How to be a Great Leader

paper origami boats symbolizing a leader

What traits come to mind when you think of a great leader? Do you envision a well-dressed executive sitting behind closed doors at a corner office? Or is a great leader a mentor that sits beside his or her team? A leader, by definition, is someone who rules, guides, or inspires others. He or she will need to establish a set of guiding principles and encourage others to follow through on his or her vision. How does a great leader achieve this? Here are a few traits of leaders and some tips on how to be a great leader.

A Leader Stands for His or Her Ideals

Have you ever seen the Ted Talk How to start a movement? In this three-minute master lesson, Derek Sivers delivers simple traits on what it takes to start a movement. The first one? A leader “needs the guts to stand out and be ridiculed.”

Leading by nature is transformational—reshaping the current status quo into a new, improved state. When a leader sets off to advance a vision, there will probably be resistance, questions, and people who don’t buy into the idea. A true leader doesn’t waiver. Instead, a leader positions his or herself as a role model to inspire trust and admiration through actions.

A Great Leader Seeks to Improve Others’ Lives

Establishing trust is one of the fundamental characteristics of a great leader. People will not follow someone that they don’t believe has their best interest in mind. By investing in others’ professional or personal development, a great leader makes sure that everyone who comes in contact with him or her walks away a better person.

A Great Leader is Always Learning

One of the most refreshing facts about great leaders is that they know that they don’t know everything. A leader who thinks he or she has all the answers is closed off to learning new things, unable to see novel ideas when someone else presents them and will, therefore, get stuck. A great leader is curious, open-minded and grounded. He or she is continually working on their own professional and personal development and encourages others to do the same.

A Leader Empowers Others to Lead

A great leader isn’t looking for the spotlight—he or she looks for the team to shine. A leader knows that when the team shines, they shine. By teaching the team to fish, a great leader positions others to advance in their careers and empowers them to make decisions on their own, thus freeing his or her time to take on new challenges. Ultimately, one of the most important goals for great leaders is to prepare high-performers to take over their job.

how to be a great leader - team of hands in a circle

A Great Leader Plays to People’s Strengths

A great leader knows that the team is only as good as its weakest member. Therefore, it’s very important for a leader to be in touch with his or her team’s strengths and weaknesses. What differentiates a leader from a great leader is that the latter knows how to position each player in areas where they can shine. By playing up each member’s strengths, a great leader doesn’t only build confidence but ensures the success of the team. Employees that are positioned to succeed are also more satisfied with their jobs, productive and loyal.

A great leader stands in a variety of roles—you don’t need to be in a leadership position to act as such. Think about your team’s dynamics. Is there someone within the team that everyone goes to for advice? A person that others listen to and trust? Cultivating these leadership traits in all aspects of your life will not only help you get ahead professionally but will also support you in creating positive, trustful and meaningful relationships with everyone around you.

Are you ready to be a great leader? Get started with the resources below:

Our 10 Favorite Leadership Books (in no particular order):

  1. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t
  2. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
  3. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way you Lead Forever
  4. Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Creating a Culture that Matters
  5. How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority
  6. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t
  7. Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong
  8. It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks
  9. Leading from Purpose: Clarity and the Confidence to Act When It Matters Most
  10. The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results

Check out Career and Executive Coach Maggie Mistal’s take on traits of a good leader:

About the Author

Dawna is a mom of two young kids, puppy lover, ice cream lover, chocolate lover, and lover of any ice cream with chunks of chocolate in it. She is the author of seven books, a business owner, certified health coach, motivational speaker, and creator of the 5-Day Detox and the 14-Day Clean-Eating Program. Dawna appears regularly on local and national television. She has appeared on the Today show, Martha, MSNBC, HSN, and morning news programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. Dawna is a highly sought-after speaker and has done speaking engagements for Chobani, Disney, American Heart Association, Mass Mutual, Wharton Business School, Women’s Entertainment Television, PGA Tour, Super Bowl Leadership Forum, Susan G. Komen, and many more.
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