What do leaders do? Leadership is a quality many people can agree is admirable and desired. It is a skill that is developed in life by personal or professional experiences, by intentional design or not. Think of two leaders, whom you admire and respect. What do they do that is so different from others? What traits do they have that help them achieve great results? Chances are, it was not difficult for you to think of a leader in your own life.
Being a leader takes work. It requires changing your relationships and commitment to results. The journey of a leader is uniquely personal. But as a leader, you need to understand the specific traits that will help you achieve high levels of success in your career, business, and team. Even if you do not consider yourself a leader now, practicing leadership skills has the potential to transform the trajectory of your life and how you get things done.
In the book The Leadership Challenge (3rd Edition, 2002), Kouzes and Posner outline five leadership practices that help great leaders face challenging events, produce results and reach new heights. They are:
- Model the way. A leader must demonstrate the behavior that wins respect by modeling the behavior the leader expects from others. If you have a clear idea of your own guiding principles, your leadership style will naturally develop, and it will it allow others to follow with clarity. People first follow the person, then the plan.
- Inspire a shared vision. Leaders dream of what is possible and act confidently to deliver extraordinary things. A leader knows how to identify an opportunity to grow and can inspire others to act on that vision. People like to follow leaders with great vision because their vision also creates ownership and builds on the desires and dreams of others.
- Challenge the process. Leaders are not afraid to search and accept challenges as they come. Challenges are viewed as opportunities to develop innovative ideas and transform the status quo. Being open to learn new things and rise up from failures are the markings of a great leader.
- Enable others to act. Leaders knows they cannot do all the work alone and appreciates the power of team effort. They find it important to foster collaboration and build trust by enabling others to do good work. A leader provides all the tools needed to do a job successfully and leverages talent accordingly.
- Encourage the heart. Great leaders prioritize appreciation in people for their commitment and contribution to a goal. Moments of appreciation allow the leader to get a better sense of team members’ motivations to shape team identity and facilitate guidance during difficult times.
You do not need a title or job description to be a great leader. Leaders focus on the simple and courageous acts to do things others may not have the ability to do. The great news is that each of these practices can be applied and practiced over time, setting a strong example for others to follow.
EDGAR RAFAEL OLIVO is a bilingual business educator, economic advisor, and contributor for several media outlets. He’s a nonprofit executive who is passionate about education. He is certified in finance and data analytics and holds a business degree from Arizona State University.
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