Greatness visits each of us in its own way--whether we're born into it, or achieve it ourselves.
A great leader, however, is someone who takes what's been thrust upon them and makes something better of it. It's easy to be a good leader when everything is working well. But what about when there is a crisis, and everyone is turning to you for help? What about when the ship starts sinking? How do you maintain being a great leader then?
Over the course of my business career--both in being an entrepreneur myself, and watching my peers and other entrepreneurs--I have learned that there are many different types of leaders. There are different styles, different approaches, and the term "leadership" is certainly not one-size-fits-all.
With that in mind, being a truly great leader has far more to do with understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. Leadership is about self-awareness, and knowing what style of leadership will work best for you.
Which means, in order to improve yourself as a leader, you have to be aware of what can be improved upon in the first place. Here are three things should always be paying attention to:
1. Play to your strengths, but improve your weaknesses.
Are you a carrot-and-stick type of motivator? Or do you have a knack for firing people up with motivational speeches? Do you lead with an iron fist, or trust that your employees will learn as they go?
Knowing what type of leader you are (and while type of leader you want to be) is the first step to improving your techniques. Anyone can react in the heat of the moment--that's not what leadership is all about. The real art of leading people is knowing what action will bring about the result you desire most, and then finding ways to reinforce that behavior in a positive and productive manner.
Which is why sometimes the best place to start is to do your research, and see what works well for other people. Look for what resonates with you, and then don't be afraid to try different things with your team members and employees. It's going to be a learning process one way or another.
Besides, the truth is, you're most likely going to end up combining a blend of different leadership styles. And the moment you get attached to one, something about your business or your team is going to change--which means your approach is going to have to change too.
2. Don't be afraid to use different leadership styles with different people.
Managing people can be a tricky task.
Part of being an effective leader is knowing how and when to change your leadership style to fit the current challenges of your business. There will be times when people's motivation will need to be more intrinsic than extrinsic--and vice versa. Some employees will respond well to milestones and targets, while others will require different motivators.
A great leader is someone who is adaptable and willing to pivot.
Because if you're applying the wrong leadership type, it's going to be like driving a Ferrari in reverse with the emergency brake on. It won't matter how talented the employee or team member is if they feel like they aren't being heard, understood, or properly motivated.
3. Stop and think about how the greatest leaders would handle your current situation.
Do you have favorite leaders that you hope to one day emulate? What about mentors in your field or industry?
Sometimes knowing your leadership type isn't enough. Or maybe it just isn't giving you the guidance you need to keep pushing through a hard week or handle a tough situation within your company.
This is something I talk a lot about in my book, All In. One of the best things you can do as a leader-in-training is to make a list of your favorite leaders. They don't even have to be great business leaders--maybe they led a cultural revolution or excelled in the military.
Then, look at the list and see what traits they all have in common. How do those traits tie into their goals and passions? What kind of techniques did they use to grow with their crew or staff? Now, find ways to apply successful tactics from your favorite leaders to your own company.
See what works, what doesn't, and adjust accordingly.