8 Essential Qualities You Need to Influence Your World

Leadership is influencing people and results to have a positive impact in your world.

Holding a leadership position is not the same as being a leader.  You’re a leader because of how you show up and what you do – because of your actions.

Anyone can be a leader.

When the Vice President of Sales says, “I messed up and here’s how I’m going to clean it up,” he’s acting as a leader.

When the child in Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale cries out, “The Emperor has no clothes!” he’s acting as a leader.

When the new non-profit Board member asks the typically dismissive chair hard questions, she’s acting as a leader.

You can lead as an employee or a business owner; as an executive, a mid-level manager, or a sole contributor; and as a Board member, volunteer, parent, or friend.

Your job in life is to use your gifts to make a difference. And that means leading in some fashion, no matter what role you play. You have the ability and opportunity to act as a leader, no matter where you work, serve, or play.

Cultivate the following eight qualities and you’ll become a more effective leader, leaving a stronger positive footprint wherever you choose to walk.

Develop self-awareness

With this skill – and it is a skill – you’ll be more conscious of your attitudes, reactions, choices, words, actions, and trade-offs.  And you’ll be more aware of the impact all of those have on the people around you.

Be of service

I flew Southwest Airlines home from vacation on the same day Hurricane Isabel came through.

From the moment we checked our bags in Denver till we stepped off the plane in Raleigh, every Southwest employee was focused on making my travel experience a good one.  They were there to be of service, no matter what.

I can only imagine how stressful the day had been for the flight crew, with a massive hurricane affecting air travel from North Carolina to Massachusetts. But the pilot, co-pilot, and flight attendants all showed up as leaders in the ways they interacted with passengers, solved problems, and created a sense of calm.

When you are of service – when you make the focus of your actions about others – good things happen.

Own your actions and impact

No excuses. No denial. No blaming. No whining.

Accept responsibility, learn something useful, and keep moving.

That goes for both the good and not-so-good moments.

Grow and support others 

Give credit where credit is due. Master the art of constructive feedback. Help others be successful. Stand up for the people who support you.

Say we far more than I or me.

The more you grow and support others, the more powerful your impact becomes.

Be curious

We’re born wide open and curious. Why is the sky blue? Why don’t dogs laugh? Who made the trees?

Curiosity is a powerful tool. It stimulates creativity, both yours and those around you. Use it.

Speak hard truths. 

When you’re willing to name the elephant in the room, ask the question everyone’s thinking but no one’s saying, and give difficult but valuable feedback – and when you do so respectfully and with compassion – you’re showing up as a leader.

Mind your manners

Early in my career, I worked for a CFO who often said, “All those leadership models and theories are useless without good manners.” I couldn’t agree more.

Nourish yourself

None of us are at our best when we’re stressed and exhausted.

When you practice self-care, you’re more clear-headed, patient, receptive, resilient, and just plain easier to be around.

You also set an example for others to follow, helping them be more of who they are as well.

“Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.” ~ Thomas J. Watson, Sr.


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