When you think of someone with leadership skills, do you see someone who carries your group to an A+ in your business class? A yes-man who plays hero at work to show off for the boss? Nope. Those aren’t leaders. You don’t want to work with those people and definitely don’t want to follow them.
Sometimes, it may feel like the leaders in your past were just talented, or were given their position without merit. Nine times out of 10, though, that’s not the case. Leaders have to work hard to develop their skills, which they sharpen over time through various experiences, successes, and even failures. These are the people you want to surround yourself with and learn from. If you don’t have someone who can mentor you in leadership, don’t worry—these seven qualities of a successful leader are a good place to start.
You can’t dive right into a group project or team-based activity without first setting an end goal. The best way to set up goals is to ask yourself a question: are my goals SMART? SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Once you’ve outlined your project, start with some small objectives and build your strategy out from there.
2. Be a team player
What stands out to most higher-ups is not a do-it-all who refuses to ask for help, it’s team-based leadership. You have to instill a sense of comradery. Show and prove your commitment to your team over and over again. You cannot walk into a group setting with a cape on, ready to stand out among the rest of the group. You have to be the one willing to empower others.
3. Find your boulder(s) first, pick up the pebbles later.
Yes, this is a silly analogy. But the most crucial parts of a project are usually the hardest. They often take a lot of time and require the most attention. And the “pebble” assignments should take no time at all, and most likely these tasks can be handled by one individual. So when you begin a project, the best thing to do is identify what parts of the project will take the longest, and take a stab at knocking those parts out first.
4. Cool as a cucumber
Adapt, keep up with changes, and have a back-up plan. Remain task-oriented and continue moving through a project even if your entire team cannot meet in person. Find ways to connect with your team, hold them accountable, and offer guidance throughout the process. If you hit a bump in the road, don’t get down and be the first to complain. Work your way around it, and strive to do the best job that you can, even when it’s tough.
One of the essential qualities a leader needs is the ability to communicate effectively. Leaders must instruct, motivate, praise, and discipline their team. If they lack in the communication department, these processes aren’t as effective and often fall apart. Another vital part of communication is listening. If you don’t listen to your group members, they won’t feel like an integral part of the team and you might even lose their respect.
6. Be resourceful
Many people think that asking for help shows others that you are weak. Leaders have to find a way to shift this train of thought and help their team understand that sometimes you need to lay your pride down to get the job done right. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when needed, but make sure that you’ve exhausted what’s already at your disposal first. Your teammates won’t appreciate it when you ask where an infographic is when they’ve emailed it to you multiple times, or when you haven’t even taken the opportunity to look for the material yourself.
Leaders have one of the toughest jobs out there: teaching others to lead. If you want your teammates to help take the lead, you have to create a culture where leaders groom new leaders. When the individuals in your group feel empowered, they will be more likely to explore new limits, and make smart, team-oriented decisions on their own.
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” — Jack Welch
Every one of these qualities will help you become a more successful leader. Without these qualities, a person cannot rise to their full potential, nor can the group they’re trying to lead. Consistency will play a massive part in your efforts, so make sure you never take on one quality without fully committing to the list. Becoming a leader is a continuous process that you cannot shy away from once you decide to be one. Keep in mind that the more experience you have, the more your leadership skills will grow. And in turn, you will set the standard for up and coming leaders.