Whether you are already a leader or aspire to be one, here is a quick checklist that is always helpful no matter your level of experience.
Become a good follower first. Rare is the effective leader who didn’t learn to become a good follower first. The service institutions realize and teach that. In fact, it may be the major distinction between West Point and the Harvard Business School, and why West Point has produced more leaders than the Harvard Business School.
Focus upon what you DO want and not upon what you DON’T want. This is the useful leverage of the Law of Attraction, but it is sad how we focus and feed ourselves with limiting information and beliefs expecting to get positive outcomes.
Let go of your ego. The truly great leaders are not in leadership for personal gain or to prove their worthiness to others. They lead in order to serve other people. Perhaps that is why Lawrence D. Bell remarked, “Show me a man who cannot bother to do little things, and I’ll show you a man who cannot be trusted to do big things.”
Ask Good Questions. The quality of the questions we ask not only in leadership, but also in life determines the quality of our existence. Ask empowering questions and you will elicit powerful answers. Ask limiting ones and you will gather limiting thoughts and ideas. And then listen for the answers!
Build Your Mentoring Skills. There is not a valuable leader who does not also successfully develop other leaders while leading.
Build positive relationships. Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. That means it is by nature relational. Today’s generation of leaders seem particularly aware of this because title and position mean so little to them. They know intuitively that people go along with people they get along with and trust.
Develop a healthy personal regimen. Energy and how we use it determines how we use our most limited resource – time. If your energy is off, you simply can’t be as effective. Good sleep, a healthy diet of moderation, regular exercise, quiet time, and the like all enable us to have better energy.
Shoot for perfection, but settle for excellence. The cost of perfection for you, your family, business, and everyone around you is astronomical. Work with excellence. No one respects and follows mediocrity. Make adding value your goal. When you look at the leaders whose names are revered long after they have finished leading, you find that they were men and women who helped people to live better lives and reach their potential. That is the highest calling of leadership – and its highest value. Ask yourself “How can I contribute to those around me?”
Rely on discipline, not emotion. Leadership is often easy during the good times. It’s when everything seems to be against you – when you’re out of energy, and you don’t want to lead – that you earn your place as a leader. During every season of life, leaders face crucial moments when they must choose between gearing up or giving up. To make it through those times, rely on the rock of discipline, not the shifting sand of emotion. Better yet, if you can add joy to the equation, you supercharge it – a term I’ve trademarked called “Bliss-ipline.”
Operate from a position of love and abundance rather than fear and scarcity. For example, Give your power away and communicate. One of the ironies of leadership is that you become a better leader by sharing whatever power you have, not by saving it all for yourself. Are you a river, or a reservoir? Genuine leaders are “rivers.” (Reservoirs can get stagnant.) If you use your power to empower others, your leadership will extend far beyond your grasp.
“Walk the Talk.” You reveal true integrity when you practice what you preach. As the leader of virtually anything, those who follow you will observe you like a hawk. Failure to do, and to act as you say, spells “phony” and will sabotage the best efforts to lead. With any changes, begin with yourself. You have unlimited power to affect change within. Unfortunately, many leaders overestimate their ability to change other,s and sometimes you simply must detach from the outcome and enjoy the journey.