At some point in our lives, many of us find ourselves in a position where we need to lead others.
It may be by supervising and motivating others at our job, helping a friend through a difficult time or teaching and inspiring our children.
But for most of us, being an effective leader isn’t something that we instinctively know how to do. We may look at the inspiring leaders around us and think that leadership is just a part of their personality—and something we’ll never be able to master.
But being a great leader is something that anyone can learn, at any time in their life.
Here are 5 things you can do starting today to become a more effective leader who inspires others and transforms lives:
1. Lead yourself.
Before you can lead others, you must learn to lead yourself.
Take a long, hard, honest look at yourself. How do you lead yourself? Are you a motivated go-getter who gets stuff done and goes after what she wants? Or do you wait around hoping that someone else will rescue you and take charge?
I learned the importance of leading myself back in college, where I was the first girl from western North Carolina to ever get an Army ROTC scholarship. I figured out pretty quickly that I needed to rise to the occasion and command myself in order to survive.
As a part of our training, they dropped us off in the woods at 4 a.m.—with nothing but a compass and set of directions—and we were instructed to navigate to specific points.
Alone in the wilderness that morning, I had a couple options. I could panic and wait for someone to rescue me or I could take charge and figure out how to get out of those woods.
I decided to take charge. “I can do this,” I said to myself. “I can and I WILL do this.”
I had the patience and the commitment. I had the resources. And I had the resolve inside of myself to do it and make it happen.
I figured it out and got out of those woods. And I learned that when I truly resolved that I was going to do something that I did it. That is how I lead myself: With a strong commitment and a belief that I can do it. I’ve carried that with me ever since.
If you struggle to lead, motivate or encourage yourself, start with changing your attitude first. Instead of doubting yourself, tell yourself that you can and you will.
Think about the most difficult thing you ever accomplished. How did you feel before you did it? How did you feel afterward? If you did something tough once, you can do it again!
Once you have the right mindset, just start. Take action. Soon, the momentum will take over and you’ll be on your way. And next time, you’ll be able to lead someone else through the same process.
2. Make a commitment to serve others.
The great leaders of our time are servant leaders. They are motivated by the desire to help others, not to gain power, recognition or money.
When placed in a leadership position, focus on how you can help. Take your ego out of the situation, listen carefully to other people’s needs and work toward a solution. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them.
3. Take action!
Don’t just talk about what you’re going to do, take action! You may be surprised to discover that others will be inspired by your actions and follow your lead.
My son Quinn learned this lesson just recently. He’s 18 years old and he’s been working 8 to 10 hours every day on building his business—on top of homeschooling, rock climbing and managing his popular Instagram account. He truly is doing the work and taking action—and he was amazed when he realized that not everyone is willing to do that work.
“People are always looking for the shortcuts,” he told me recently. “They just don’t want to do the work.”
If you want to be an effective leader, you must commit to doing the work. Don’t just ask someone else to do something that you wouldn’t do. Show up and do the work alongside the people you are leading. Let them see you in action and follow your example. There is no shortcut to become a great leader.
4. Do the right thing every day.
This one is so powerful. It helps you not only to be a great leader, but to become a better person. I believe in it so strongly that I’ve made it one of my non-negotiables.
General Norman Schwarzkopf believed that this was so critical that he made it one of his 14 Rules of Leadership.
“Do what is right, not what you think the high headquarters wants or what you think will make you look good,” Schwarzkopf said.
“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.”
If you commit to always doing what is right, no matter how difficult it is, you will be a more effective leader.
5. Be resourceful.
If you want to be a successful leader, you must learn to be resourceful. Just as I had to maximize what little resources I had in the woods during ROTC training, you must take advantage of everything you have at your disposal to come up with creative solutions.
You don’t need to have a lot of resources to be a great leader. It’s what you do with what you have that counts.
Having limited resources can actually be a good thing, as it can force you to be more innovative and come up with ideas you never would have thought of otherwise.
Take advantage of limited resources to think more creatively. Then, make sure you maximize what resources you do have. What books or blogs can help you come up with a solution? Who can you can you turn to for coaching or mentorship? You may have more resources than you think!
Thanks for reading! What will you do to lead the people in your life more effectively? Do you have another leadership tip to share? I’d love to hear it!