What’s the first word that comes to your mind when you think of the word “leader?”
Sometimes, the word “leader” makes you think of titles that are associated with it – CEO, Manager, Coach, Parent, etc. It’s easy to think of titles that carry a status with them which makes anyone with that title a “leader”.
At other times, the word “leader” makes you think of someone you know personally – a spouse, your manager, or a close friend.
Out of curiosity – when you heard the word “leader”, did you think of yourself?
Most people don’t think of themselves as a leader because it would seem overconfident or full of themselves.
News Flash: It doesn’t.
There is nothing wrong with considering yourself as a leader or wanting to become a leader. You may think of people who seem like natural leaders, but it took them a lot of practice and energy to make it look natural.
One of my favorite quotes is from author Marianne Williamson – “Your playing small does not serve the world.” The world needs a diverse set of leaders, and you shouldn’t resist the desire to become more of a leader. But what if you don’t know how to be a leader?
We want to share six techniques you can start practicing today to develop yourself into more of a leader.
Walk the Walk
Before you can be seen as a leader, you need to be seen as someone who people would want to follow. I can’t ask you to do something that I’m not willing to do myself. People gravitate towards others who are willing to go through tough times and good times and embrace the challenge. You can’t lead until you set the example.
The quickest way to be seen as someone who is not part of the team is by avoiding responsibility or acting like a “know-it-all”. Being a leader means admitting you have opportunities to grow and admitting when you made a mistake. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone is going to make a mistake at some point. A leader says “Ok, I made this mistake. How can I prevent it from happening again?” By focusing on the solution instead of the problem, you show people you are somebody who wants to help others succeed.
Every person you consider “great” became great because someone took the time to help them become great. A true leader serves other people. The best leaders I know are not higher in job status – they are teammates and colleagues. Having a certain job title doesn’t make you a great leader and being a great leader doesn’t mean you need to have a certain job title. Whether it’s another team member at work or a neighbor, helping others shows your commitment to their success. That’s the type of person people want to follow.
Check for Understanding
Typical leaders are used to barking orders and expecting everyone to figure it out. A leader is someone who not only communicates well but also checks for understanding to make sure they communicated well. For example, whenever you are working with someone and giving them a task or project, ask questions like…
- What questions do you have for me?
- What concerns do you have about this?
- What help do you need from me?
- How will we know this project is successful?
Notice how all of these are open-ended questions where the person cannot give a typical “Yes” or “No” answer. When you ask questions like these, you make the other person feel comfortable in having a conversation. A leader creates conversation instead of one-way instructions. When you communicate in this way, it shows the other person you care about helping them be successful in whatever the task/project is.
Take in Interest in Others
It doesn’t matter what type of personality you have – people want to feel valued and important. The most effective leaders take a genuine interest in their team – their hobbies, family life, and so on. Some of these things may be work-related, and some may not, but they are important because those make up who those people are. When someone shows they remember my children’s names or my favorite sports teams, it shows they care about me as a person. When I feel that they care, I’m more willing to do what I can do help them succeed.
This is the most important technique in this list because you need to do this consistently if you want to be a leader.
- You can’t become a role model if you’re not consciously thinking about your behaviors
- You can’t be vulnerable if you don’t take the time to admit you are human
- You can’t help others if you are too focused on your success
- You can’t check for understanding if you were not listening to the person in the first place
- You can’t be interested in someone if you’re not focused on what they are telling you
Being present is as simple as showing the other person you are focusing on them, and only them, during your conversation. This means not checking your phone or not typing an e-mail.
When you are present for others, you learn critical information about their challenges, strengths, and perspectives. A leader knows how to take this information and use it to help the other person succeed.
A leader is focused on others instead of themselves. They want to help other people succeed because they know other people’s success is their success. In a world of uncertainty, people need leaders to look up to. By practicing these behaviors, you can become more a leader and in turn, become someone people want to help succeed.