15 Secrets of the World’s Greatest Leaders

Leadership has always been an area where I try to improve and develop. It’s such an important ability as leaders are true change agents and have real influenced to make positive transformation.

There are many leaders that stand out to me as figures to learn from and emulate. Just to name a few would include Coach John Wooden, social and political figures like Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela, and business visionaries like Walt Disney or Steve Jobs.

It’s truly amazing what all of these people have done in their life.

Who stands out to you as a great leader?

A leader wears many hats and can include a coach, mentor, social figure, or anyone who influences you that you look up to.

As long as they embody the ability to connect with others, are genuinely caring, and inspire people to change for the better you have a leader in your midst.

Whether you consider yourself a leader in the grand scheme of things, or fulfill this role in your daily life, it’s always an area to develop greater competence and expertise. If you want to be a leader in the educational field, check out educational leadership programs that can teach you how to broaden your horizons and realize your true potential as a leader.

Below are some consistent dimensions that I believe many leaders uphold and that you can use to be more effective.

1. Be available

Be open to engage with others and respond to their needs. As you become a more respected leader you will be sought out for advice and guidance. It’s important we don’t get so busy that we can’t connect with others personally. The more influential you are the more people will want to engage with you, so be available as much as you can.

2. Promote participation

A great leader holds people accountable and promotes engagement from others. Leadership is about taking action and initiative ourselves, but also involves inspiring action in others through your leadership vision, and getting people motivated to live out the mission you represent. We can’t do everything on our own, so you must get people on board and inspired to perform.

3. Build relationships

Ultimately leadership is about the relationships you build. Establishing relationships built on trust, respect, and empowerment is the catalyst for getting others to take action and follow suite in a mission. The way we will transform others is by fostering healthy and devoted relationships.

4. Provide feedback

Providing people immediate feedback is a powerful way to modify behavior. As a leader, feedback must be presented as a positive learning experience. Helping others improve areas of weakness and build areas of strength provides people the opportunity to develop competence and allows them to immediately respond to feedback.

5. Allow mistakes

In the same vein as giving feedback, it’s important to let people be autonomous and try things for themselves. A leader can’t expect perfection and needs to allow their people to fail and try new options. Much of the innovation and creative developments come as a result of trial and error which is a direct avenue from failure.

6. Be a role model

A leader is respected when they walk the walk as well as talk the talk. A good rule of thumb I have learned is, don’t expect people to do something you wouldn’t do. People look to a leader as a mentor and model to learn from. If you hold a leadership position, model ethically desirable behaviors and live your life by example from your personally held beliefs.

7. Be a teacher

Offering people intellectual stimulation is a major factor in being a transformational leader. Be a leader that offers training and wisdom to your constituents. Encourage others to see issues from multiple perspectives, and question their own and others’ commonly held assumptions.

8. Have high expectations

When we treat people with the potential we know they have it expands their outlook of what’s possible. They may not be there yet, but a leader can help them get to the next level by expecting more from them. Communicate your high expectations to others in order to energize and inspire them.

9. Set motivating goals

Leaders help people set personal goals as well as business or team goals. People who are highly engaged and motivated in what they do are behaving based on personal goals. Everyone needs what’s called a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). A BHAG is an inspiring goal that gives us a vision for the future, and motivates and encourages us to advance. Help others set these big goals.

10. Share information

Be transparent and open with the people you influence. A leader that shares information will be seen as more authentic and will garner trust and loyalty. Keeping people informed and aware of what is going on also shows that we care for their opinion and respect their contribution. This allows for the opportunity to get input and deal with peoples’ personal concerns.

11. Reward and celebrate innovation and effort

Always remember to offer praise for people who attempt to make progress and remember the power of small improvements. Help others feel proud of themselves and see the level of dedication they have. When we work hard we want to be rewarded. Have unannounced celebrations to show you recognize accomplishments and hard work.

12. Grow experts

When a leader is fully achieving their potential they are able to cultivate and grow other people to be leaders as well. People development is right up a leaders alley and is a primary part of what true leadership is about. Helping others take a leadership role and expand their potential is a win/win scenario that opens up doors for everyone involved.

13. Say “thank you”

Showing your appreciation and gratitude for others time and energy is a wonderful motivator. It is often up to a leader to give people credit and let them know how valuable they are to the cause. Find ways to say “thank you” and express that you appreciate what others do.

14. Show your emotions

Don’t be afraid to be genuine and express how you feel. A leader will of course be courageous, enthusiastic, and have a positive attitude, however, I believe it’s also important to embrace vulnerability and be willing to connect with people in a moving way. Also be willing to listen to other people as they open up emotionally.

15.Be flexible

Dealing with people effectively and solving problems successfully requires we are able to be flexible. Pick your issues carefully when it comes to addressing concerns. Think outside of the box when it comes to finding solutions and be prepared for obstacles and unexpected situations.

We all have the chance to lead others and must be willing to heed the call.

We don’t have to be a high-profile, charismatic leader to be successful in what we do and make a significant impact on the world.

Leadership philosophies may vary, but many of the traits and characteristics that allow a leader to be successful and influential include the ideas presented above. Decide what attributes could help you be a more effective leader and begin developing yourself.

What do you think makes an outstanding leader? What examples or experiences do you as part of a team where you or someone else was a successful leader?

Photo credit: Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix)






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  • http://twitter.com/thebridgemaker Alex Blackwell

    Joe,

    The qualities (or secrets) you list are important. In my experience, numbers 3 (build relationships) and 13 (say, “thank you”) are two that are important to me. Until people knows the leader cares, no one cares to follow.

    Thanks for reminders of these important traits.

    Alex

  • Joe – Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I agree completing with your point about people knowing the leader cares. I think in any interaction, whether counseling, coaching, or leading, the other person must know we care. There is a saying, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

  • http://the100percentyou.com/ John Sherry

    Ok, the secrets are our now…so watch out, I’m going for world domination. Seriously Joe, sensibly well observed crietria of the nature of leaders and I’m with Alex on No.3, that forging and forming relationships is integral for leading with integrity and heart. Oh, and all leaders need to forget politics and lead for people, otherwise you only end us destroying what you built.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi John,

    Okay, maybe these aren’t such undiscovered secrets, but until we explore and begin to uncover what great leaders represent it can be tough to find the leader within us. That may be the secret, that we are all leaders if we connect with this part of us. Relationships are crucial when it comes to prompting change so certainly a major catalyst in transforming others.

  • http://Mazzastick.com Justin

    Hi Joe,
    One thing that I noticed with leaders are that they are often the least likely that we would think would make a good one. I used to think that good leaders are the loud and in your face type with huge egos but I have changed my perception.

    Many would agree that George Washington was a great leader or even Thomas Jefferson yet they were regarded as quiet introvert types.

    The best definition of a leader that I ever read was something along the lines of “A leader doesn’t say follow me, he says I’ll go first.”

    Take Care.

  • http://lifenotion.com/ Alex Mangini

    I think one of the most important things on the list is to build relationships. Who wants to do everything on their own? Who wants to be alone all the time?

    The relationships you make really make you a better person overall, and I feel like it’s best to have quality relationships with people rather than just creating relationships with people who you only talk to when you need something.

  • David

    Hi Joe,
    This is a fine list. All of these traits are available to anyone who wants to be a standout and/or enjoy a stand out Life.We all lead to some extent. Thank you for this.
    be good to yourself
    David

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Justin,

    You offer some great insight here! The idea that a leader must be charismatic and gregarious is often misleading (no pun intending). A leader just needs to inspire and touch people in an emotional way. Everyone who is willing to lead by example and spark action in others is a leader.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi Alex,

    Great to meet you! I really appreciate you stopping by and leaving your thoughts. This is so true when it comes to those loyal and respectable relationships. I have learned that relationships that really mean something are one’s where I talk with others on a deeper level and am able to engage in their life. It’s not all about work or formal interactions. I enjoy talking to them just for the sake of talking. I believe a leader who can be open and connect with others in this way has a much greater opportunity to make change as well.

  • Joe @ Shakeoffthegrind

    Hi David,

    Thanks for leaving your thoughts, I really appreciate it. We will all have our strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and by deciding where we want to grow and continue cultivating skills and prowess we can become a higher level leader.

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