“You can do this,” I reminded myself, “You’ve led meetings before.”
This time, however, it was different.
This time, I was president and something about that title scared me. It came with so many expectations and obligations, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I have what it takes.
“It’s too late to worry about that, though,” I thought as I walked into my first officer meeting of the semester.
Serving as president of Beta Alpha Psi my senior year of college was challenging and exhausting, but always exhilarating. I faced many situations, which at time, felt like unnecessary burdens that I should have never signed myself up to handle. Looking back, though, I now understand that those experiences accelerated my development and provided invaluable insights about the meaning of leadership.
Since then, I’ve held various formal and informal leadership roles through which I’ve acquired 12 rules that have helped me define my role as a leader and understand how to better motivate and manage others:
1. It’s not about you
It’s not about you; it’s about your team and your organization. Your primary purpose is to serve them and keep their best interests in mind. Embracing this philosophy will change the way you view your role as a leader.
2. The foundation
The foundation of an organization isn’t its assets or technology, but rather, the people who run the technology and utilize those assets.
People are not one-dimensional. Every individual has a multitude of skills and interests that don’t always reveal themselves on the surface. As leaders, it is your responsibility to not let these talents go unrecognized and unused.
You must make the time to dig deeper, to truly understand others and to get to know them holistically. Only after doing this can you truly leverage all of their skills.
3. Challenge others to develop
You need to challenge others in order for them to develop. You can’t build muscle in the gym without pushing yourself to lift more, run more and stretch more. Similarly, people must be pushed to grow and develop.
As a leader, it’s your duty to play this role. You’re responsible not just for your team’s business success, but also for the personal and professional success of each individual on the team.
4. Criticize in private; praise in public
Do not try to make an example of others or blame someone else for a fault. It is humiliating for that person and will lose you the respect of some of your teammates. Criticize in private; praise in public.
5. Lead by example
Lead by example and do not hold people to expectations you cannot uphold yourself. If you want people to not text during meetings or to show up on time, you must follow the rules, as well.
6. Don’t be dismissive
Don’t be dismissive of others’ ideas without providing them with a chance to be heard. People often want to feel understood and considered, so do not trivialize their perspectives.
Take arguments into consideration, but don’t shy away from difficult decisions or necessary changes because you want to please everyone. When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.
7. Be resilient
At the same time, don’t expect others to always like you.
Decisions are rarely unanimous and most people are inherently uncomfortable with change. Whenever you institute new principles or implement different ideas, someone will inevitably disagree. This is not always a bad thing, though. If people aren’t complaining, you’re not changing enough. Be resilient in the face of criticism.
8. Problem solve
Be a provider of solutions. Problems exist to be solved, so don’t waste your time, or your team’s time, whining about it. Instead, focus your team’s energy (and your own) on brainstorming ideas and testing different options.
Do this repeatedly every time you face an obstacle -- no matter how small or large. Your goal should be to create a culture of continuous improvement.
Listen more than you speak. Get comfortable with the silence that follows a question or a proposed idea. Moreover, learn to ask the right questions to get others to speak their minds and steer conversations in productive directions.
You do not have to be — and should not be — the driver of all change. Your objective is not to come up with everything yourself, but rather, to build an environment in which others can openly suggest, develop and implement their ideas.
Don’t avoid tough conversations. The more difficult a conversation seems, the sooner it needs to happen. Postponing these discussions creates a snowball effect: The problem continues to grow, becomes more challenging and often, more costly to handle.
11. Have confidence and humility
Confidence and humility are not mutually exclusive, and great leaders have both. Confidence is about believing in yourself and knowing that you are capable of anything you put your mind to.
Humility is about believing in the power and potential of others. It allows you to empathize with, understand and trust others.
Harnessing the power of confidence and humility enables a leader to be self-assured enough to accept that you shouldn’t try to do or know everything. You should, instead, simply work to ensure that your team has all of the resources it needs to be successful. Your team’s success means your success.
You don’t have to be in a formal leadership role (e.g. a manager at work or a director of an organization) to be a leader.
A leader is anyone who makes a difference in the lives of others, regardless of whether he or she realizes it or not. Being a leader can be as simple as providing advice or exemplifying values others respect and desire to emulate.
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