When we see leaders in action, it is hard to not admire them. We all have role models in our lives who impact us. Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, Seth Godin has been my role model. He’s a leader.
As we see the leaders in action, we can’t help but ask ourselves, “What makes a great leader?” Leaders possess many characteristics that lead to the role model status. These are seven of those characteristics.
#1: Always Learning
No matter how successful a leader becomes, that leader will always continue learning. Seth Godin spends a large percentage of his time reading through business books. The top professional athletes are learning more ways to play the game differently. Even though it’s against my team, this Mike Trout slide proves my point. He’s one of the best in the game, but he is still learning more about the game.
The leaders are often students to this day. It’s hard to teach or do something without learning it first. If you want to teach or do something very well, you need to spend more time learning. Some leaders commit their lives to learning a particular skill. Even when they are considered the best in the world at a particular skill, leaders continue learning.
Ah yes, the “I” word. You can learn everything there is to know about your niche. However, if you don’t implement, then the knowledge does not mean anything to do. Implemented knowledge is power. Knowledge that doesn’t get implemented doesn’t mean much.
When you implement what you learn, implement in small steps. Rome wasn’t build in one day, and all of the leaders failed their way to success. Look up these leaders biographies and see what they went through. When I say Bill Gates, most people think of Microsoft. Few people who hear “Bill Gates” think of Traf-O-Data (and you thought MySpace was ancient).
#3: Understanding Opportunities
We understand the part about looking for opportunities. We search and explore because the common perception is that opportunity doesn’t come to you, but rather, you go to it. Social media experts tend look at every social network as the next opportunity. We have many opportunities that we can chase after, and that’s a good thing.
But sometimes we are in such pursuit for opportunities that we don’t acknowledge the opportunities at the door. Some of them knock on the door but then leave because no one opened the door.
When opportunity comes knocking, open the door. Naturally, not all opportunities will come to you, but some of them do. Some of them seem plain obvious. Maybe you discovered the opportunity and forgot about it. Then the opportunity comes knocking. If the opportunity is worthy, then open the door.
Not all opportunities are created equal. Leaders end up saying no more times than they say yes. However, at some point, all leaders pick a few opportunities that they will focus most of their time on. If you explore but don’t do anything, then you aren’t utilizing any of the opportunities.
Leaders are confident in themselves and their abilities. No matter what the world says about them, leaders don’t care. When you are confident in yourself and what you do, you approach your work differently. Instead of wondering if your work means anything, you ask yourself how you can produce better work for the world.
Confidence in oneself removes the barrier of self-doubt. It is a barrier that holds back too many people. When you are confident, that barrier goes away, and then you can show the world what you’re made of.
Every leader is an expert on productivity. When I think of productive leaders, it doesn’t take me long to think of Jack Dorsey. He is the CEO of Square and the interim CEO of Twitter. While he’s the CEO of both companies, Dorsey works for Twitter for eight hours every day. Then he works at Square for eight hours every day. That’s as productive as productivity gets.
You don’t have to make that kind of commitment to be a leader. But there are small things you can do each day that will move you closer to becoming a leader:
- Plan out your day the night before. Leaders don’t leave any day to chance. Every night just before bed, they plan out what they will do the next day. Write what you want to do for the day on a sticky note. Then leave that sticky note by your computer and go to bed.
- Be happy. Listen to the right music, reconnect with yourself, and do things that you enjoy. If you are not happy, you will be miserable. People don’t become leaders by being miserable.
- Do a little each day. Rome wasn’t built in one day. But if you do something every day, it becomes a habit. I started playing the piano again last August. It felt awkward. Now it’s November and I play the piano every day by habit. I can’t imagine a day without it.
#6: Not Drunk In Their Success
Leaders are proud of their work. They admire what they do. At the same time, they don’t brag on their success. Not all leaders look like leaders to the naked eye. They don’t like taking credit but love what they do.
During his postseason run, Daniel Murphy quickly became one of the most admirable players on the Mets. If you needed a Mets player to hit a home run in the 2015 postseason, you eagerly waited for Daniel Murphy to step up to the plate.
He was in a great position. Many people in the same position would have bragged without end about hitting that many home runs in the postseason. Murphy doesn’t brag at all. He will talk about all of his other teammates and the opposing players. He won’t get to talk about himself and that is by choice. He thanked Jesus for those home runs. You don’t have to be a Christian to recognize Murphy’s strong character.
If you want to watch any baseball player’s postgame interviews, watch Murphy’s interviews.
Leaders are successful, but they don’t get drunk in the success. They don’t boast. Some leaders may state their credentials to boost their credibility. Leaders do it in a way that isn’t boastful. People who aren’t leaders turn it into a self-absorbed conversation.
#7: Willing To Take The Blame
Leaders may be role models, but they mess up. While we like to envision leaders as people at the top of a metaphorical Olympus, leaders are people too. They make mistakes. What separates a leader from the typical person is the ability to own up to a mistake.
Most people prefer to play the blame game. “Who can I reasonably blame so I get this responsibility off my back?” The blame game, in reality, merely produces a superficial sense of security.
Even if you get away with the blame game, the problem doesn’t really go away. You can make the same mistake again. It’s only a matter of time before the blame game catches up to each player. The blame game is just like a fight to the death video game. At some point, you lose.
Leaders take responsibility for their mistakes. This decision makes the leader a role model for employees and other people as well. People are so sick of the blame game that they love it when someone takes responsibility. However being too politically correct and over exaggerating the apology diminishes the effectiveness of that apology. Just a simple sorry will do.
Leaders possess characteristics that set them apart from the crowd. They love what they do with a passion. They are role models who inspire other people to take action. Leaders are the inspiration for next generation’s leaders. They lead by example and aren’t afraid to take action.
Which characteristics do you think make up all leaders? Which of these characteristics do you see most often in leaders? How do you define a leader? Sound off in the comments section below.