How to be a Leader

Today I went to a conference called “iLead” hosted by my school. It was a quiche sort of name and I really expected it to be another overdone sort of cliche rehashing of everything I’d ever heard on leadership. Happily, that was not the case at all. In fact, I am exceedingly glad to say that my experience was a both a refreshing and vital one. I cannot say that I am an expert on the topic of leadership, but I was thrust into a quasi-leadership role by simply being a first born in my family. I merely want to recount the details of what I learned today because I feel that they are crucial for anyone who is looking to improve their life.

How to be a Leader:

1. Leadership is Relational

Many people who are in leadership roles are frustrated by low turnout for their events in spite of good advertising. Truthfully, if you want to grow your following you must build relationships first. People are really busy and time is a commodity that they are reticent to spend frivolously. Building a real connection with someone will increase the likelihood that they will attend your event, or just be there for you in a time of need.

A good example of this is: a friend of yours tells you that they are going to be playing the lead role in the school play. They tell you how great it’s going to be and that you have to come see the play on opening night. Typically, you are probably going to be too busy to attend the school play, you have homework or a job that requires too much of your time. Because it is your friend in the play, you decide to go see it. There is a relationship that has time invested in it which persuades you to attend the play.

The point is, you increase your numbers when you intentionally spend time getting to know people and genuinely caring about them. This is not an easy or simple task and it leads us to our next point.

2. Habits (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)

Effective leaders work on their habits intentionally. If leadership is relational then leaders must make it a habit to build relationships well. Human beings tend to have preset ways of doing things. They tend to be right or left handed if they are right handed it doesn’t mean their left-hand doesn’t work. It simply means they are more practiced with and prefer using their right hand. Often times, habits must change if effective leadership is to be developed. Just as learning to write with your left hand is frustrating, difficult, and requires a great deal of practice, basing one’s leadership skills upon building relationships with those whom you lead demands the same kind of practice and dedication. It may not feel natural at first but eventually, it will be a skill that you will turn to on the daily.

A bad habit that a leader might display is to disregard those whom he leads. Anyone who has worked under a bad employer will likely be able to relate to this statement. If the boss makes it clear in words or in actions that they do not care about the employees, the employees will no longer perform their best for that boss. In fact, they will probably only do the bare minimum of what is required by the boss. They will not feel compelled to go the extra mile or work harder for that person, they may even look for other employment and leave the company when it is most convenient.

The ugly truth of the matter is that most leaders fail to grasp this concept. To be a great leader, it is important to actively care about those who are lower on the totem pole. A leader will never be thought of as truly great, unless he wins the affection of those within his sphere of influence, first and foremost. So practice the habits of good leadership: build relationships and genuinely care about others even if there is no intrinsic benefit. Be a service-oriented leader, ask how you can help others and follow through. A good leader is self-sacrificing, they put others first.

3. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The lyrics to the famous song “Respect” by Aretha Franklin put it  aptly “All I’m askin’ is for a little respect.” To be respected, a leader must first be worthy of respect. He must respect others. The speaker at “iLead” phrased it well “respect is treating people right, not because it’s required but because you genuinely believe that they deserve it.” To treat others with respect is one of the key habits of a good leader.

4. Maybe She’s Born with It, Maybe it’s Practice and Dedication

The famous adage that “leaders are born” is commonly touted. Upon reevaluation, however, is that statement true? Perhaps there are the lucky few that come from the womb with the genetic ability to effectively lead others and instinctively sense their single purpose in life. Unfortunately, that is a status reserved more for heroes of myth and movies than an actual reality. The reality is, leaders are made not born. Anytime two or more people are involved there is going to be a leader or an opportunity for leadership. This is even true for familial and dating relationships. Honestly, everyone will have the opportunity to be a leader in some capacity at some point in their lives. The nature of being human is to influence other humans actively or passively, for better or for worse.

A good leader makes conscious choices to serve others and use their inherent influence to accomplish their single purpose. A single purpose can be any goal central to a person’s motivation. For example, the single purpose of a company might be to better the lives of its customers through their product. The single purpose of a charity might be to uplift at-risk teens from dangerous home lives and help make them into stable and productive members of society. Everything that a leader does must point back to that central purpose. The central purpose should never be aimed at harming or taking advantage of those within your sphere of influence. That is a characteristic of a bad leader.

5. Mentor

Several things a leader should do often.

MMake time for kindness. Kindness is a rare commodity in today’s world. Being kind must be an intentional choice. Often times being kind requires a great deal of patience because the people who need kindness the most are those who are the most unkind. It is imperative that leaders are kind even to those who are unkind. A quote by John Nevins aptly surmises this idea “hurt people, hurt people.”

EEvaluate habits often and work towards developing positive ones while reducing negative ones. Objectively evaluating personal behaviors is one of the hardest things anyone can do. That’s partially what makes it all the more vital to attempt on a regular basis. For myself, I evaluate my behaviors through journaling and try to reflect on where my good intentions went south or why I achieved success. According to Nevins, as a person’s character is made up of the thousands of small choices they make every day. So it is vital to continually work towards making the right ones.

NNever give up. To have a persistent attitude in life will automatically make you a leader among your peers. People often don’t stick to their plans when the going gets tough. This is especially important in relationships: never give up on the ones you love.

TTake advice. A bad leader ignores advice from those around him. Proverbs 9:8 NIV says it perfectly “Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.” In other words, it is important to listen with an open mind when receiving criticism or suggestions. No one man has all the best ideas that can be thought of. Being willing to listen even under tense or adverse circumstances is a pillar of excellence.

OOrganize well. Being an organized leader is one of the more practical skills on this list. You will never be a highly effective leader if you’re showing up late all the time and forgetting things, or losing important documents. Be tidy, and find an organization pattern that fits your lifestyle.

R– Reach out to someone with more experience in leadership. Ask them about their success and what they wish they had done differently. It is important to learn history to prevent repeating it. This is where having an experienced mentor becomes vital. It is also important because even leaders need guidance and leadership.

6. Use A Love Potion (Just kidding)

Contrary to what is popularly put forth by the entertainment industry, there is more to love than simply being attracted to someone.  Unfortunately, we only have one word for love in the English language even though there are many different kinds of love. If you want to be an effective leader, you must love the people you’ve been put in charge of.

It is really important to sacrificially care about those you are in charge of. It will make all the difference in the long run. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” -Theodore Roosevelt.

That is the idea that I want to end on for this blog post. I normally end my posts with “glamour shots” that depict the final product of my work, but in this case, I would like the way I live my life to best reflect that idea. Please share this post if you enjoyed it, or found it to be meaningful! Until next time, this is DIY Craft Zibby signing out. Leadership

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