Learning to Lead in Business and in Life

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. [He or she] is the one who gets people to do the greatest things.”
—Ronald Reagan
Have you ever heard someone say something like, “She’s a natural born leader,” or “He’s got the natural skill set to effectively lead the team”? It might be tempting to assign an almost legendary quality to the leaders of our time and times gone by. Though some may have a natural propensity towards leading, probably having more to do with their personality than anything else, leadership is a learned skill. And those who might have a knack for the job don’t always end up becoming the most effective leaders. So what does it take to become a great leader? What are some common attributes great leaders usually share?

First, and perhaps foremost, the leader must become a visionary. The leader’s role, whether in politics, science, teaching, or business, is to foresee future success. And even if that vision of future success seems a bit indistinct and blurry at first, the leader must sharpen and focus that vision until it becomes a foreseeable goal. Once the leader knows where he or she is leading, then they can more effectively orient and inspire those who are following towards that end.
Next, the leader must have a keen sense of the team he or she is working with. What are your team’s strengths and weaknesses? How can you develop and hone the skills of the members of your team? A great leader knows how to draw the best out of people, how to inspire them to do their best work. He or she also understands the important role that each of the team members plays in achieving the goal and develops a strategy that capitalizes on and challenges the skill sets of each individual who works for him or her.
Once the vision is cast, the team is assembled, and the work has begun, conflicts will inevitably arise. Great leaders know this, understand this as a part of the process of success. When conflicts do arise, great leaders step in to listen, mediate, and work towards compromise. The importance of humility in this process cannot be overstated enough. Great leaders do not dismiss problems, or tell team members “to get over it,” but they listen carefully to the problem, seek to understand it, and work, corporately, towards a solution. Great leaders don’t achieve goals by shirking responsibility and deriding the concerns of others, but recognize that a team working in harmony is much more likely to achieve its goal and so works to resolve problems rather than ignore them.
Though these qualities are important in a successful business leader, they are equally as important in other leadership positions as well. Whether you find yourself in a leadership role at your church, in you family, on a sports team, or in your local government, developing these attributes will help you become not only a good leader, but a great one.

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