At the height of World War II, as France was in the process of surrendering to Hitler and left Britain to face Germany alone, Winston Churchill uttered these words: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say ‘This was their finest hour.'” In 1945, Britain and its allies won World War II.
In 1948, at a time when discrimination ruled in South Africa, Nelson Mandela, along with 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 which 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.
Behind the success of countless battles and revolution, one thing prevails: 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 prevails, who knows how much longer South Africa would’ve struggled with apartheid?
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 the success of their performance and implementation is still up to your capability as a leader.
This type of leadership results in an inspired workforce with an increased dedication in achieving the organization’s goals.
There are some who are born with certain characteristics that predispose them to be a leader. Communicating and influencing people come naturally for these individuals.
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 to be good leaders. In time, you can adapt these traits and you too can be one of them.
Here are the main characteristics common among the world’s most influential leaders:
A Complete Awareness of Oneself
On Marcus of PsySci’s 6 Ways Psychology Can Help You Become A Better Leader, he mentions that leaders should follow an outwardly spiraling path of growth. It starts with an awareness of oneself, to awareness of one’s place in a relationship, to an awareness of the other person’s place in the relationship. In order to become an effective leader, you must first start with getting to know yourself fully.
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 are able to 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 it. And that’s not exactly the trait of a true leader.
There are many ways you can try to help you gain a better understanding of yourself. You could try personality tests. I think this one really does give out a ‘freakishly accurate’ description of who I am, and why I do the things I do.
Another method is writing. By writing regularly, you are able to explore your inner self and uncover your subconscious thoughts and fears. Having knowledge of 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
It’s the powerful force that gave the British hope and led them to victory as they stood their ground when everyone else has already surrendered to the Germans; the catalyst that drove Americans to push for civil right laws and fight for equality at a time when racial discrimination ruled the country. It was the confidence instilled to 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 their people into working towards 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 that.
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 strong 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 thing” and not an “I thing.”
A true leader isn’t one that simply orders their people around. It’s one that 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 own personal interests are not true leaders. A true leader should be one who works alongside their people in working towards a common goal that everyone willingly wants to achieve.
They set a good example, display competence and a genuine character, commits to a purpose, keeps their word, and looks after the best interests of their people in order to gain their 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. Encourage them to make their own choices.
Respect and have faith in their decisions. An organization where employees are empowered and cared for is one where 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 are capable of doing great things, and they make 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.
It was Gandhi’s persistence and passion in putting an end to discrimination that led people to rally behind him as he staged a 24-day march to the sea as a protest against the British salt monopoly. The event that took place 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 need individuals with a clear vision of what they want to achieve for the organization and will inspire (not control) people into achieving 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 in a way that distinguishes 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 in turning 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 be able to represent themselves in terms of the members’ understanding of their in-group by embodying the group’s 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 to make them matter as well. 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 in which the group’s values are lived out and in which its potential is fulfilled.
There is no specific set of ways to become a great leader. Each person has their own 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 We Become Better Leaders?
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