Teach yourself to be a leader

What is it that makes some people natural leaders, and some not – and can you learn how to lead? Leadership means guiding your life and activities toward achieving your vision. We look at five ways of transforming your vision and purpose in leadership into reality.

Before we explore how you can learn to be a leader, ask yourself two questions:

Are you a leader of yourself? Are you leading your life or managing it? Leading involves taking your life to a new place and creating a new future. Managing is mostly about maintaining what is and making the most of it. Leadership is future focused. Managing is more present focused. Inspiring leaders lead themselves effectively.

Key principles of leadership

Here are five important leadership principles and related actions for making them real in your life:

1. Understand who you are and who you want to be

  • Ground yourself in today’s realities while being future oriented – and incorporate your aspirations and dreams into who you are today.
  • Find and pursue your passion and the possibilities it generates.
  • Define yourself (and your organisation) by what you are.
  • Make (sometimes difficult) choices to concentrate energy on your primary objectives.
  • Balance belief in yourself with humility.
  • Live your values and demonstrate strength of character.

2. Establish and build positive relationships

  • Invest in good relationships with others, including those closest to you, co-workers, customers/members, suppliers, other organisations, partners – and passers-by!
  • Foster teamwork and partnerships – and be a great partner and team player.
  • Surround yourself with great talent, then further develop and empower it.
  • Engage others and generate commitment.
  • Build trust.
  • “Pay it forward”.

3. Subordinate your own self-interest

  • Put the best interests of others and the goal you are striving to achieve above your own personal needs.
  • Help others succeed and fulfil their dreams.
  • Coach for success. Offer positive and constructive feedback.
  • Build and extend trust.
  • Develop the next generation of leaders.
  • Honour others: credit the contributions of others more than your own.

4. Role-model your vision

  • As a leader, once you know your vision, make the process of achieving it – both in what you do and how you do it – mirror the desired outcome.
  • Model your values and encourage others to model theirs.
  • Become a catalyst for your vision – so it’s dynamic, builds momentum, becomes a robust part of the culture in which you live and/or work, and reinforces your performance expectations.

5. Believe the “impossible” is possible

  • Set goals. Break down big challenges into pieces and tackle one step at a time – keeping your objectives in mind.
  • Develop and implement a focused strategy.
  • Challenge conventional thinking.
  • Develop new and innovative ideas and solutions.
  • Take smart risks to achieve objectives and to leapfrog ahead.
  • Think positively – generate energy, enthusiasm, drive, and determination.
  • Have fun – it’s contagious!

Naturally, you will be stronger in some of these areas than others. You needn’t excel in all of them. By practising and developing skills for as many as possible you can become a better leader of your own life and, if you choose, a leader of others. By being a model and inspiration for others, you build trust, credibility and loyalty and in the process you create a gratifying life for yourself.

With acknowledgement to Steve Weitzenkorn, adapted from the blog Find, Fulfil, Flourish.

newsletter signup