How to grow in leadership

Every so often, we choose to lead and sometimes we are hard-pressed into leadership. Whatever your state of affairs, your leadership skills will determine how successful you are going to become in leadership in the days to come. Booming leaders usually lead by example. If you are not indicative of the virtues or techniques you are proposing as a leader, those following your leadership will fail, leaving you to wonder why.  This is non-negotiable.

Please, understand that the best way to teach others in leadership is to first become what you are trying to teach. Reading through many biographies of leaders who existed in the past, I have been able to learn and understand that successful and thriving leaders are simply made in every generation, through practice. I have been practicing—for close to twenty-five years in active leadership—all the leadership principles I am going to teach you today.

Here we go!

To start with, leaders are lifelong learners. Flourishing leaders understand that when they lose interest in learning, they would lose their edge on earth.  Good leaders know that they must continue to find opportunities to learn.

They crave every chance to do so. Over the years, it has been my culture to encourage anyone seeking leadership success to read at least an hour every day. That hour a day will make you a recognized leader within five years. So, commit to learning for the rest of your life and embrace opportunities to do so.

Also, leaders are good at listening .They comprehend the difference between reflexively hearing and actively listening to what people are telling them. They also have the wisdom to know who is worth listening to and who is not. Some people just like to hear themselves talk, but they never actually say anything of any import. A concierge may have a very worthwhile story to tell that teaches wisdom on human behaviour, while a millionaire may be stuck in his own ego, enjoying the sound of his own voice, but never really share anything worth your time to hear.

Furthermore, leaders develop discipline. Discipline is the foundation stone of an effective leader’s life. Not just in business, but in everything he or she does. Good leaders develop discipline by curbing the impulse for instant gratification. Learning to say “no” when you might say “yes” is the road to becoming more disciplined. For example, you might say, “no, I will not eat that cake; I will wait and have a piece on Wednesday,” or “no, I will not sleep an extra hour.”  In other words, just because you can does not mean you should. Curbing your desires makes you stronger in every aspect of your life. That is why leaders discipline themselves to do necessary tasks even when they do not feel like doing them.

Also, leaders do take time to be quiet. Successful leaders are usually very busy, with very little extra time in their schedules. But the most successful ones take 20 to 40 minutes every day to be absolutely silent. They remove all distractions and noise to sit within the calm of quiet surroundings. In this silence, they are able to hear themselves think and feel. This helps develop their intuition, which guides them in making decisions.

In addition, leaders are compassionate. Effective leaders know that kindness trumps bad behaviour; they care about others’ feelings. They know that softly spoken words are more easily heard and understood, while yelling at peak volume typically just makes for a battle of wills. You shall need to become compassionate, if you truly want to flourish as a leader.

Moreover, leaders understand when to delegate. Nothing stands in the way of accomplishing their goals, and certainly not excuses. Successful leaders are people of action, but they also understand when to be patient and when they cannot do everything themselves.  So a good leader knows the value of delegating tasks to others; no one can do everything all the time, after all. That makes delegation vital to great leadership. That said, a gifted leader will first ensure that those to whom they delegate can actually get the job done well. In this way, they also foster success in the people they lead.

Next, leaders manage time very well. Successful leaders know that time is the only commodity they cannot get more of; no matter how successful they become. So they treat it with great respect. Good leaders manage their time by planning their days with precision. The question is: are you a good time manager or bad time manager?

Leaders focus on the positive. A successful leader keeps his eye on the end result. He or she maintains a positive outlook, regardless of current circumstances. Good leaders see problems as opportunities to find a solution. And they never blame others for what they have failed to accomplish. Booming leaders understand that they are in command of their own thinking.

Also, leaders value failure. Failure? Yes, failure. The average leader will fail many times before he or she succeeds. They are undaunted by failures and view them as golden opportunities to get closer to their goal. And they know that failure is not an end, but a chance to learn to do it better next time. Please understand that it is not every time you fail that the devil is responsible, it might be an opportunity for you to subsequently do better.

Lastly, leaders want to share what they have learned. Successful leaders are generous with sincere praise to others.  Those following in your footsteps or learning from you need to hear directly from you when they are getting it right. So make your praise specific to what someone has accomplished. If praise is given too often or too generally, it can lose its meaning.

And if it is not given enough, people can become discouraged. Whether you are a manager overseeing employees or you are mentoring students, help them embrace new challenges. When you set the example they will follow willingly. Remember, too, that everyone learns at a different pace. Some get new techniques and ideas with ease, while others may initially struggle to understand or incorporate them. A great leader is able to work well with both types of learners.

See you where flourishing leaders are found!