There are thousands of professionals all across the world who call themselves a leader in their respective business. The reality is, the vast majority of these people are a leader in title only. Sure, people report to them, and they have some authority over others because of seniority or prior performance, but they aren't a leader to anyone on their team.
Before we go any further, it's important to level set on how I am defining a leader:
Someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve others to produce an improved state over an extended period of time.
There are many reasons why people never get to this kind of impact on others. A few reasons include:
We are taught management, not leadership, in school
We have a shortage of real leaders in organizations, so people don't have a close role model
Performance reviews rarely focus on the development of direct reports
All of these are completely fair and acceptable reasons why people never become leaders, but there is one that stands above the rest:
Being a leader is hard work. It requires a level of self-discipline and commitment to others that most people aren't willing to have.
If you want to be different and rise above the average, give a few of these ideas a try:
1. Think of others' needs before your own.
What do you do when you look at a picture for the first time with you in it? Most likely you look at yourself because of your human nature. Which means in order to be a real leader you have to combat your human nature of thinking about yourself and proactively think about others.
2. Set high standards and hold people accountable to them
The best leaders rely on standards as a way to elevate the performance of their team. A standard is simply "defining what good looks like." Once standards have been clearly defined and communicated, then it's your job to hold people accountable to meeting and hopefully exceeding them on a regular basis.
3. Devote time every day to the development of leadership skills.
Leadership is a journey and not a destination. Which means you can be improving your leadership skills or they can be getting worse. Invest in the development of your skills by attending conferences, reading books, listening to podcasts, or writing down lessons learned throughout daily interactions at work.
4. Admit you don't know all the answers.
No one likes a professional who thinks they know it all. There is simply too much information and too many balls in the air for one person to solve every problem. Humble yourself and be vulnerable with others by admitting you don't know it all and ask for their help.
5. Come up with a mantra that motivates and inspires others.
The best leaders understand the power of words. They can motivate, inspire, and capture the hearts of people. In the Welder Leader Program, we call a collection of words that do this a "maximizing mantra." Every leader regardless of what kind of a company they are in should leverage a maximizing mantra. Some of my favorites include "row the boat," "take dead aim," "let's go," "move the needle," and "sacrifice is rewarded."