By Syed Balkhi, founder of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site, which helps small businesses start their websites.
Leadership traits are personal qualities that are common to people in leadership roles. These traits can be developed by anyone with knowledge, time, and practice. With more people starting their own businesses or creating side hustles because of the pandemic, you'll benefit from learning about the best traits that you can develop to become a stronger leader in 2021.
Be interested in learning constantly.
Leaders need to deal with a number of different issues at work ranging from managing interpersonal conflict to financial knowledge. You need to wear different hats, and to do this effectively, you have to learn almost continuously.
There's no such thing as being done with knowledge and learning. Here are some tips for how to approach learning and what kind of sources to learn from:
- Be open to learning about diverse topics. Creativity comes from bringing together unusual ideas that never intersected before. So, be willing to learn about psychology, history, technology, and anything else you can think of.
- Follow thought leaders on social media and you'll get information about new ideas right away.
- Listen to free podcasts and audiobooks as you commute or do tasks that don't require complete focus.
- Invest in reading books about different topics, as the habit of reading improves several skills==engaging your ability to imagine and providing you with helpful content.
This year, my top books have been The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel and The Tao of Charlie Munger. Given the shared experience of the pandemic crisis that we've all gone through, Housel's advice to save more and prepare for the unexpected really hit home.
Learning to adapt to sudden changes is a difficult trait to acquire. But it is possible if you learn to leverage a few principles of rational thinking and stoicism. This particular trait is something that you'll want to start developing now and become better at over time. Your mind is just like a muscle, and if you work it out with the following practices, it will get stronger and cope with difficult situations with relative ease.
Be more present.
We spend too many of our waking moments either worrying about the future or regretting the past. Consciously pay attention to your body and the environment around you and focus on the task at hand to become more present.
Focus on what you can control.
It is important to consciously tell the difference between things we can control and things that we cannot. We can find peace if we can accept that issues like the pandemic are things that we cannot control individually. But what we can control is limiting our exposure to others, wearing masks, sanitizing our hands, and doing other recommended things. This may also be the time to focus on your hobbies, start a business, or take up classes that could lead to a career change.
Try positive intelligence (PQ) reps.
This is a technique that I've recommended before. It's from Shirzad Chamine's book Positive Intelligence. You focus intensely for just 10 seconds at a time. You can rub your fingers together, listen closely to sounds in your environment, feel the texture of your clothes, or focus on breathing. Do this100 times a day, and the clarity you'll feel after just a few days is startling.
When you use the practices mentioned here, you'll be more present and less likely to get overwhelmed by emotions or resistance. You'll look at problems dispassionately and adapt to the situation.
According to Steven Pressfield and Seth Godin, both reputed authors, resistance is the natural companion to any kind of creative work. Whether you're an entrepreneur, blogger, or artist, you'll likely feel besieged by procrastination, fear, stress, and other feelings. Basically, anything that keeps you from getting to your goal is resistance.
What's happening is that your lizard brain is trying to protect you by keeping you from growing. Because growth means change and uncertainty, and the survival parts of our brains prefer safety even if it means being stuck.
The first step to managing this is to be aware of resistance. The next is to push through, regardless of the emotions that arise in you. The tips in the previous section can help you manage resistance better.
The events of 2020 made tremendous demands on every person's mental fortitude. Leaders have to help their own businesses survive and look after the people who depend on them for work.
I've outlined what I think are some critical traits that a leader needs to develop today. Focus on the traits I've mentioned. Journal about them. Try to apply them every day, and soon they will become second nature.