If you search Merriam-Webster for the meaning of “leader,” you will find some interesting definitions:
- Something that leads: such as something that ranks first
- A person who leads: such as a person who has commanding authority or influence
Now, think of those in leadership in your life. Do they line up with these definitions of a leader? What about you? Would others say you lined up with these descriptions? Effective leadership is achievable when you work at building the leader-muscles in you. Here’s a quick list of the traits that leaders possess so you can begin exercising these muscles in your next leadership workout:
- Self-manage: Make a list in your planner or phone that outlines your goals for the week and how you plan to achieve them. You cannot manage others if you cannot manage yourself.
- Good communication: Many of us have heard the phrase “You have two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you talk.” An effective leader “knows when to talk and when to listen.” Leaders can communicate company goals and tasks to all levels in the organization and can gather information from all levels by listening.
- Accountability: A successful manager gives credit where it is due and is not afraid to take responsibility for mistakes made by them or the team. Shifting blame does nothing more than undermine your team. Taking all the praise does the same thing. Leaders evenly distribute both in a respectful manner.
- Promote teamwork: When building a team it is important for the leader to create a culture of teamwork. This is beyond the task of sharing workload, it is also the leader’s skill of team-led problem-solving, communication, and reliability.
- Set clear goals with vision: Good employees can follow instructions and complete tasks. Good leaders share vision and good employees are motivated by it. “Vision can be defined as a picture in the leader’s imagination that motivates people to action when communicated compellingly, passionately and clearly.”
Just as you cannot build strong muscles in your body by occasionally going to the gym, you cannot shape leadership muscles by sporadically flexing these traits—you have to work them out daily. This means you are doing the hard work of leading a team at all times and as you build your team’s culture of respect and cooperation, you will prove yourself to be effective.