3 Key Essentials to Leading Well

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Think about the people you admire, and the leaders you look up to. What qualities or characteristics make those individuals stand out?

Years of personal experience + professional research show that many of the positive qualities or characteristics that make people stand out can be summarized into a few key leadership essentials.

The most admired people in our lives are often great:

  1. Listeners

  2. Learners

  3. Leaders

And in that order, too.

Whether you are a seasoned leader or new to leading or managing, I’m sure you’ve realized by now that the qualities or characteristics people would use to describe you can actually make or break your leadership influence.

So, what does it look like for you to authentically + intentionally develop as these 3 ESSENTIAL QUALITIES of a good mentor, leader or influencer?

1. Be a Good Listener. Ask questions that invite more than just a “yes” or “no” response, then actually listen to the responses. Give people eye contact. Offer feedback that shows you are listening or empathizing. And if you disagree or you’re unclear on what’s being said, ask follow up questions like, “Help me understand what you mean when you say . . . “ and then listen again. Don’t interrupt. Don’t make excuses. Just listen. If you still disagree or there needs to be a follow up conversation, offer words of affirmation like, “Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hear you. I want to understand where you’re coming from. Can we continue this conversation tomorrow?” Listening well takes time.

2. Be a Learner. The best leaders learn ABOUT their people, their environments, their community. And they learn FROM people. Just because you’re leading or influencing at a high level doesn’t mean you know everything. Approach each conversation, situation, opportunity or experience as a chance to learn something new. Keep a list of what you’re learning in a journal or on your phone. I think you will be amazed at what you learn in just a few short days in an environment that might seem “familiar” to you.  (*notice how these essential qualities go in order: you learn best when you’re willing to be a good listener!)

3. Be a Leader. This one might seem obvious, but here’s the truth: not all “leaders” are actually leaders. Leading well means developing a strong sense of self-awareness and an awareness of others. Leading well means exercising maturity in your actions and in your conversations. Leading well means seeking the good of all. Leading well means having hard conversations in order to develop people and move situations forward. Leading well means protecting, mentoring, shepherding the people in your care. Leading well means empowering those around you to live out their strengths as they contribute to the overall values of the organization. Leading well means listening and learning.

Take a few moments to think about these questions: How would you rate yourself on a scale from 1-10 on the 3 leadership essentials listed here? What qualities or characteristics would people in your life use to describe you? If you’re not sure, ask them!

Or turn this into a Team Exercise by asking everyone to list (or write down) 2-3 qualities they would use to describe each team member. Then, in that moment or in a later meeting, share those words and the reasons why those words were selected for each individual. This is a great opportunity to get honest feedback, build trust, create a collaborative environment of safety, and have future conversation as a team

Beth Graybill