Leadership has so many different definitions and meanings, not all of them just right or all wrong for many of us. I think true, enduring leadership is really something you grow into. There are common attributes like honesty, integrity, decisiveness, authority and respect that different people possess in different ways, but there is a certain presence; self-assuredness without arrogance, around some of the best leaders I’ve known that I think comes after many years of experience. These are the leaders that I remember best, want to emulate, and know that we need more of.
My advice for those seeking to be the best leaders they can is:
FIND A MENTOR OR COACH EARLY ON (AND FREQUENTLY). Someone you trust and respect to bounce ideas off and help you make better decisions in those gray areas and someone to help guide you on how to present ideas, not just what to say. Perceptions are formed early on, and style and tone are often more remembered than content.
DEVELOP YOUR INSTINCTS AND LEARN TO TRUST THEM. This becomes increasingly important as you are called upon to make tougher decisions.
BE WILLING TO ADMIT YOUR MISTAKES QUICKLY, AND FIX THEM. Resist the temptation to blame others, especially your staff. They never forget.
LEARN HOW TO EXPRESS YOUR EXPECTATIONS EARLY ON. It helps others to be successful and helps you avoid disappointment. It also creates an opportunity for dialog that builds a foundation of trust.
WORK CONSTANTLY ON BUILDING A GOOD REPUTATION. Guard it carefully and always. It is your shadow and will follow you your whole life, no matter how many times you change jobs.
YOU HAVE TWO EARS AND ONE MOUTH. Use them on that ratio. Listen to learn and to allow others time to hear themselves, too; sometimes that is all it takes to guide them to their own conclusions.
PURSUE EXCELLENCE IN YOURSELF AND IN OTHERS. You are never finished learning; don’t let others stop either. You need the best and brightest around you at all times.
LET PEOPLE KNOW YOU AND RESPECT YOU. Be consistent, maintain a constant state of integrity, be dependable and humble and say thank you.
HAVE FUN AT WORK AND AWAY. Cherish your family and friends and nurture those relationships. You set the tone for your staff; you will influence how much they enjoy their work as well.