Opportunities to be an effective leader exist in many roles each of us might play in everyday life – not just in business, as an owner or as someone’s supervisor.
Leadership isn’t just managing people or being responsible for their actions – it’s engaging others to participate in a given purpose or shared view. It’s nurturing a relational environment – in whatever given circumstance – where people feel inspired, empowered and supported so they can thrive.
You might be training a co-worker on a new office process, mentoring a younger person, encouraging positive behaviors within your family or cultivating more positive relationships with friends. You might be leading others in your business to rise to a challenge or higher potential. All of these situations require cultivating certain personal characteristics and behaviors that engender an essential ingredient for leading: influence.
Is This You? How to Spot a Leader
There are common characteristics I’ve observed in people over many years of coaching highly effective and influential leaders.
Perhaps some of the following characteristics have played out at times in your business and personal life and you’ve become more aware about cultivating them into your daily interactions.
- Leaders are people who have followers. Not subjects or persons who submit, but genuine followers.
- Leaders inspire confidence and see and nurture the potential in people.
- True leaders aren’t bullies. Leaders don’t inspire fear or dread in other people who interact with them.
- Leaders aren’t perfect, but they are courageous – they act from the heart. They’re vulnerable, but steadfast; imperfect, but resolute to try again.
- Leaders are honest and unapologetic about their humanity. They don’t mask their flaws or exert power to “one up” – which is unsustainable. “Powerful and influential” together can be sustainable. Influence is necessary to become a leader in the truest sense of the word.
Are you a leader? Everyone has the potential to bring forth the best in themselves to lead where it matters. Whatever your role may be, if you have a clear purpose, you can lead well to make a difference today.
Power and Influence in Becoming a Leader
There’s a difference between having power and having influence. Both are important for different reasons, but they’re not the same. Having power doesn’t automatically make you a leader. And not having it doesn’t mean you’re not a leader.
Power can be handy, but it doesn’t mean people will follow you or listen to you. You can’t buy authentic influence, but you can learn and earn it.
So, what generates positive power and influence? Respect and relationships. How do you generate respect and relationships? Below are several ways:
- Protect your tribe. People will walk through fire for a supervisor who sticks up for them. Is a client wreaking emotional distress on your advisors? Take care of it.
- Speak the plain truth while maintaining reasonable consideration for others’ feelings.
- Don’t begin your statement with apologies or explanations – just say what you need to say.
- Get over looking “stupid.”
- Recognize that impostor syndrome is normal. Nearly everybody has it when starting something new, like a new role or important relationship.
- If you’re in the midst of it, picture the future you want and do what that person does. But don’t go overboard – no one respects a fake. Be patient with yourself and keep it real.
- As much as possible, maintain a consistent calm composure and can-do attitude in good times and bad. Pay attention to your self-talk. Practice courage. People take cues from you.
Accept Looking ‘Stupid’ as a Price of Greatness
There’s a Galaxy Golf Commercial song that has the lyrics, “Inside every golfer is a better one. You know you can get better, we know we can help.”
Galaxy Golf recognizes the truth in this statement: Golfers aren’t afraid to fail. How many everyday people who play golf are good at it? Not that many.
Every day from my home office window, I watch people of all ages and abilities play golf. Most days, it’s the same brave, determined duffers whacking balls into trees, sending saucer-sized divots flying and bearing onward.
I can also guarantee that every one of those people thinks of themselves as a golfer, and they accept that looking awkward while trying is just part of the process.
The attraction of playing golf for many people is the endless yearning to be better, just like the Galaxy Golf commercial song says. They have a constant drive for personal improvement – the anticipation that the next time will be even better if I just fix one thing. I will, I can, I must!
Even pro golfers look and feel bad sometimes, but that doesn’t stop anyone from putting themselves out there and giving it all they’ve got.
The same is true when aspiring to lead others well and to be deserving of others following your lead.
Not Everyone Is Going to Like You: Be Authentic Anyway
Our chief marketing officer here at Carson Group said during a presentation at the Excell 2021 conference: “Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s OK.”
Not everyone will always be pleased with what you say or do. That’s OK. Accept that. But work to gain respect nonetheless and be pleasant to work with when you move into a leadership position and gain more influence.
One way is to be authentic, because respect comes when people see you for who you are and can relate to you. When people see you are unafraid to be yourself consistently – at work and elsewhere – they are more likely to trust and respect you.
Most rational people who don’t agree with you will still respect you. If they don’t, examine your delivery or behavior before blaming being scorned or labeled.
Some things to keep in mind:
- You can still deliver your message with respect.
- When you respect your authentic self, you have no need to apologize for or project a different version of yourself.
In addition, you will attract like-minded people. There is a saying that “Game recognizes game.”
Is your game honest and – despite imperfections and blunders – empathetic and kind to your fellow human? Do you try your best and act in the best interest of the good and those concerned? People who are like that will see that in you.
When people don’t see it – especially after you’ve been around them for a time – they likely won’t ever see it. It’s best not to concentrate on converting their thinking. It’s OK.
Challenges are Inevitable – Keep on Truckin’
An advisor I coach and I sometimes work on breaking through the inevitable challenges that arise from being a firm owner. As many of you know, too many of such challenges can make a person tired – maybe even make them dream about giving up sometimes.
One day, this advisor said to me, “I was telling my Dad that sometimes I’d just like to walk away from the whole thing and buy a bulldozer and do dirt work. My Dad said that would never work because it wouldn’t be a week before I’d be trying to figure out how to start more businesses out of it.”
I knew that to be entirely true and so did he, and we had a good laugh about it. What a great example of applying innate humor to ease stress. That advisor is nothing if not a leader. Even in moments of bewilderment, the man throws in a brave laugh and refuses to not see some hope.
Not everything works out well all the time. But that doesn’t mean you’re a bad leader just because the effort occasionally goes south. As a leader, if you are acting with good intentions but what you are trying to accomplish fails, you will, in all likelihood, live another day to try again. Right?
Leaders out there, in times of failure, focus on the fact that you did and learned something. Even if you lead a flop, no one can take that tendency to dream and apply yourself away from you. You’re still a leader no matter what.
The situation was a flop, not you. Keep your head up.
When things get challenging, remember to maintain the spirit of a courageous leader who cares about other people and to stay interested and care about things outside of your own pain. Outside circumstances might eventually affect you, so you need to pay attention to those things instead of floating along waiting for them to determine your fate.
To Sum It All Up
No matter your title, you are a leader. As such, you aren’t responsible for being captain of the world. To lead well, you are responsible to do what you do and be who you are – honorably and with goodwill – all while being authentic, maintaining respect for your stakeholders and colleagues and giving grace to yourself in challenging times.
No one demonstrates the methods of effective leadership all the time. But everyone can find opportunities to keep practicing and improving on these common leadership traits and behaviors to effectively lead when needs arise.
I hope you recognize a characteristic or behavior here that affirms the leadership qualities you already possess, no matter your title or life position. And I hope that by sharpening or implementing new attitudes and behaviors from these examples, you will help those around you flourish and stay inspired and positive in any circumstance.