How do you be a good leader?
How do you build your influence, create a great team, and lead your team to get great results? What steps can you do to be good (or even great)?
You’ve likely experienced what it’s like to work with different kinds of leaders:
- Bad or negative leaders drag you down, make life at work miserable, and lower enthusiasm and morale.
- Good leaders who build you up, enable and empower you to do your job well and treat you and your viewpoints with respect.
Don’t be a bad leader. You can grow to be a great leader, and in this article, we will show you how.
In this article we will discuss the simple steps on how to be a good leader as well as some principles to follow, so you learn and grow to be good (and even great).
Table of Contents
1. Get the right definition of good leadership
One of the first steps to know how to be a good leader is to define what it means to be a good leader.
This is important because your actions will match the definition you have, and if you have the wrong definition, it will hurt you. And, too often today, many people’s definition of leadership is off.
Let’s first look at what leadership and successful leadership are not.
Good Leadership is not being charismatic and extroverted
Sometimes people equate leadership (and good leadership) with certain traits – specifically charisma. They see someone being charismatic with people and assume that person is successful as a leader.
That’s not the case.
Being in a leadership position doesn’t equal good leadership
Sometimes people assume that because they are in a leadership position, it means they are good leaders. Unfortunately, as we see all the time in our world, the position does not equal leadership ability.
Having people follow you doesn’t equal good leadership
Sometimes people think just because they have someone following them, it means they are leading. While with some definitions that could be accurate, if someone is following you, you may technically be leading them, it doesn’t mean you are leading them well, in a good direction, or are being effective.
Good leadership is not about short-term results over long-term
Some leaders today are seen as successful because they show profit or revenue growth for that quarter in their company.
However, they often get that by focusing only on the short-term – showing profit growth. Often this is done by layoffs and other short-term practices that hurt or kill the business long-term.
Destroying your business and focusing on the short term just to show short-term success does not make you a good leader – it makes you a bad one.
Now let’s look at what good leadership is.
A good definition of leadership
A good definition of leadership is this: Leadership is guiding a team of people through influence toward the accomplishment of a goal.
If you aren’t leading people anywhere, you aren’t leading. If you aren’t using influence, you aren’t leading well. If no one is following you, you are definitely not leading!"Leadership is guiding a team of people through influence toward the accomplishment of a goal." ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet
Good leadership is about the long-term, not short-term
While you do often have to get short-term results as well, good leaders focus on the long term. They don’t sacrifice long-term success just to show short-term results.
In fact, they know that sometimes they may get less results short-term so in the long term, they prosper. They have a long view in mind."Good leaders focus on the long term results. They don’t sacrifice long-term success just to show short-term results." ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet
Good leadership is about influence and trust and treating people well
If you achieve some form of a result but destroy and hurt the people around you, you aren’t a good leader.
Some might say, “You got a result”. Yes, but at what cost? And what kind of result would you have had if you had treated people well and led by influence vs. position or willpower?
And how long-term are those results? If you are destroying people along the way, your results aren’t going to last long, especially after you leave.
Good leadership is about building a culture of trust, leading by influence, and treating people well along the way."Good leadership is about building a culture of trust, leading by influence, and treating people well along the way." ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet
Good leadership leaves the company in a position to succeed without them
Some “leaders” seem to have good results – while they are there. They use their personality and force of will to make things happen. They surround themselves with people who will just do what they say.
When they leave, though, everything falls apart. They haven’t built other leaders or a system for the business or organization to run well without them.
Those leaders see it as a sign of how “good” they were because it fell apart without them.
What it really shows is how ineffective they were because they failed to create an organization that can succeed long-term without them. They failed to build up leaders.
And, again, think about the results they could have had if they had built leaders and led well vs. just using their force of will.
2. Learn what good leadership is
The second step on how to be a good leader is to learn the principles and practices of good leadership. This step may sound easy, and it is, in some ways, but it’s also difficult.
Leadership is a process and learning takes time.
One of the issues we have with bad leadership in our world today is that people don’t really take the time to learn leadership, and the leadership they learn is often superficial or wrong.
There seems to be a certain superficial level of “common knowledge” and “common practice” that people skim through and learn. The problem is, the superficial won’t make you a great leader.
Surface-level knowledge is a start, but it won’t make you great.
And, unfortunately, common knowledge and common practice are often wrong knowledge and wrong practice. Because, if it was right, and it’s what everyone is following, why do we still have so much bad leadership?
Sometimes people think it’s a one-and-done thing. They read a little bit about it, and that’s it."Leadership is a process and learning takes time." ~ Thomas R. Harris Click To Tweet
It’s not going to be that way for you.
Take the time to learn good leadership and good leadership principles. Look at the qualities and skills that you need to grow to be a good leader.
Make learning about leadership part of your daily and weekly life. Never stop learning and growing in leadership. If you take the time to learn it (and implement it), you will become a great leader.
Here are some resources you can use to learn good leadership principles and practices:
3. Act on it and go through the process
Once you learn good principles and practices of leadership, then you need to act on them.
It sounds simple, but if you think about it, there are all these memes and graphics people share of what great leadership is and isn’t – and how many people actually follow them?
Here’s an important fact you need to know about acting on it:
Leadership is a process. As you implement the different techniques and principles, it will take time. You will make mistakes. That is okay. Just go through the process.
Be willing to go through the process. Keep learning and growing, and implement. Learn from your mistakes, and keep moving forward.
4. Listen to others and learn from your mistakes
As you go through the process, don’t forget to be listening to others. Feedback from others is an incredible way to grow.
Listen to your supervisors as they may have experience and can show you how to be better as a leader. Even if they aren’t a good leader, learn from what they are doing wrong so you can do right.
Listen to your subordinates as they feel the direct impact of your leadership and can help you be better. They also are often closer to the problems your team is facing and can give great ideas and inputs on how to make things better and solve problems.
Listen to other leaders on your level because they may have tips and suggestions that you can use to grow. Also, as we mentioned before, learn from your mistakes.
Mistakes in themselves aren’t bad, it’s part of the process of learning. What is bad is if you try to hide them, blame others for them, or keep repeating the same mistakes.
When you make a mistake, look at what happened and what you can do differently, apologize and do anything else you need to fix it, and then work to improve so that mistake doesn’t happen again.
The more you learn from your mistakes, the more you will learn and grow as a leader.
5. Develop new leaders
One of the most important jobs of a leader after you have become a good leader, to develop other good leaders. It’s the law of reproduction.
Part of being successful is leaving a legacy of leadership. When you leave a position at a company, it shouldn’t fall apart because you left, but it should be moving forward well because you have created leaders who can continue to grow the company without you.
As you go through the process of becoming a great leader, be developing others along the way. Help your team grow to its full potential. Help mentor others with the knowledge you’ve gained so they can help your organization grow even more.
If you don’t grow others, even though you may have some forms of success along the way, your success will be limited as you go and fail when you leave.
As a leader, even as you are learning and growing, be growing other leaders.
Some principles of good leadership
We have a full article on 15 principles of leadership; however, here are some principles you can start to implement to grow as a leader.
1. Take responsibility
Take responsibility for all that you do and for your team. Don’t blame or make excuses. Take ownership, learn from it, and work to make things better.
2. Be humble and Listen well
Listen well to others. Don’t think that just because you are in a leadership position you know better. Often those who are on the front lines and closest to the problems have the best ideas. Listen to them.
In fact, empower them to take action to solve those problems.
3. Act with integrity
A leader must act with integrity. Your people need to be able to trust you. If they can’t trust you, why should they follow you?
4. Create a safe environment
Your employees need to know that they are safe to take risks, make mistakes, share input, and know that you will listen to them and have their back.
If they feel that you are out to get them or find what they are doing wrong or ignore them, if your people don’t trust you, then they won’t function well as a team or as well in their positions.
5. Lead by influence, not position
Good leaders lead by influence, not position. Position will only get you so far. With influence, you can go almost anywhere.
6. Put decision-making close to the problem
Too often those with the power to act have the least amount of information and those who have the most information have the least amount of power to act.
Empower your people to solve problems.
7. Always be learning and growing
Good leaders are always learning and growing. Never stop learning. Read, listen, take courses, go to conferences – whatever helps you grow, do it.
8. It’s not about you
Leadership is not about you. It’s about your organization and its goals. It’s about your team.
If you start thinking about yourself or that your team is there to serve you, you are heading in a bad direction as a leader.
9. Serve your team
Good leaders serve their teams. They work hard to open doors, provide resources and training, and do what they need to do to help their team succeed and accomplish their goals.
How to be a good leader – the conclusion
The steps to becoming a good leader are simple, and it is a lot of work. Just like anything else, if you want to be good at it, you have to put in an effort to make it happen.
Remember these 5 main steps:
- Define what good leadership is
- Learn good leadership principles and practices
- Implement those practices and go through the process
- Listen to others and learn from your mistakes
- Develop new leaders
Is there anything that we miss? Let us know in the comments below.
Explore our Leadership Blog for more tips, strategies, and other helpful resources.