No matter what industry you are in if you want to achieve great things you need to learn how to lead. Good leaders can boost motivation and productivity. Great leaders know how to inspire their peers and subordinates, they know how to create momentum in both celebratory times and difficult times.
Whether you're a long time CEO, a new founder, or an activist, leadership is a skill that you will continually need work at. It's a tool your should prioritze, and value. I had the opportunity to sit down with Deray Mckesson, a civil rights activist and supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. I picked his brain about the makings of a good leader. He explained that good leaders from all walks of life should have these three qualities.
1. Being a good leader means empowering the people who follow you.
Leaders are who people look to for guidance and motivation. They are an authoritative voice, which is why they should choose their words wisely. When you're founding a company, you don't have a lot of proof that your idea can be sustainable, or that it can make revenue. First-time founders don't even have proof that they can be entrepreneurs. Which is why their passion and their leadership is so vital to their startup.
If you just started a company, as a leader, it is your job to empower your team. And to create a motivating company culture where your employees can thrive. Mckesson says:
The best leaders both identify gifts and talents of other people and help them live in those gifts and talents. They create space for that to happen. And the second thing is that they help people see a world that they have not seen before and help them feel comfortable that they can live in that, that they can create it. That they can build it.
This is as true for activists on the front line as it is for entrepreneurs working with cutting edge technology. To create a movement, as a leader you should enable your peers and subordinates to achieve and to use their talents to be great.
Most importantly, leaders should share their vision with their team. When you look at the Elon Musk's, Nelson Mandela's, and Bill Gate's of the world, you see people who pursued their dream of what the world could be. And they do this by sharing this with a team of people, and empowering them to help them build it.
2. Good leaders take risks to have fulfilled big dreams and achieve tangible efforts.
Mckesson believes that "The best leaders are able to dream in ways that feel tangible.". Leaders have to balance unthinkable and innovative ideas, with palpable goals. They create change by wanting it, and by doing something about it. Still, most innovators and entrepreneurs understand that a large amount of risk can be involved when you're trying to leave your mark on the world.
In DeRay Mckesson's book On The Other Side of Freedom he challenges this idea. He explains that everybody has the ability to pursue their big dreams, and everyone can create a magical thing. It's the people who are willing to put in the work and a willingness to walk into the risks that end up achieving their dreams.
As an entrepreneur success doesn't happen overnight. It involves lots of failures, sleepless nights and risk. It means quitting your day job to go all in on your side hustle. Which is why sometimes being a great leader, starts with leading yourself to greatness.
3. Leaders should start by making small steps to solve a pain point.
When Jeff Bezos started Amazon, it didn't seem like that plausible of an idea. The internet was fairly new, and e-commerce had yet to become an industry. He started with an online bookstore and grew it into an online store that sells everything.
Mckesson's book explains that leaders should start small and when they see a problem and do something about it. He went from being a school teacher to being a civil rights activist by doing just that.
Great leaders, entrepreneurs and change makers set out to revolutionize the world by realizing a pain point and solving for it. Work hard and creating actionable items that meaningful change can stem from. Leading a movement for change doesn't happen all at once, it happens with a million small steps.