Saying that you are a leader and actually being a leader are two very different things. While anyone can say that they are a leader, it takes practice and intention to actually be one. In order to truly lead any group, whether that’s employees at work or your family at home, you must apply specific principles to your daily actions and, no matter how difficult it might be, stick to them.
And, before we get any further, let’s remind ourselves that everyone is actually in a position to lead. There are no specific requirements or job titles that must be accepted to be a leader. Whether you are a CEO, a stay-at-home mom, a cook, or a bus driver, we are all given opportunities to lead. It is, then, just up to us to decide what to do with our leadership responsibilities.
As such, it’s no wonder that the definition of “leader” is different from person to person, culture to culture. For many people, a leader is simply someone who tells them and others what to do. Any real leader, however, will tell you that this definition is only a small fraction of the role, and one of the least important at that.
A true leader leads by example, plans ahead, overcomes obstacles, perseveres, and is someone who values others, taking the time to listen and guide by putting the needs of others first. When an individual is mindful of this, people, whether employees or children, naturally come to them for help, advice, and guidance, putting them in a leadership position without the leader necessarily having to have the authoritative power that comes with the role.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that directives or decisions that aren’t popular never have to be taken. These elements are also part of the role, or actually these are part of life. But, when doing so, a leader does so calmly and intelligently, making sure everyone understands the reasons why while also treating everyone respectfully. This way orders will be followed and change will be accepted because the nature of the relationship is based on trust and respect.
To begin acting like a true leader in your private and professional life, here are five smart ways to get started:
1. Always Tell the Truth.
No great leader ever keeps things hidden from others. And they never say something they don’t mean or can’t follow through with. To become an incredible leader in your life, make honesty and integrity your number one guiding principles.
2. Act the Part
Towing a line between leader and “part of the group” is not necessary. Many would-be great leaders find them trapped in between these two worlds, either never finding a way out or compromising on trust. True leaders are simply part of the group, leading from the front, standing side by side, treating followers as equals, taking care of each and every one.
3. Treat Humans Like Humans
Whether your children at home or your colleagues at work, everyone is human. Although it’s easy to let work, responsibilities, deadlines, etc. blind you from this, as a leader you need to make sure everyone is treated fairly and respectfully. Ask yourself, “Is this something I would like for myself?” or, “Is this how I would want my customers to be treated?” If the answer is “no,” rethink your actions and try another direction.
4. Value Growth in All Areas of Life
Leaders respect people and they want to see them thrive. Show real interest and offer opportunities for people to grow, giving them time and access to things that make them excited and happy and you’ll be recognized for your leadership. When they are doing well, you’ll be doing well.
5. Start the Conversation
The best leaders are constantly asking questions and engaging people. They don’t wait for problems to come to them. They anticipate always and are active with the people they lead. Communicating with the purpose of making others (feel) better rather than making you (feel) better is the trait of a true leader.
Becoming a great leader doesn’t happen overnight. It takes consistent daily practice to make these elements become part of your habits, part of your persona.