If you could peek inside the mind of a great leader, could you learn to develop the same characteristics to improve your leadership abilities? Absolutely. Learn the core values behind leadership and discover ways to gradually incorporate them every day to reach your leadership potential.
What’s inside a leader’s mind?
Leaders are just regular people like you and me. They want to live with purpose, have fun and be loved. But there is something a little special when you catch a glimpse of an effective leader in their natural work environment. They dazzle, empower and inspire you. They’re in the zone, in “flow.” It looks effortless when they lead others. They make you feel motivated, included and rest-assured that anything else you encounter will be faced together as a cohesive team.
What’s unique about a leader’s mind is the value system they hold. That value system ensures their behavior is one based on integrity and honesty such that their actions match their words. They are highly cognizant that others are looking to them for direction, and a leader takes that responsibility seriously. The more you think about this fact, you start to see a genuine compatibility in how they lead and who they really are.
Leadership core values
OK, so how do they do it? Let’s walk through each belief to fully understand the value system of today’s top leaders.
- Self-awareness and self-reliance – Leaders are passionate, honest and self-aware at all times. They make informed decisions. They take risks and believe in their ability to succeed as they know their talents (natural abilities) very well. This self-awareness and reliance reflects in the outward confidence you see. Leaders do not shy away from constructive criticism, and welcome new input.
- Consistency and trustworthiness – You can depend on a leader to stick to their word and be dependable in difficult situations. They aren’t irrational or erratic. Instead, they perform consistently despite any ambiguity faced in their jobs. They give you little to no reason to lose faith and trust in them. Their intentions are not for selfish gain, but for the greater good.
- Resourcefulness and collaboration with others – They bring to the table exactly what only they have to offer. With their unique contributions, they create an open and respectful environment allowing others’ perspectives and talents to enter. When the collective doesn’t know the answer, the leader always has suggestions and ideas for moving forward. Their attitude is flexible and adaptable when things change. The leader is socially-aware and can “read” the room. They respect the level of communication, negotiation or strategic messaging required of them to keep things on track.
- Continuous Personal Improvement – The leader is always growing, developing and gaining new insights. A leader challenges his/herself through working with a professional coach, finding mentors who’ve traveled the same path and connecting with advisors who share lessons learned and best practices. Leaders work hard and continuously raise the bar even higher.
- Steady focus and motivation – Train of thought, prioritization and vision are essential for a leader to keep focus. Through challenges and also through successes, leaders remain clear-headed with their eye on the ball. They know how to recharge themselves and keep teams empowered and engaged.
- Mindful – Leaders know what they don’t know. They rely on others and delegate when necessary. They remain thoughtful and purposeful in their relationships, being sensitive to the needs of others.
- Role model – Leaders truly set an example. They work with integrity and have a strong reputation. They value individuals, practice positive thinking and encourage open communication. You’ll often see good leaders apply an “open-door policy” which means they will make time to have a conversation on what’s pressing on their employees even though they are extremely busy. They also aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and pitch in when required.
How you can apply the leadership value system into your daily life
Here’s some suggestions for how you can incorporate leadership thinking into your everyday world. Take small steps and turn these values into ones you practice to improve your leadership effectiveness.
Improve my self-reliance
- When you’re faced with a tough assignment or role at work, know that the one person you can count on the most is yourself. By this, I don’t mean that only you know how to do it right, but that of all the external impacts out of your control, you can rely on yourself. Commit to yourself that you won’t let *you* down and the #1 thing within your control is your attitude and actions.
Be more consistent and trustworthy
- Be cautious of each promise you make, no matter how small. Write them down and stick to them. A broken promise lessens your dependability and ultimately the trust others have in you. If you’re not sure you can commit to something, be upfront with others to not only set but manage expectations.
Seek continuous personal improvement
- Do you look at a problem from different angles? Do you learn from others’ lessons learned? Or do you sometimes get stuck in your DIY (do-it-yourself) ways? Seek a balance of working on your own and leveraging the guidance of a more senior mentor who has been there before. A new relationship with a coach or mentor can enrich you, exposing you to new outlooks and ideas. Coaches and mentors will help you stretch to reach your potential.
Keep steady focus
- For every todo list or top priority you have, also mentally make a list of what’s not your top priority. These are your distractions. Taken from the advice of HBR columnist, Peter Bregman, create a distraction list and commit to ignore interruptions, such as email, facebook or those meetings that fill your calendar but don’t really require your attendance.
- If something seems like a waste of time, it likely is at some level. Just the thought entering your mind causes you to lose motivation. When this happens, recharge yourself with activities that make you happy and reprioritize your workload with your leadership. In an effort of continuous improvement, not only personally but professionally, look for ways to increase efficiency and productivity. Just make sure that if you are raising an issue to your leadership that you present both the problem and some options for a solution to them. Be proactive.
Become a better role model
- How many times have you been in a meeting where there is a huge elephant in the room? Everyone is thinking something, but it’s as if everyone is ignoring it. This takes a lot of courage, but to be able to deflate the elephant means confronting it by facing the truth of the matter. Once an issue is out in the open, it’s much easier to begin course-correcting, and this reduces the fear of the unknown. Speak up and set an example that shows you can face issues head-on.
Lessons learned – What differentiates leaders aren’t just the soft skills they possess, but the value system they live by
One way to think about being a good leader is to compare it to being a good chef. Soft skills are the utensils, the tools needed for leadership. Anyone can have the soft skills such as strong communications, ability to listen, emotional intelligence and motivational skills. Any one of these skills, however will not make a good leader. The value system of leadership combined with the “tools” to lead create the perfect recipe for reaching one’s leadership potential.
For more articles within my Rules of Effective Leadership series, read my previous article Game Rules for Effective Leadership
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