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How to be a Leader: A Short, Practical Guide

Updated on April 23, 2013

How to be the Leader

Being the leader of your workplace, office, social club, whatever can be exhausting if you don't know the mechanics of a true leader. To be a good leader you need to know what motivates people. Are you not a natural leader? That's OK! Being a good leader is not just personal qualities, it's actions anyone can take. You may not always need to lead, but in some cases someone will need to step up and take control of the situation. Here are some top tips on bringing out the best leader in you.

Leaders Are Not Managers

Often times, leaders make the worst managers. Why? Leaders are big picture. They are going somewhere. Mangers are nit-picky and look at the small details. This doesn't mean the leader can't do that, it just means they are more focused on where they are going than on where they currently are.

Why is this important? With managers, comes the statuesque. Not always a bad thing, but it is bad when you want to lead a group. Seriously, who would you rather work for; A manager or someone who had a vision? This means to sometimes get off your followers back and start moving forward yourself. You are not just setting rules, or even objections, you are giving them a direction.

Real Leaders Don't Have to Lead. They Are Content to Point the Way

True leaders are not power hungry or on a ego trip. They can point at a door without saying "Go In". They can give advice without saying, "now go do it". Leaders know that sometimes the passive way is the best way. Some people need to be pushed, others pulled. When dealing with different types of people, true leaders know how to say, "Let's pick up the pace", without saying anything at all.

Next time you are in a position to take the reigns think if telling someone or pointing the way is best. This can make you seem less overbearing and people will respect you more for it. No one likes the leader that relishes in the power. You can be that one person who someone can come to for advice, and not feel threatened. Building trust is the main ingredient to building loyalty. Loyalty is the essence of true leadership.

Real Leaders Have a Clear Vision

What's the big appeal about Sir Richard Branson? Besides starting eight-billion dollar companies, the guy has an insane work ethic. Why is this? He has a clear vision he is striving for. Branson can focus all of his energy entirely on to one path because he knows this is the direction he wants to go. Why is this good? Because people follow people who have a clear direction.

Think of other great leaders. They were all known for some particular thing or vision. It's only when you focus that you have any power. Think of a lamp. It's pretty harmless right? But take that same light and focus it. Now you have a powerful laser, which is literally focused energy. You can do the same with your's.

Real Leaders See Problems as Opportunities

Remember this, no one is going to pay you for solving a problem nobody has. Problems are not obstacles, they are potential lessons and profits. When the general of Leonidas, Dienekes, refused to back down to the messenger of the Persian Army in 300 Spartans
the messenger announced , "Our arrows will block out the sun". Dienekes, unfazed, replied, "Then we shall fight in the shade".

You can see this concept over and over in successful leader's lives. They encounter a problem, but don't see it as one. Instead, they take that as a chance to gain leverage or learn something new. If your followers see you not only unfazed by problems, but energized by them, it can mean all the difference for their moral and loyalty.

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Leaders Understand the Emotions of Their Followers

To know how to motivate, a leader must know emotions. This comes from a keen sense of observing the behavior of your followers. Notice how they react differently to different tasks or orders. Some, will need to be directed aggressively while others require less assistance. People have pain and reward thresholds. We can only take so much pain and do something for only so much reward. These are superficial motivators. What is one of the best motivators?

One of the best emotional motivators is progress. Not money, not pain, but knowing they are accomplishing something. Why is volunteering such a huge part of society? It pays you nothing, and you are not punished for not volunteering. However, you accomplished something. You made progress for a worthy cause. That's the emotional motivation! So take that to practical use. How can you get your followers to start making small accomplishments every day? This will start a snowball of momentum that you can keep growing while moral improves.

True Leaders Empower Their Followers

This may be the most crucial step in creating a lasting leadership presence. Giving up certain control to your followers can be huge for their trust and loyalty. Was it not a great motivator when your dad finally trusted you enough to drive the car by yourself? Did you not want to drive extra well just to impress him with the power he gave you? This is not necessary giving your power up, its more like delegating it.

This is a key aspect in Life Coaching. Because Life Coaching is not counseling, a Life Counselor doesn't give advice, instead, they ask questions to bring the correct answer out of the patient. The patient comes to their own conclusion, thus the training was much more effective. This also saves you time. If your followers know how you think they won't have to bug you about every problem. Tim Ferris talks about his in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek. Tim explains he gives his customer service reps the power to make decisions on situations dealing with less than $100. He has taught his followers to think like him, thus making him and his followers more effective and time efficient.

Want to dig deeper? These books can help.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

VERY interesting take on natural leaders and the formation of tribes.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Loved this book. Teaches you the basics of what really motivates us.



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