How True Leaders Take Charge, Accept Responsibility and Embrace Innovation
It’s not easy being an effective leader. Mental toughness, determination, discipline, courage, trust—you must have all of these in abundance and more.
So, what exactly does it take to become a great leader? You will need just the right balance of these nine uncommon traits and characteristics.
1. Stand Up for Yourself
As humans, it’s natural for us to want everyone to like us; however, we also know that is simply unrealistic. It’s not a pleasant truth, but it’s the truth nonetheless—not everyone is going to like you.
Therefore, a leader has to be willing to stand up for herself and the principles on which she will not compromise. Don’t go out of your way to displease others as a show of strength, but always remember to speak up and demand the respect you deserve.
3. Live in the Present
There is a difference between understanding and acknowledging the past and being consumed by it. To that same effect, while it’s good to dream, you have to remember that you’re not living in your dream. Only by being mindful and living in the present can you apply the lessons of the past while also taking the steps that will turn your dreams into a reality.
If you spend all of your time fantasizing about the past or what you’re going to do in the future, you’ll miss-out on the opportunities of the present. As Yoda said in criticism of the young Luke Skywalker, “All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was or what he was doing.”
3. Embrace Innovation
It stands to reason that you can’t lead people forward while standing in place. The world changes constantly, and if we refuse to embrace that change, we will get left in the dust. As Monica Cardone said in an interview, “we live or die by innovation.”
Naturally, great leaders doesn’t simply hop on board every trend they come across. However, true leaders do not fear change; rather they fear complacency and stagnation. Anyone who aspires to be a pioneer knows that there is always room to improve, and a leader who tries to avoid change is no leader at all.
4. Take Calculated Risks
As mentioned before, leaders are not afraid of taking a risk and embracing innovation. However, there is a big difference between a foolish gamble and a calculated risk.
Effective leaders will look at every decision and weigh each of the options carefully. Once they’ve looks at the positives and negatives of each option, they will make a decision, take action and follow through. In some cases, the more conservative choice is right, while other times the riskier option is best. Even if their risk doesn’t pan out, leaders will still know they made the appropriate choice given the options.
5. Learn from Failure
We’ve all heard the old line about mistakes being a learning opportunity. Well, it’s as true today as it was when it was first uttered.
Everyone is going to make mistakes—in fact, they’re probably going to make a lot of them. Mistakes are okay, as long as we own our mistakes, take responsibility for them and adjust our behaviors accordingly. In order to be a successful leader, you have to be your own harshest critic, as well as your own toughest teacher. Pick out every mistake, then dig until you find the lesson.
6. Don’t Waste Time Playing the Victim
If things don’t turn out the way you want them to, are you going to sit around crying about it? All of the time you waste moping is time you could instead be investing in learning from your mistakes and turning your failures into future successes.
Even if something isn’t technically their fault, leaders don’t shy away from responsibility. They accept it, they learn, then they move on.
“Stop validating your victim mentality,” Dr. Steve Maraboli wrote in the book Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience. As a leader, you have no choice but to accept reality, even if you think it’s unfair, and then do what you can to improve your situation. “Shake off your self-defeating drama and embrace your innate ability to recover and achieve.”
7. Ability to Delegate Tasks and Trust People
Imagine you have a loaf of bread. It may be pretty big, but it’s not infinite—there is still a limit to how much bread you can physically have. Now, the more people you have demanding a share of that bread, the smaller each chunk of bread is going to be.
Your attention span works the same as that bread—the more you divide it, the less there is dedicated to each specific task. No matter how energetic you may be, each of us only has so many hours in the day, and there is a limit to the attention we can apply to any one thing.
Leaders don’t become leaders by doing everything themselves. They have to be able to delegate a lot of tasks to others, and they have to be able to trust that those people can get the job done without the need for micromanaging. That’s why leaders surround themselves with people they can trust.
8. Working Smarter, Not Harder
As the creator of the theory of Work Simplification, Allan F. Mogensen, famously stated back in the 1930s, “work smarter, not harder.”
Hard work is a virtue; however, there’s no benefit to working harder or longer than is necessary. Leaders don’t look for cheap shortcuts, but they do evaluate their options to find the most direct, efficient route to the solution they need.
What Mogensen meant is that by planning carefully, we can maximize our output and be more productive without wasting time, energy and resources. Think also of the phrase “measure twice, cut once”—when you take a moment to plan your moves, you will find that you end up saving a lot of time and grief in the long run. Leaders don’t force people to work harder as a result of their mistakes; instead, leaders plan carefully, then execute quickly.