What is a leader? Developing qualities in yourself

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The familiar chant of the “follow the leader” game from childhood may not be the best form of leadership today. While it is important to set a good example when in a position of leadership, the role in and of itself is less about power and more about empowering those for whom you are setting an example, and this is accomplished through your words and your actions.

One of the age-old queries surrounding good leadership is the thought-provoking question of whether great leaders are made or born, giving a familiar nod to the nature versus nurture argument. Just as Rome was not built in a day, a strong leader is not developed overnight. Granted, one may innately possess leadership qualities and tendencies, but many of the skills required must be consistently honed over a period of time, just as an athlete rigorously practices to excel in the game.
While individual traits can be applied to solid leadership, observers and writers suggest that some of the common denominators employed by great leaders include vision, decision-making skills, courage, motivation, coaching, self-knowledge, integrity and the passionate pursuit of lifelong learning. In a sense, leadership is not a destination, but a journey through which one progresses and strives to become a better person tomorrow than she is today. The only person with whom a leader should remain in competition is herself, as the resulting by-products of such determination will benefit everyone within the organization she leads.

Other skills needed to achieve forward momentum in becoming a respected leader include the practice of self-reflection. For an effective leader, it’s important to look back at past decisions, whether good or bad, and appreciate them for the lessons and experiences they provided. Once you have assessed those decisions, you can confidently apply what you have learned to your current situation. Mistakes and failures are a part of the growth process and should be embraced instead of thrown into the pool of regret.

Additionally, a good leader remains proactive as opposed to reactive. Being prepared at all turns is not only imperative, but it also assures that you are never in a situation where you cannot offer something of value or contribute to problem solving as needed. When you operate from a reactive mode, you risk allowing your emotions to take charge. Allowing your thoughts and emotions to work simultaneously, however, often result in the best decisions. Always come to the situation prepared, making it a table of opportunity instead of the seat of conflict.

To aspire to leadership means to always have your “why,” and to live that mantra with unwavering determination and enthusiasm. Don’t just have a vision; also have the fortitude to see that vision come to fruition, even when stumbling blocks seem to prohibit that goal. A can-do attitude is necessary to trump any adversity that comes your way.

Walking hand in hand with such eager determination is decided passion for what you do. Without that ingredient in the mix, you will lack the consistency you need to bring your team to the throne of victory. Passion is not just an attitude, however, but an instinct.

One of the greatest calls to action when it comes to becoming a true leader is to champion your inner warrior and resolve to do what others won’t do. Remind yourself that failure is not an option. This is not the time or place to offer excuses but to employ solutions, even when things seem to be crumbling all around you.

It has been said that leadership is not a position or a title but an action and example. Leadership is not a role that places one upon a pedestal of authority, but rather calls the one in that position to embrace a heart of service by willingly and enthusiastically inspiring, motivating and educating others.

A true leader is someone who empowers others, not overpowers them. Good leaders will strive to create productive teams that encourage the best from the people with whom they work. When it comes to strengthening the lines of communication among everyone on the team, it is important to appreciate and remain open-minded to the points of view of others rather than simply trying to prove your point. To that end, a confident leader listens first to understand and then to reply, and through that understanding also avails herself of both her strengths and weaknesses, viewing them through the lens of objectivity.

Do not be afraid of feedback and constructive criticism and be willing to make and adapt to changes as needed. Great leadership is not about giving yourself a platform; it is also about sharing that platform with others.
Above all, understand that to be a strong, confident and respected leader, you must continually sharpen your skills and know what to do and when to do it with grace, integrity and character, leading not from a lofty perch above, but from within. HLM

Sources: entrepreneur.com and realtormag.realtor.org.