When I became a leader, I had no clue what I was doing. I was a high school student and had just been elected student body president. I had served as class president and in a few other positions, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of responsibility that stretched me at that point. As president of the study body, now a senior, I quickly realized lots of students and teachers were looking to me for leadership.
What in the world does a senior in high school have to add to the field of leadership?
We were in the second year of a new school and most of the students were forced to leave their previous school to attend this one. Some went willingly, but many were reluctantly bused to a school absent of many of their friends. In my first year at the school, as a junior, I was one of the reluctant students. In my new position, I knew firsthand the need, as well as the challenge, to encourage the morale and build momentum in this new school.
(Recognizing a need is one key to being an effective leader—but I still had no clue how to accomplish this.)
Thankfully I had a seasoned leader for a principal. Mr. Huggins was a retired army colonel who loved seeing students succeed. He became my mentor and my biggest supporter as a new leader.
(Every new leader needs someone who believes in them, mentors them and helps them get back up when they fall.)
Through his leadership of me, I learned a few “secrets,” which helped me as student body president. I carried them with me as I entered the business world and later as I led my own businesses. I used them in an elected office.
Even today, these same “secrets” have made me a better leader. I’ve gotten lots of practice with them and they are more comfortable to me now, but they still are pillars of my understanding of what good and effective leadership looks like.
(Good leaders learn good principles and build upon them, contextualizing them for each leadership position.)
Here are five secret traits to make you a better leader:
Let go of power
The more you learn to delegate, the better your leadership will appear to others. When you let go and let others lead, it will actually look like you’re doing more, because your team will be expanding the vision far beyond your individual capacity. Good leadership involves empowering people to carry out the vision.
Give up control
You can’t control every outcome. Have you learned that secret yet? Some things are going to happen beyond your ability to guide them. Leaders who attempt to control stifle their team’s creativity, frustrate others on the team, and limit the growth and future success of the organization.
Don’t always know the answer
If you don’t have all the answers, people will be more willing to help you find the answers. If you try to bluff your way through leadership, pretending you don’t need input from others, your ignorance will quickly be discovered, you’ll be dismissed as a respected leader, and you’ll close yourself off from gaining wisdom from others. The best leaders I know are always learning something new … many times from the people they lead.
“Waste time” is not wasted
Great leaders have learned that spending time that other leaders may feel is unproductive usually ends up being among the most productive uses of their time. Spend time investing in people, in ways that may or may not produce immediate results, and over time, you’ll find your team to be more satisfied and more productive in their work.
Bounce off attention
The more you deflect attention from yourself to others, the more people will respect you. People follow confidence in a leader far more passionately than they follow arrogance. You can be confident without demanding all the attention or receiving credit for every success of the team. Great leaders know that without the input and investment of others they would never accomplish their goals. They remain appreciative of others and consistently share the spotlight.
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