Be a better leader by looking at history and the great leaders that rose to the occasion when it was needed most.
In 1948, when discrimination ruled in South Africa, Nelson Mandela and other activists fought for their rights through nonviolent methods. But when police killed his fellowmen during a peaceful protest, they retaliated by launching a sabotage campaign against the government.
He and his fellow activists were brought to trial and lost. He spent almost three decades in jail.
During their trial, Mandela ended his opening statement with the following words that would soon seal his iconic status around the world: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal that I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
International public pressure led to his release in 1990, and a few years later, he was elected the first black president of South Africa. A brief look at history reveals the hardships our fellowmen went through to achieve peace and freedom for their country and their fellow countrymen.
One thing prevails behind the success of countless battles and revolutions: they were all led by great and passionate leaders.
If it weren’t for Churchill’s faith in his people and country, where could the British people have gotten the confidence to fight against Nazi Germany alone?
Without Mandela’s burning passion and persistence to fight for a society where freedom and equality prevail, who knows how much longer South Africa would’ve struggled with apartheid?
Be A Better Leader = Better Entrepreneur
Although running a business might not be as brutal as fighting in World War II, it still requires an effective leader that would bring the organization to its success.
Leadership makes all of a business’ elements work together. You could have high-profile employees and the smartest business strategies, but their success and implementation are still up to your capability as a leader.
Motivation among the workforce is cultivated through the guidance of a skilled and experienced leader. Employees need someone who wouldn’t just order them around. They need a leader, not a boss.
This type of leadership results in an inspired workforce with increased dedication to achieving the organization’s goals.
Some are born with certain characteristics that predispose them to be leaders—communicating and influencing people to come naturally.
However, leadership isn’t something that can only be possessed by those born with it. Some leaders are made.
You can train yourself to be one by observing and learning from those you find good leaders. You can adopt these traits in time, and you too can be one of them.
Here are the main characteristics shared among the world’s most influential leaders:
A Complete Awareness of Oneself
Marcus of PsySci’s 6 Ways Psychology Can Help You Become A Better Leader mentions that leaders should follow an outwardly spiraling growth path. It starts with an awareness of oneself, an understanding of one’s place in a relationship, and an awareness of another person’s place. To become an effective leader, you must first fully know yourself.
If you have a full grasp on who you are as a person: your flaws, your fears, your strengths and weaknesses, you are better equipped to work on your shortcomings.
By being fully self-aware, you can acknowledge your mistakes and failures, learn from them, and do something about them.
The problem with most leaders today is that they can’t accept their deficiencies, so they refuse to change and do anything about them. And that’s not exactly the trait of a true leader.
There are many ways to help you gain a better understanding of yourself. You could try personality tests. I think this one does give out a ‘freakishly accurate description of who I am and why I do the things I do.
Another method is writing. You can explore your inner self and uncover your subconscious thoughts and fears by writing regularly. Knowing these things allows you to see your blind spots clearly and work on conquering them.
“Your biggest weapon is self-awareness. I’ve seen friends who work crazy hard burn out, people who are too nice get screwed over, and engineers over-build an amazing app that no one wants. If you can regularly look at yourself from a third-person perspective and coach yourself, you will be great,” writes Phil Strazula of NextWave Hire, a recruitment marketing software company. “You’ll realize what you’re doing right/wrong, and you’ll also realize that the customer you just lost isn’t the end of the world.”
A Can-Do Attitude
The powerful force gave the British hope and led them to victory as they stood their ground when everyone else had already surrendered to the Germans. This catalyst drove Americans to push for civil rights laws and fight for equality when racial discrimination ruled the country. It was the confidence instilled in them by their leaders.
History has repeatedly proven the importance of confidence in being an effective leader. Harvard Business Review says confidence is so alluring that we’re often willing to trust anyone who expresses it.
You can have the skills, knowledge, and passion. But without confidence, you will have a hard time getting people to trust you and listen to you.
People need a leader who has the confidence to make decisions and commit to them without second-guessing. Additionally, it takes a confident leader to inspire people toward a common goal and vision.
There are ways you can try to build self-confidence. Start with something you can easily observe and control: your body language. Always smile. Observe proper posture and make eye contact when you’re talking to someone.
Condition your mind to have a more optimistic mindset. Acknowledge your weaknesses and improve on them.
Barri Rafferty, CEO of Ketchum North America, believes that a leader instills confidence and ‘followership’ by having a clear vision, showing empathy, and being a solid coach. “As a female leader, to be recognized, I feel I have to show up with swagger and assertiveness, yet always try to maintain my Southern upbringing, which underscores kindness and generosity. The two work well together in gaining respect.”
Understands That There’s No “I” In Team
According to The New Psychology of Leadership, leadership “has little to do with the individuality of the leader and everything to do with whether they are seen as part of the team, as a team player, as able and willing to advance team goals.” In short, leadership is a “we think” and not an “I thing.”
A true leader does not order their people around. It inspires them to want to do things. It’s not someone who uses their authority in pressuring people to achieve a goal, but someone who gets their people excited and motivated in achieving that goal.
Those who claim to be “leaders” but only use people to achieve their interests are not true leaders. A true leader should work alongside their people towards a common goal that everyone willingly wants to achieve.
They set a good example, display competence and a genuine character, commit to a purpose, keep their word, and look after their people’s best interests to gain trust.
Trust is earned, not given. A true leader knows how to work for the trust of his people. Recognize your employees’ efforts through a simple “thank you” or praise.
Make them feel appreciated. Listen to what they have to say and respond accordingly. Please encourage them to make their own choices.
Respect and have faith in their decisions. An organization where employees are empowered and cared for fosters innovation and creativity flourish the most.
As Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, once said, “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”
John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” Leaders who have passion can do great things, making people want to be a part of it.
Passionate leaders rub off on those around them. They ignite other people’s passion and inspire them to do great things as well.
Gandhi’s persistence and passion in putting an end to the discrimination led people to rally behind him as he staged a 24-day march to the sea against the British salt monopoly. The event earned India’s independence in 194,7 and is now known as the famous Great Salt March.
This is a perfect example of effective leadership. There was no use of force or pressure involved, and people joined voluntarily in Gandhi’s mission because they wanted to be a part of it.
Organizations need passionate leaders. They require individuals with a clear vision of what they want to achieve and inspire (not control) people to achieve those goals.
Unlike other leadership skills, passion isn’t something that can be learned. It’s something you seek or something already inside you, just waiting to be found and pursued. Find your passion and let it drive you and others into pursuing great things.
Effective Leadership in A Nutshell
In The New Psychology of Leadership: Identity, Influence, and Power by Haslam et al., the authors summarized effective leadership in terms of four principles. They argue that first, leaders must be seen as one of their followers.
Their people should feel that their leader is just like them and represents their in-group to distinguish them from other out-groups.
Second, every action that leaders do should be for the best interests of their in-group, not their own. It’s only this way that followers will be willing to help turn the leader’s vision into reality.
Third, leaders must be actively involved in shaping the shared understanding of their identity as a group.
They should represent themselves in terms of the members’ understanding of their in-group by embodying their values and priorities and representing them in their projects and proposals.
Their last argument explains that leaders must y express what the group thinks and make them matter. Their group’s ideas, values, and priorities should be taken and carried out in reality.
An effective leader helps their group realize their goals and create a world where its values are lived out and their potential is fulfilled.
There is no specific set of ways to become a great leader. Each person has their characteristics and way of doing things, and it may take a lot of trial and error to know the best approach for you.
You may not be born with suave and exceptional communication skills. But with the right amount of passion, dedication, and effort, you’ll be charming your way into bringing your business to success in no time.
How Can You Be A Better Leader?
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