Although some people are naturally better leaders than others, there are strategies and ways of behaving that greatly improve your odds of success in this type of role. These are some tried and true ways to rise to the top and develop great services, products and loyalty.
1. Get advice from other people.
Great leaders are not always experts or experienced in every area. Don’t just assume you are right or that you have all the data. Surround yourself with other confident people you can count on to point out the logical flaws in what you come up with. Let them point out your biases and show you potentially better ways of moving forward.
2. Learn about your world.
As a leader, you’ll often be in uncharted territory, needing to press forward even when there is no map to guide you. By learning, you won’t necessarily erase all of the risk related to a concept, but you will at least have some facts that support logical moves. Logic and data are infinitely important to donors, stockholders and other financial supporters such as banks, who want some solid, factual evidence they’ll get a return on their investment. Secondly, education can give you a broader perspective that positively affects the type of ideas and solutions you come up with, allowing you to be more innovative and adaptable to a wider market. Learn in a variety of ways, such as watching documentaries, taking trips, visiting museums or even just spending some time on reputable websites.
3. Be selective about where you apply your energy and delegate.
Realistically, you simply won’t have enough hours in the day to handle everything yourself, especially when you’ve got multiple irons in the fire. Not only that, but quite frankly not every idea you get is going to be a winner. Acknowledge where you have a weakness and identify what won’t work. Then put your focus on what really is viable, identifying strengths in team members and assigning them tasks that are appropriate.
4. Be aware of the market, but strive not to let it dictate you.
If you are not aware of what is going on in the market and what other companies are doing, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for you to respond to consumer demands and stay competitive. In this sense, as a leader, you need to heed market research and data. On the other hand, part of what makes leaders stand out is their ability to think outside the box and do something entirely fresh. Don’t be afraid to break from what consumers have seen already. Just remember that the best products and services stand the test of time (have longevity in demand and function).
Even if your ideas are groundbreaking, taking a concept from the drawing board to reality takes more than one individual. You will need people who are experts in particular areas or who can get you the right resources at the right time, people who have skills you might not possess yourself. When you network with these individuals, you’ll connect with future employees, sounding boards, investors, brand advocates and more. You might not know in the moment how those people will come to your side, but simply having them in your network gives you options for the future.
6. Be unwavering in your ethics.
Honesty matters if people are going to follow you. Be a model so others will copy you and so your way of working, your legacy, will continue in your absence. Always do what you say you are going to do, and be very careful to treat everyone with the same degree of respect and fairness, regardless of whether they’re a senior executive or an entry-level newbie. Keep in mind, too, that innovation is not synonymous with breaking regulations, compromising safety or mental well-being or abusing power. Those kinds of behaviors quickly destroy the reputation of a brand and cause companies to crumble.
7. Be upbeat.
Things don’t always go right when you’re trying to develop concepts and run a business. In fact, setbacks are something you should expect, as there’s always some degree of unpredictability to the market and getting the current data necessary make good decisions has some challenges. Just as an investor anticipates losses on some of his accounts and properties, looking for a general uphill trend overall, so too, should you be prepared to take a few hits. The best leaders, however, get up when they’ve been knocked down and try again. They understand that keeping morale high makes an enormous difference in terms of productivity, conflict reduction and resolution, sick rates and turnover.
8. Persevere and be patient.
Projects can take years to mature. Sometimes this is because the market, for one reason or another, simply isn’t ready for what you plan to bring to the table. Other times, it’s because of legal, financial or other logistical issues. Don’t give up on the projects you believe in, and be willing to wait for your return on your investment. It will be your job to keep others motivated as time passes.
Much of being a good leader involves changing or being very conscious of your outlook, keeping your eyes to the future with both vision and patience. Simple techniques such as actively networking, maintaining good ethics and having a positive attitude can go a long way. All you have to do is make the choice to apply them.
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