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What Makes a Great Leader? 5 Tips From Rising Corporate Stars

Bill Gates

Leaders aren’t born. They’re made.

That’s great news for aspiring founders and business execs for whom the power to inspire fails to come naturally.

Don’t take our word for it. Some of the world’s most successful business leaders are famous introverts; Bill Gates was painfully shy as a child, for instance, and look where he is now.

Rising stars grappling with their own insecurities would do well to take these leadership tips to heart.

5 Leadership Tips

1. Feeling Overmatched Is Part of Life

Call it whatever you’d like – reactive, overwhelmed, off one’s game. We’ve all been there. True leaders don’t necessarily thrive on feeling overmatched, but they know and expect that it’s going to happen. It’s the response that matters; leadership guru David Finkel offers some tips for those unsure where to start.

2. Your Team Does Better When It’s Empowered

True leaders don’t treat the organizations they represent as their personal fiefdoms. Rather, they empower their associates, trusting that empowered employees are more likely to produce excellent result than those who feel constrained or under-stimulated. Majestic Steel USA executive Todd Leebow famously cultivates a culture of self-determination throughout his national steel service organization, and he’s clearly doing something right – Majestic is a perennial “best workplaces” honoree.

3. It’s Okay to Admit Mistakes – Really

Everyone makes mistakes, even those at the top of the heap. In a 2019 Financial Times interview, Warren Buffett – arguably the world’s most successful investor – had this memorable quip: “If you played golf and you hit a hole in one on every hole, nobody would play golf, it’s no fun.” Wise words, indeed.

4. In the Long Run, Transparency Wins Out

As a leader, you’re responsible for protecting your organization’s crown jewels – its intellectual property, without which it probably wouldn’t have a business case. It’s okay to be cagey about mission-critical stuff like that.

What’s not okay is to hide information that should be common internal knowledge from your team. In the long run, secretiveness may well come back to bite you, particularly as younger workers, who tend to put a premium on transparency, rise through the ranks of lower and middle management.

5. Don’t Try to Do Everything Yourself

There’s an old saying: “If you want something done, do it yourself.”

In a technical sense, this is correct. The only way to guarantee that something gets done to your satisfaction is to see it through from start to finish.

As a practical matter, doing everything yourself simply isn’t possible – not in a dynamic, growing organization, at least. It’s incumbent upon you, the leader, to delegate as and when necessary, and to hire personnel to whom you feel comfortable delegating certain tasks and processes. After all: Not only are you not equipped to “do it [all] yourself,” you’re very often not the best person for the job.

Are You Ready to Lead?

These aren’t the only pearls of leadership wisdom you’ll need to distinguish yourself as you rise through the ranks of your organization. Never pass up an opportunity to turn to those who’ve come before you for advice and counsel, whether you consider them true mentors or mere elder statespeople. They know what it’s like to fail, and they’d love to show you what it’s like to succeed.

Finding a Mentor

In the final words, let’s consider what you need to know to find a business mentor that’s right for you. Here is a list of fundamental traits your mentor must have and you can quality them with reference checking.

Mentor must-have experience and traits

  • Relevant leadership experience
  • Successful entrepreneur
  • Trustworthy
  • Can be a confidante
  • Keen listener
  • Confidence to provide feedback and recommendations
  • Verbal & written communication skills
  • Responsive

Above all else your business mentor needs to be committed to helping you and your business succeed.  Can the mentor rise above the temptation to promote their own qualities and achievements at every opportunity?  You can find out by meeting with your prospective mentor socially, and with their guard down you’re most likely to learn what’s motivating them to accept the role and whether their interest is in you and what you do is genuine.

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