An important part of success in life is the ability to lead. It is important that we not only be able to lead others but be willing to lead ourselves. No one succeeds in life by simply following others. Sometimes we simply must strike a bold new path for ourselves.
Being a good leader is more than simply being at the forefront of the crowd. A leader must act. Too often in America, we simply accept that someone looks or sounds like a leader and too rarely do we actually look at the actions that leader performs — and that is the true test of leadership.
However, in order to become good leaders ourselves, we need to concentrate on actions rather than simple appearances. The title of this article refers to eight steps, but do not think of these as progressive steps like so many recipes or instruction manuals describe. Instead, think of these as actions that you must take on a regular basis.
First, be alert to new potentials. “Reality” is not absolute but rather subject to constant change. Think about inventors, explorers, and agents of social change who have achieved greatness. Some might simply say that certain people are successful because they are lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Maybe so, but if they hadn’t had their eyes open for the opportunity, then it wouldn’t have mattered if they were in the right place.
Second, accept inspiration from wherever it comes; even your opponents. The wisest leaders constantly study their competition. In war, politics, and business we constantly see examples of this research and reconnaissance. Too many times though a certain study, many concentrate on finding a weakness to exploit. If you want to be a leader of positive change don’t fall victim to this trend. Instead, if you find a weakness, make sure to avoid that pitfall yourself. If you find the strength then find a way to strengthen your own qualities to match.
Third, learn something new and promote it in new ways every day. This means you must continually seek to expand your horizons, internally and externally. Feed your mind with new lessons and knowledge, but constantly expand your social horizons as well. Seek out and meet new people and immerse yourself in new social situations. You never know when these new experiences will help you in your leadership role.
Fourth, search for and find answers in subtle clues. Look beneath the surface and constantly question. This is an extension of the third step in that you are seeking new knowledge. But this also means that you will need to step off the traditional paths of knowledge. Don’t simply read books in the literary canon or the bestsellers list. Take seminars rather than classes as there is more room for questioning and debate. Seek out unconventional thinkers, teachers, and writers.
Fifth, improvise if no existing solutions are available. No excuses. Necessity is the mother of invention. How do you know it won’t work if you’ve never tried it before? Remember, not all approaches need to come from the front. Look at your problem from all sides and systematically attempt different solutions in various combinations.
Six, make at least one person you care about happy every day. If you make it a point to be thoughtful and caring for one person every day then soon this thoughtful, caring behavior will become a habit and that habit will spread to the others around you. Making someone else happy also feeds your own personal happiness. Just imagine how much better the world would be if we all did a little bit more to spread happiness.
Seven, offer help, even if there’s no apparent advantage to you. This means more than writing a check. It means giving of your time and energy and yourself. Sometimes it will mean helping someone you don’t know and sometimes it can be a very personal action.
Finally, never let negativity be your last word on the subject. If your final words are negative then no matter how hopeful you may be about the potential of a project or action the lasting impression you give to others is one of negativity. Accentuate the positive and you are more likely to see a positive outcome.
If you follow these eight action steps not only you will be a better leader but also lead yourself to a more successful life.