Oftentimes, we equate talent to what makes someone successful, leadership included.
When I got my first leadership role in an organization, I assumed I would be successful purely because I had natural leadership talent. But, boy, was I wrong. Not only did I fail, but I failed miserably, because I tried relying on talent alone rather than strengthening my leadership skills.
The Leadership Quarterly performed a study on the skill set and human development within leadership, and the results showed that 24 percent of leadership skills are genetic and 76 percent are learned along the way. Essentially, the "natural born leader" is a bit of a myth. Instead, leadership is something that you can develop and grow through strengthening a specific set of skills.
Here are some things you can do to be a more successful leader that don't require any special, magical talents embedded in your DNA:
1. Do what you say you are going to do.
It's super irritating to a team when their leader says one thing and does another. While the position of leadership typically carries power and authority, it doesn't give you the green light to be inconsistent.
No matter how big or small the thing is that you say you are going to do, if you don't do it it erodes your credibility, builds distrust, and stifles momentum. Of course, we are all human and make mistakes. But the point is to be sure you aren't known for being the leader who doesn't keep their word.
Once you've lost trust, it's difficult to gain it back.
2. Remember the main mission of a leader.
Leaders have all kinds of responsibilities, but none more important than elevating others.
Fr. Mike Schmitz summarized it well on this week's episode of the Follow My Lead podcast: "The primary mission of a leader is to raise people up around them both professionally and personally."
3. Set a good example.
There are many things you can't control when it comes to leadership, and one of those is that people will look to you as an example. They are watching your every move like hawks, whether you like it or not.
It's important you provide your team with something positive for them to emulate. Focus heavily on your actions each and every day to ensure they are worthy of being copied.
4. Have a great work ethic.
One of my favorite stories of a leader with a strong work ethic is NFL legend Ray Lewis. He said in his recent speech Hall of Fame induction speech, "I wasn't the biggest, the fastest, the strongest, but then I bought into something called work ethic."
There are no shortcuts on the road to success. If you want to become a better leader, you have to do the work required to get there. Reading, practicing, and being intentional are all things a strong work ethic will take care of.
5. Give off positive energy.
Author Mike Erwin, founder of the Positivity Project, told me on a recent episode of the Follow My Lead podcast, "Because of the information we all live in, people are more in tune with all the challenges and negativity in the world. It has made it hard to be more optimistic in the world. So to be an optimistic leader who is relentlessly positive in the face of challenges is a true competitive advantage."
Essentially, from the moment you walk into the office, your positive mindset is a competitive advantage.
6. Practice intentional listening.
A great way to be a better listener is to pick one person and anytime they say something, keep eye contact and don't interrupt them under any circumstance. It's a powerful way to get focused on using your two ears instead of your one mouth.
7. Conduct one-on-ones.
Where most leaders drop the ball is spending one-on-one time with employees outside of a yearly performance review.
If you are in fact the busiest person on the planet and can't carve out 10 minutes per month per person, use that thing in your pocket that has telephone capabilities. Don't miss the opportunity in between meetings, waiting for a plane, or during your commute to call a team member on their cell phone and ask them a simple question: "How are you doing and is there anything I can do to help you?"
You don't need to be born with any special leadership DNA to implement and practice all of these traits, and that's the best part. If and when you do start following them, your year will be filled with a lot of success as a leader.