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What Does it Actually Take to be a Great Leader?

Being a powerful and respected leader is a common dream. Many people romanticize about the experience of being a successful and inspiring boss.

However, sooner we realize that leadership isn’t really about giving order or commanding others, it’s more centered around the unity of people. While leadership is thought of as a modern-day life prerequisite, the truth of the matter is that we have always been leaders and always expected leaders in our lives.

As far back as 100,000 years ago, we had to rely on others for safety from imminent threats such as famine, predators and other tribes trying to take away resources and our kind. If it weren’t for order created by the leadership of a role model, no tribe would have survived. Trust is what makes leaders great, not fear.

Leaders and parents

It’s no wonder why most good leaders are good parents but not all parents are good leaders.

One of the best analogies for understanding great leadership is comparing the role of parents to the role of leaders. As a parent, you want to provide your child with opportunity, education, confidence, discipline, commitment, and passion. But this is not done for the gain of the parent, in fact, the good parent does everything in their capacity to help the child become a better version of themselves and a better version of their parents without expecting anything in return.

“Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency, and credit.”

— Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric

Authority and leadership

One of the greatest misconceptions people have is that leadership is a rank that people get to with years and years of work so that they finally get to order people around fueling the cycle of leader and follower. Nevertheless, authority does not equal leadership. People with authority might order people around, but they are neither followed nor trusted. A great leader sacrifices their own welfare, health, and opportunity so that others may have the chance to move forward.

As a result, the leader’s followers will always sacrifice for leaders in return.

The five traits of a great leader

No.1 Positivity

Emotions and mindsets are contagious and this becomes increasingly important when it comes to leadership roles. If a leader is confident, positive, and passionate, their team will have no problem mirroring those thoughts.

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” — General Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State

No.2 Proactive, not reactive

One of the greatest signs of maturity is when someone is able to be proactive when it comes to everyday situations. Life will throw at you the most random challenges and it is up to you to act. Great leaders work to solve problems, not react to them angrily and blame others for it.

"The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them."

-John Maxwell

No.3 Delegation

A good leader should know the importance of tasks that their team does. In fact, every good leader should engage in the activities of each team member. However, a great leader understands that the power of the team lies in the diversity of minds.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

– Ronald Reagan

While a great leader can do the task of their team members, they should delegate tasks to them so that they can do it to the best of their ability.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French writer and pioneering aviator.

No.4 Decisiveness

Having a decision and following through not only helps your goal and purpose come to fruition, but it also puts the minds of your followers to rest because it lets them know that the person at the helm of the ship is steering in the right direction.

“Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader.”

– General George S. Patton

Being decisive and knowing where to go is indicative of a strong leader.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

– John C. Maxwell

No.5 Passionate

Passionate leaders who can master the human emotion of passion are aware of the effects that emotions have on the team. While being objective and on the task is the base of your work, understanding the heart and morale of your team is vital for your success as a leader.

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

The Takeaway

There is an ongoing theme with all of these traits. They all require a certain level of commitment and determination.

Such qualities always come from within. It's also your passion for this venture that will save you from the depths of hardships and frustrations that come with leadership. In the end, the real secret to successful leadership lies in how powerful of a team you can build and how positive of a change you can engender. It all comes down to strong leadership skills.

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