Leadership is a trait many are quick to claim but few truly deserve.
To be a leader does not mean wearing the title of “leader.” It’s not something you choose to be one minute and then choose not to be the next. A leader is not a leader simply because he or she has been promoted. And a leader is not someone who sits in a position of management.
None of those things are what truly make a real leader. Here are the things that do:
1. A real leader listens firsts and acts second.
Someone who jumps to conclusions without first seeking to understand has made a fatal error—for themselves and their team. In order to lead people effectively, you have to take the time to listen and see things from their perspective. You have to put yourself in their shoes and fully understand the situation.
2. A real leader doesn’t make decisions in the heat of the moment.
You know those bosses that get all riled up and then start rapid-firing people? That’s not a leader. That’s a trigger-happy manager on a power trip—and there’s a difference. A leader waits until the heat of the moment has passed so that he or she can give solid thought to the situation before coming to a conclusion.
3. A real leader knows what they don’t know.
It’s dangerous when someone claims to “know everything.” A good leader is ok with not having all the answers, and knowing that they will find the people who do. They don’t see it as a weakness—because it’s not. It’s merely part of the process.
4. A real leader never wants to be the smartest person in the room.
If someone hires people or surrounds themselves with people less qualified than themselves simply to remain in a position of power, then they feel threatened. You never want to be the smartest person in the room—and if you are, you’re in the wrong room. Great leaders know this and seek to surround themselves with masters of their crafts. The leader’s job, then, is to “play the orchestra.”
5. A real leader celebrates the process as much as the rewards.
True leaders know that greatness is not something that happens immediately. Greatness is the result of hours, days, weeks of diligent practice and effort. They celebrate the process and the day-to-day hustle as much as they do the big grand finale.
6. A real leader gives constructive, not negative, feedback.
There is a difference between “constructive criticism” and plain negativity. People who spew negativity aren’t doing anything to help anyone. A great leader looks for ways they can help, not ways they can tear others down in the process.
7. A real leader does what has to be done.
Anyone who says, “That’s not my job,” isn’t leading by example. Yes, people need to stay their lane and be responsible for their own work, but when there’s a fire and it’s all hands on deck, a leader doesn’t step back and say, “All right everyone, go figure it out.” They get right to work with them.
8. A real leader cultivates a positive culture.
Being results-driven is great, but a culture that produces results has to be healthy in some way, shape, or form. And creating that culture takes hard work. A great leader knows that they are not the center of attention, and what’s more important is creating an environment where others feel empowered to succeed, bring ideas to the table, and think for themselves.
9. A real leader always finds a way.
Anyone that says, “It’s impossible. We can’t,” isn’t fit to lead. A true leader knows that there is always a way. It might not be the way anyone had originally planned for, but it’s a way nonetheless. Great leaders find the roads less traveled, and do whatever needs to be done in order to get the collective over the obstacle ahead.