shape our lifestyle.
So, If you’re stuck in an elevator with two other neighbors, someone needs to press the call button and communicate with the team on the other side.
Your car broke and you’re together with your friends; SOMEONE has to find help - either call somebody else, stop another car on the way, or go to the nearest gas station.
You’re supposed to organize a bachelor party for your friend; although all the people attending the party may be keen to help and contribute somehow (not only by chipping in, but actually helping with the organization), there are still one or two people who do the whole planning. So, they need to find a location, make sure everybody’s invited, that food and drinks have been purchased, that the music has been planned, and so on.
In other words, if you are that SOMEONE who always does these things chances are you’ve fully embraced your leadership skills.
And this applies across many other aspects of our lives - the courage to follow our dreams, instead of sticking to our limitations because nobody supports us, or initiating a sports game even though we’re not sure we’re talented enough or good at it.
Overall, leadership can manifest itself in many different forms and shapes. When we talk about specific leadership practices such as politics, things are more straightforward, however, when we discuss various different life aspects, then the options are limitless.
How to approach this?
- How much can you control your thoughts? And more importantly, do you have ANY control over them to start with?
- Is your body a nice place to be in? How happy are you with your overall appearance? Have you been saying nasty things to yourself? Or maybe you’ve been quite supportive of your choices and interests?
- Do you tend to rush changes?
- What kind of support do you find to be the most encouraging?
- What goals have you set for your life? How close are you to obtaining them?
- Do you let life happen to you or you are the doer and the action-taker?
- How often do you embrace new opportunities?
- Do you honor others? If you do, how do you tend to express it?
- Are you able to live outside your comfort zone?
- What inspires you?
- Do you lead by example?
- Do you consider yourself to be a discerning listener?
- How often do you feel overwhelmed by pessimistic thoughts? What do you do in those moments? Have you noticed a specific pattern (for example, they only appear when you go to the gym, or need to talk to a stranger, and so on)?
- Do you struggle to resolve conflicts in your life?
- What are some of the ways you use to upgrade your life?
- Do you have trouble adjusting to unforeseen circumstances? If yes, how do you help yourself in those moments?
- Do you need to control everything or you have no trouble adopting a more relaxed approach toward life?
- What does “being responsible toward oneself” mean to you?
- Do you know where you want to go next in life? If no, why not? And if yes, do you know what steps you need to take to get there?
- Do you see the act of asking for help as a weakness?
Famous Quotes About Leadership
“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”
"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
- John Maxwell
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. “
“Leaders are not, as we are often led to think, people who go along with huge crowds following them. Leaders are people who go their own way without caring, or even looking to see, whether anyone is following them. "Leadership qualities" are not the qualities that enable people to attract followers, but those that enable them to do without them. They include, at the very least, courage, endurance, patience, humor, flexibility, resourcefulness, stubbornness, a keen sense of reality, and the ability to keep a cool and clear head, even when things are going badly. True leaders, in short, do not make people into followers, but into other leaders.”
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
“Leadership is something you earn, something you’re chosen for. You can’t come in yelling, ‘I’m your leader!’ If it happens, it’s because the other guys respect you.”
“Power isn’t control at all — power is strength, and giving that strength to others. A leader isn’t someone who forces others to make him stronger; a leader is someone willing to give his strength to others that they may have the strength to stand on their own.”
“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It's got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet.”
“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”
– Jim Rohn
“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.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What makes a good leader?
According to John Kenneth Galbraith, a diplomat and an economist, all good leaders “have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”
While we completely agree with him on this one, we also believe in the diversity of qualities. In other words, we think good leaders are “made up of” many high-quality characteristics that highlight their individuality. Hence, here are the key ones:
Good leaders never lose sight of their end-goals and even if their initial plan fails they can immediately think of another strategy;
Knows where they are, but doesn’t lose the sense of where they want to be;
They’re optimistic even when things don’t quite go the way they’re supposed to;
Leaders should be confident, but also careful not to go to the other extreme of being arrogant, self-absorbed, and/or opinionated;
They should know when to step forward, but also when to pull back; accept their winds, but also embrace their failures; welcome compliments, but also embrace criticism;
They recognize their team’s skills, and knows how to further encourage them; know how and when to delegate tasks, and understands the best ways to stimulate the other members to self-educate;
This includes a lot of leadership aspects - meeting deadlines, attending meetings, keeping up with the latest news, and so on;
critical thinking skills
They’re able to look at things from a fresh perspective, negotiate potential ideas, and put efforts into materializing them;
Good leaders aren’t full of themselves - they’re aware of their skills and qualities, but also aren’t afraid of recognizing their faults and work on minimizing them.
Ultimately, you don’t need to excel at all of these to call yourself a good leader. In fact, you don’t even need to have all of these traits to be a leader in the first place. However, what you do need to have is the determination to always upgrade, and the willingness to step up your game and always pick up new skills.
What are some things great leaders should never say?
As much as being a leader has its benefits - and it definitely is a learning experience for anyone who finds themselves in that potion - it also has its potential side effects. Namely, a lot of leaders may sometimes take their position for granted and start neglecting their behavior and the words they end up using on a daily basis.
Hence, here are some of the most common things leaders may sometimes say, although they shouldn't:
- “Do as I said.” or “Because I said so.”
- “Your colleague can do it better/faster than you.”
- “You’re not as dedicated as you used to be.”
- “Because that’s how we always used to do it.”
- “Do it and don’t ask any questions.”
- “I don’t have time for you right now.”
- “I’ll do it myself.”
- “I’m in charge.”
- “We’ve already tried that before, and it didn’t work.”
- “Why did you do it that way?”
- “Leave your personal problems at home.”
- “It’s your fault”.
- “I expected more from you.”
- “Your ideas are problematic”.
- “Don’t do anything without asking me first.”
- “I’m really disappointed in you.”
- “This isn’t my job, so don’t expect me to help you.”
- “Don’t bother me - come to me when you have potential solutions.”
- “That’s your problem.”
- “Failure isn’t an option.”
- “You’re lucky you have a job.”
- “You’re wasting my time”.
- “Are you questioning my authority?”
That said, we’re aware there may be some situations where you’d need to criticize someone or tell them that you don’t have the time to deal with them at that specific moment. So. instead of using harsh language and coming off as being disinterested, try modifying some of these phrases:
- “Don’t get me wrong, but I think this needs a bit of reworking. If you want we could brainstorm together.”
- “This doesn’t really live up to your potential. What seems to be the problem? Is there anything that’s bothering you?”.
- “I’m afraid you should be able to do that yourself. I can help you this time, but next time you ought to be able to do it on your own.”
- “Why do you disagree with my suggestions? Let’s further discuss it. Maybe you’re right, let’s weigh all our options and then decide.”
Of course, this doesn't apply to all leaders, as not all of them struggle with communication issues. But it may serve as a good reminder every now and then, especially because it’s very easy for all of us to get carried away as to how we sometimes express ourselves verbally.
What are some common leadership styles?
Here are the seven most common leadership styles:
When one person controls all the decisions and actions, and accepts very little to none of the suggestions coming from others - overall, this type of leader believes to be the best and the smartest person in the room.
This type of style refers to leaders who don’t just order and boss around - they actually take the time to explain themselves and their vision, and set potential expectations.
This style usually refers to situations when the leader is “in the front” and expects others to do as he does, and usually the rest of the team should follow the leader’s pace.
With the democratic style of leading, team members are invited to participate in the decision-making process - democratic leaders also take into consideration the others’ suggestions, remarks, and ideas before they make any final decisions.
The coaching style includes a “consider this” approach, meaning that these leaders know how to unlock the potential of others and guide them through the process.
These leaders get close to people and don’t mind collaborating with them - plus, they pay attention to their needs and overall emotions.
This is the complete opposite of the autocratic style - these leaders empower individuals and whole groups to make decisions and actively participate in the whole process.
Of course, each leader has their own leadership style and it may not even fit in any of these categories (or you may combine various different styles). That’s perfectly fine, as we don’t think leadership should follow strict classification and/or rules.
Lastly, you should understand which leadership skills you’re comfortable using, which style you prefer, and then combine them in your leadership endeavors. After all, each leader has their own style and approach - it doesn’t mean one is better than the other; what simply matters is to find which one best suits your personality and way of leading.
Suggestions for Further Reading
A good leader is a good reader, but reading books about leadership isn’t only about improving your leadership skills. In fact, reading is a practice that serves many purposes. For leaders it has the following implications:
- it boosts their productivity;
- helps them be more empathetic;
- Gets them exposed to others’ successful stories;
- and allows them to consider different perspectives and identify their obstacles.
Of course, you don’t have to be a professional leader or have leadership affinities to benefit from these books. As we said, we’re all faced with the notion of leading on a daily basis, so expanding our knowledge can ultimately help us improve our overall lifestyle.
So, whatever it is you expect from these books, we’re more than certain that you’ll find it!
Here’s our list:
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins
- Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee
- The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, by James Kouzes & Barry Posner
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek
- The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done, by Peter Drucker
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, by John C. Maxwell
- True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, by Bill George and Peter Sims
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, by Michael Bungay Stanier
- The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximise Your Potential, by John C. Maxwell
Finally, leadership is such a practical discipline that unless you have the chance to put your skills into practice, you won’t know whether you’re good at it or not. Yet, we still managed to explain the concept of leadership theoretically in the best way we know via useful examples and scenarios.
If you want to better understand leadership skills and learn much more about this discipline, we invite you to join our online course on leadership. We believe in continuous development and we’re happy to be able to help!
So, if you decide to participate in our new course, take a look at some of the key things we cover:
- how to ensure ethical leadership;
- the basis of charismatic leadership, servant leadership, bureaucratic leadership, and transactional leadership;
- how to have difficult conversations;
- ensuring diversity;
- how to take feedback;
- how to create a team culture;
- conflict resolutions and many other leadership-based topics!
We can’t wait for you to join us!
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