The following is a guest post by Tiffany Rowe. Tiffany is a Marketing Administrator at Seek Visibility, where she assists clients in contributing resourceful content throughout the web.
Great leaders are born, not made. That saying has tumbled through our culture for generations, seeping into our psyches and telling most of us that we just aren’t good enough – because we weren’t born that way.
Fortunately, that saying just isn’t true. The fact is there are no genetic markers for leadership qualities; leadership is not a dominant or recessive trait. Rather, a great leader is something a person becomes through experience and education. Babies aren’t filling C-suites around the world because it requires a lifetime of work to earn a top leadership position within a corporation.
Great leaders are made, not born. That might not be how the famous saying goes, but that’s the truth. Anyone who aspires to great business leadership positions has the power to attain them. Here’s the proof.
We Learn Confidence
Confidence underlies nearly everything we try and do. If you are confident about your abilities, you are more likely to succeed – regardless of your skill level. This is perhaps truer in leadership than in any other field. Fortunately, it doesn’t require formal schooling to boost your confidence levels.
Most psychologists believe that confidence is established in childhood, thanks to helpful or hurtful parenting practices. Adults with low self-esteem must work to reverse their ingrained responses, but it is possible to do so. You might try one of the following confidence-building tactics:
- List your strengths and achievements, and review that list often.
- Think two positive thoughts for every negative one.
- Live a healthy lifestyle, with a healthy diet, sufficient exercise, and adequate sleep.
- Set realistic challenges and complete them.
We Learn Cooperation
One of the most underappreciated qualities of a great leader is her or his ability to cooperate with a team. Leaders spend time coordinating and communicating with all sorts of groups, from superiors to peers to inferiors, so being effective as a team member is as important as being a team leader.
Cooperation is another trait that tends to be acquired (or not) in childhood, but concerted practice working in groups can help you perfect your abilities as a team member. You can gain this experience in education programs designed to produce leaders, such as online MBA programs.
We Learn Integrity
Leaders who lack integrity usually fail to be leaders for long. When you are in a position of power, you must command respect through your actions and words; you must prove yourself to be reliable and honorable to subordinates and bosses if you want to excel.
Fortunately, there is another academic field that will assist you in developing this vital leadership skill: business ethics. An old and complex field, ethics explores what it means to behave righteously, and today’s business leaders tend to be in desperate need of moral education.
We Learn Communication
Babies aren’t born with the ability to speak clearly and concisely – but all babies are born with the ability to acquire that skill. Every day, linguists learn more about the language acquisition process, and fortunately for aspiring leaders, they are certain that learning communication skills doesn’t begin and end at age 2.
Leaders must communicate effectively, or else their orders will never be followed correctly. Here are a few tips to successful communication:
- Listen more often than you speak.
- Be honest and willing to explain yourself.
- Pay attention to non-verbal cues, including body language and tone.
- Be constructive in your criticism.
- Know the importance of grammar.
We Learn Creativity
Often, we associate creativity with non-business professionals: artists, musicians, writers, etc. However, you need a healthy amount of creativity if you want to succeed as a leader. Everyone in business, from entrepreneurs to low-level grunts, should be able to think creatively at some level to help the business find newer, better ways of solving problems. Business leaders, especially, should be able to “think outside the box” to find more effective, productive solutions.
Creativity is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it grows. Therefore, it is possible to train yourself to be more creative and to be a better leader. You should also be able to identify creative minds and invite creativity into your teams, both of which require claiming some amount of the skill yourself.
We Learn Open-Mindedness
Perhaps as important as creativity – but dramatically more difficult to learn – is flexibility. There is a misconception that leaders are dogged in the pursuit of their goals, unwavering in their paths and unshakable in their beliefs. However, the truth is leaders must remain open-minded in regards to their goals, or they will likely fail with flying colors.
The key to becoming open-minded is to remember that you might not have the best solutions; your idea is not necessarily the only correct one, and it certainly isn’t the only one. You should take time to confront your fears, gain new experiences, and do other acts that put you out of your comfort zone. Then, you will be more flexible in how you lead your team.