Successful leaders are hard to find. The culprit behind this enormous change is our increasingly selfish, self-centred, self-absorbed “Me” culture courtesy of our growing obsession with personal branding and social media.
While that’s unfortunate, there is an unforeseen silver lining. If you have a burning desire to accomplish great things and be a successful project leader, you’ve got less opposition than ever before. All you’ve got to do is break from the regular crowd and embrace the seven simply traits that I believe make great project leaders, well, great.
1. Successful Leaders are Highly Authentic
“I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.” Oprah Winfrey. It’s true; you can make it big with an enormous ego and an imposing personality. How else do you explain Donald Trump, with all due respect, of course? Customers, employees, and media all want to help authentic people to succeed. Leaders never try to be something they aren’t. I’d like to think of it as standing in your own truth. If you don’t know something, admit it. This is not just an endearing quality; it’s an extremely underrated and powerful leadership trait, as well. If you don’t agree with a statement someone else has made, don’t grin and bare it. Instead, honestly admit that you don’t see it the same way as the other person. Tomorrow’s leaders are transparent about who they are online, merging their personal and professional lives together. Warren Bennis had a knack for making stellar leadership seem both rare and attainable. “Becoming a leader,” he wrote, “is synonymous with becoming yourself. As a leader, you have no greater leverage than the truth.
2. Good Leaders Never Stop Learning
Are leaders born or made? The answer is both. Some amazing people enter the world with a natural ability to lead and attract followers, while other leaders are nurtured. However, I’ve never known a successful leader who lacked intelligence, critical-thinking skills, and an honest thirst for more knowledge. The key is to be curious. If you can master this you will be in good company. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Curiosity makes you want to figure out why things happen and why people react in certain ways. It makes you want to read and write and talk to others about topics that interest you.
3. Successful Leaders are ultra-Likable
Most people have succumb to an incorrect belief that being likeable comes from natural, unteachable qualities that belong only to a lucky few–the good looking, socialites, and the astonishingly talented. However, I’d like to remind you that social skills, like any skills, are completely learn-able and will help you in your job and life. We often lose sight of the simple things – things that not only make us human, but can actually help us become more successful. Making a better impression on those around you and developing a stronger reputation can go a long way. The art of touch is equally important if you want to become more likeable. Touching eliminates the physical barrier of distance, and so it eliminates the emotional barrier that the distance represents.
4. Successful Leaders are Emotionally Secure
Insecurity runs through leadership in epic proportions. The trick is to discover and intercept the warning signs of insecurity within yourself. Successful leader’s don’t come from a place of insecurity. If you want to lead for the long haul, you need to be an emotionally secure person. You need to understood who you are, where you are from and where you are going and have an incredible clarity of mission and purpose. Start from a positive place and others will notice. Our insecurities kill our confidence. Learn how to recognize them within yourself, so you can eliminate them.
5. Successful Leaders are Fearless
I’m considered a very “safe” person. I tend to be very risk averse and only take a chance on something when I’ve analysed and calculated it to the extent that it is no longer a risk. Demonstrating leadership courage – whether it’s having an uncomfortable conversation, communicating when you don’t have all the answers, or making a decision to move ahead on a new project — can be scary.
However, I’ve never known a great project leader to back down from a challenge on an issue he or she felt strongly about. It’s time to ditch the rose-coloured glasses and face the facts. Real conversations may be awkward and uncomfortable, especially if conflict is involved. Expect people to perform and deliver on their commitments, and have courage to call them out when they don’t follow through. Remember that accountability begins with you so model the behaviours you expect of others.
6. Successful Leaders are Positive
“The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change by merely changing his attitude.” — Oprah Winfrey
Positive leaders have a natural tendency to look at the cup as half full, not half empty and focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do. Positive people also have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously! They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life. They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe. Isn’t it enough that we have persistent negativity in news, on our homepages, and on social media. Be a light in a world. Being positive will make you a pleasure to talk to and more people will want be around you.
“Leaders are called to believe and see a beautiful, bright and expansive future for those who can’t see one for themselves.” Dean Jones
7. The Best Leaders Know How to Listen
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway
Listening is a leadership responsibility that never appears in the job description. The workplace is fuelled with the stress and pressure of each day so when employees say they want their voices to be heard, they are really saying they want leaders who will not just hear them, but really listen to them. Great leaders listen to people and are open to new ideas. They know how to balance the head and the heart. If you are an old-school leader, don’t be afraid to express sentiment or feel that it will weaken your stature or authority as a leader. Ronald Reagan was a master of showing empathy towards others.
If you foster the above qualities, you’ll join the ranks of those who spend their holidays with friends, their sunsets at dinner parties, and their workdays surrounded by people that love and respect them for who they are, not what title or position they hold.
“As a leader, you have no greater leverage than the truth.” – John Whittier
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