A Journey to Becoming a Great Leader

Leadership is a talent that is learned and refined over time. Most people are born with an innate sense of leadership. Some people develop this talent much later in life, while others develop it right from the start. No matter what stage of life a person is in, he or she can greatly benefit from leadership development.

What is a Leadership Journey? The Leadership Journey is a life-long process that leads to the attainment of certain objectives. As a leader, you need to understand and determine what your leadership style is so that you can align it with the vision and mission of your personal or professional life.

Many organizations spend millions of dollars each year implementing various programs, classes and retreats to help employees improve their skills. Leadership is truly a valuable commodity in today’s business world, and everyone needs it in his or her life. This article will truly help you understand your current stage in your leadership journey. 

Remember- These are not the exact journey of a leader. However, these are the traits one must have to become a great leader. 

This article would be divided into two parts. Stage 1 is all about Self-Leadership. Stage 2 is about Leading with why. Let’s find out where you are currently in your journey

Stage 1 – Self-Leadership

Often described as the “people’s president”, leadership entails being a vocal and emotional presence to impact change. However, the change starts from within. To become a great leader it is critical to lead yourself first. This includes understanding your emotional pattern, your beliefs, and values.

The people we identify as great leaders did not just jump straight to leading others. Almost everyone first leads themselves and below is the checklist of essentials of a great leader. 

1. How Do You Define Leadership?

The term “leader” can often bring to mind various types of individuals with a leadership style. For instance: A leader, leading a group of people towards a particular goal. An educator, leading a child’s life. A CEO, leading a business. But what if you stopped looking at leadership and looked at what it means to each individual? How do you define leadership? What is your ideal definition of a Great Leader?

To identify how you envision leadership it’s encouraged that you write down at least 500 words on what leadership means to you. It is okay to struggle with words at the beginning but asking a series of questions can help you bring awareness about what ideal leadership means to you. When you understand what leadership means to you, you can then aim to be the person you want.

These questions can help you frame leadership in your own words – 

  • What motivated you to search for leadership?
  • What inspired you to lead in general?
  • Who is your ideal role model in leadership?
  • How would you lead a group of 10 people to achieve a goal?
  • Did you lead in the past? If yes then write down the experience. 

2. Test your Self-Awareness

Developing personal self-awareness is an essential stage in successful leadership because it lays the cornerstone upon which both interpersonal and emotional intelligence is developed.

Without being aware of their emotions and how they affect behavior and thoughts, leaders cannot develop skills such as emotional self-control, self-esteem, or teamwork unless they are fully aware of themselves and their emotions

Are you the person who can see your value judgments, and value statements, as well as those of others, and can decide if those judgments and statements are true? Do you get caught up in the “inner voice” that tells you what you should do or what you must leave? Are you able to make decisions about yourself and how you must interact with others? These are some of the questions that you can ask to understand your level of Self-awareness. 

Understand, if you need to be a great leader you need to have control over yourself.

3. The Ultimate Mindset

Being on a leadership journey allows people to explore new ways of doing things. While each person goes in their direction, some find themselves taking positions opposite their previous one. This type of exploration is often refreshing, and it provides the opportunity to learn. 

A good leader is a consistent learner. He understands the importance of learning and we all know that learning can be infinite. A great leader continuously progresses through the journey every single day so the ultimate mindset to develop is ‘’Leadership is a journey and not a destination’’

In today’s world, to become a great leader you must keep on updating your skill and adapt to the ever-changing workplace. If you aspire to become the leader you think you can be. Then this mindset is critical to adapt. 

4. Getting Rid of the Followers Mindset

There are just two types of people when it comes to leadership. Some people lead and the people who follow. While being a follower has its advantage like – Learning from the best, staying as a follower is an issue. It is necessary to understand that all leaders were once a follower and they become great by admiring their leaders. 

So, how can you get rid of the follower’s mindset? One way to do so is to start making independent decisions whenever you can. You can start small and as you get more and more success with your decisions you can increase your scale. 

Do not be afraid to make decisions. If your decision-making is affecting someone else- let’s say your other team members then caution is required. Do not worry about the decisions that do not work out because when you make mistakes you would gain experience that would simply improve you as a person.

5. Write your Beliefs

Beliefs are important because they are usually necessary for us to survive and thrive as individuals and groups. Without empowering beliefs guiding our behavior and deciding our goals, it is very easy to fall apart, build resentment, and become mired in negative conflict and negative emotions. 

Individuals who lack beliefs can often feel detached from society and other people. Great leaders have strong beliefs that keep their purpose stronger. Without a solid belief, people may see little point in working to improve the world and in their own lives.

Without beliefs guiding their actions and their values, it becomes impossible for these individuals to find meaning in the chaotic, confusing world and to create personal and social goals and ambitions.

Now that you have some idea of the power of beliefs, the next logical step is to write down your list of beliefs. It is critical because many aspiring leaders have beliefs that limit their potential thus making things more challenging. At this stage, you must aim for clarity. Do not hesitate to write down all the beliefs.

To find out some core beliefs these are the steps you can use – 

  • Write down your internal conversation in a journal
  • Observe the words
  • Recheck your emotions

6. Get Rid of Unwanted Belief

When we talk about Unwanted beliefs, it means that any belief you hold in your mind is not serving you or anyone else. For most aspiring leaders these are the beliefs that hinder them from reaching their goals. We all have them, beliefs that we don’t want to act upon, but think we have no choice in doing so. Here is the deal on how to get rid of these unruly beliefs.

At this point, you must be aware of your beliefs in general and now it is time to rule out the beliefs that hold you back. To get rid of unwanted belief –

  • Acknowledge that these beliefs do not serve you – Figure out a moment in your life when you felt that you could have done something but because of this belief you could not do it. 
  • Find out how did we learn these beliefs – Beliefs and values are developed through our environment. It would be wise to figure out how did you instill these beliefs
  • Write down a new belief – Once you are aware of the beliefs that hold you back and acknowledged that they hold you back now it’s time to write down a new belief that would override the old one. Remember, these are not merely positive statements. These are the beliefs that would help you become the leader you aspire to be.
  • Think of the perk these new beliefs would bring – Our brain works better when it’s incentivized. The gains from this new belief(s) would make it firm inside your mind.

7. This Belief is Must Have

The ultimate core belief a great leader has is the need for learning and improvising. Why is learning so important to a great leader? It is a simple question and yet the answer may surprise you. It comes down to how a great leader thinks. Learning gives them a deeper understanding of the subject and brings the opportunity to level up your game. 

If you were to survey all the great leaders in history what would you expect to find? Most would agree that they all had one thing in common. They all were leaders who were also learners. That is to say, they constantly sought new knowledge about the world and they willingly gave this knowledge to others. They never held on to any one part of it and instead traded it away to learn more.

They are not afraid to learn. They understand that leaders need to be better to stay competitive. This desire to continually improve themselves has always led leaders to seek new knowledge and this journey can only benefit them.

Learning empowers individuals because it allows them to think critically. It forces them to look at problems in new ways and to devise new courses of action. It enables individuals to ask challenging questions that reveal the hidden truth. It helps the leaders to tap into their inner strength and become strong at what they do.

So your Ultimate belief should say – Learning is Earning and it’s a lifelong process. 

Stage 2 – Lead with Why

Great Leaders lead with why. They understand that your purpose is the key to happiness. Because understanding why you are doing what you are doing is a key step in becoming successful at what you want to achieve.

Leaders acknowledge that the most juice in life comes from achieving what you desire. It also helps them to understand the necessary motivation for action.

1. Understand your Why

For most great leaders, the only way of getting to any sort of meaningful end or purpose in life is through the process of self-inquiry. They get to the bottom of things by asking questions. If you do not ask, you will never find out the real answer. You might even find yourself without a reason to live at all. 

On the other hand, if you discover that there is an underlying purpose in your life, and the real meaning of your existence is linked to this purpose, then you can use it as a point of reference and move forward. When you discover your purpose, you can then use it to grow as an individual and to find meaning in your life.

To understand your why ask these 4 important questions – 

  • What makes you come alive?
  • What existing strengths do you have?
  • What value would you add to the team or the world?
  • How would you measure your purpose?

These are some of the questions you can ask yourself you understand the purpose behind your life. When you have a clear purpose in your life there is not much that you cannot do.

2. A Strong Vision

Great Leaders had strong Visions. Leadership is about being able to see a vision that gets you to a destination. Leadership is not a destination; rather it is the journey along the path to that destination. Leadership is all about having a vision or knowing where you are going. Vision is one of the first things great leaders addressed in a leadership style.

The leadership vision extends beyond simply your written organizational or personal mission statement and other vision statements. The leadership vision is manifested by the leaders and is communicated to the organization’s members, followers, and the broader community through various types of communication such as speeches, writings, advertisements, grants, and strategic thinking. 

You can apply the principles of strategic thinking to your leadership vision by developing a vision and communicating it! Take Martin Luther King Jr for the example. He had a dream and a vision for a better America and his speech on I have a dream still gives goosebumps to many aspiring leaders and citizens. He understood his purpose to fight for the civil rights movement and developed a vision of equality and communicated the same to the Lacs in the audience.

3. Get a Role Model

A role model is someone whose behavior, example, or accomplishment is or can easily be imitated by others, particularly by younger folks.

The word-role model comes from the word role, which is derived from the Greek word “Kristos,” which means teacher. In other words, the teacher is a role model. However, what is most important is that he serves as an example to achieve what you want to achieve. 

So what are good role models? Well, a good role model can be anyone. It can be a father, husband, son, teacher, doctor, lawyer, military personnel, and so on. The key thing is to find role models who exhibit positive behavior. Positive behavior is usually demonstrated through doing the right thing rather than doing only what one wants to do. 

A role model shows young people how to set goals, set reasonable expectations, work towards achieving those goals, and enjoy doing what they need to do to achieve those goals.

For example, a young person may want to become a sports player. A positive role model will encourage that young person. He or she will learn that hard work is rewarded with success. He or she will learn that everyone gets a chance to reach their potential. This will encourage the person and it will increase his or her self-esteem.

4. Communicate Emotions

Most of us struggle to find out what we’re feeling and thus have difficulties communicating what we feel. However, to become a great leader we must analyze what we feel which would allow us to communicate more efficiently. 

Leaders do not just communicate their thoughts they communicate their emotions. The communication skills they use every day to communicate with people, from colleagues to lovers, are not necessarily innate, they are learned and mastered throughout their life. They learn to use them properly which enables them to express their true emotions in a way no one else can. 

Taking Martin Luther King Jr’s example, when he gave the I have a dream speech, he did not just have a vision but the words that were used by Dr king created emotions and thus it resulted in it playing a crucial role in helping pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the pivotal Selma to Montgomery march that he led in 1965 would provide momentum for the passage later that year of the Voting Rights Act.

5. List of Words to Avoid

We all now know that words create emotions. The words that you use to communicate internally and externally affect how you perceive things or want to be perceived. How often have we heard a leader say that I cannot do it? You might have heard them say it’s challenging. A single word has the power to spark emotions that would determine the type of actions you would take. On the other hand, a single negative word increases fear in our brains which in turn interrupts our brain functioning.

A book called Words can Change your Brain emphasizes the words to use to trigger certain emotions. 

In the author’s words –

By holding a positive and optimistic [word] in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity. This area includes specific language centers that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action. And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain. Functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes your perception of yourself and the people you interact with. A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will include you toward suspicion and doubt. Over time the structure of your thalamus will also change in response to your conscious words, thoughts, and feelings, and we believe that the thalamic changes affect how you perceive reality.

6. Make People Feel Understood

Great Leaders are excellent listeners. Leaders need to be able to get their message across and be good listeners to those who are listening to them. If you’re a leader who is good at taking notes and talking to people and helping them to understand, then you might not be a good leader if you don’t listen. Some leaders can become very good speakers but for others, the skill of being a good listener is just a part of what makes them effective leaders.

Listening carefully allows them to grasp more knowledge as they also understand the importance of full knowledge. If you want to be a good leader, then you need to learn how to listen. You also need to be able to speak your mind and let others know when you have a better way of looking at things rather than others doing it. Making decisions based on what you think is right and listening to other ideas is a great way to lead and be effective in your job. A good leader is a good listener; however, not all good leaders listen.

7. Build Meaningful Connection

For a leader to be successful at leading others towards success, he or she needs to build a lasting relationship with them. The reason why aspiring leaders fail in their endeavors is that they fail to build relationships. Great Leaders
understand that for them to have something valuable, they need to give something as well. Rather, what I am saying is that we need to extend our hands in giving advice, guidance, support, and advice to others in need. This Builds connections and Provides longer relationships.

It has been proven by statistics that leaders who can build relationships with others have an advantage over those who do not. It is because the leaders who can interact and communicate with their followers are the ones who can more easily influence their fellow employees to do as they say. They are also the ones who can easily motivate the other employees to work harder than usual. It is also the fact that the ones who can build a relationship are the ones who can get the cooperation of their subordinates to do their tasks efficiently.

To become an aspiring leader yourself, you need to learn to create a relationship that lasts and form a deeper level of connection with your followers (Team, Family)

8. Inspire

Great leaders are inspirations to many. They can drive people to reach greater heights in performance and success. It is critical however to understand that leadership is not a result of the Job Title rather it is the actions of the individual that inspire. The CEO of a particular is not necessarily a leader but the Manager of a certain department can be a leader. From the list of traits, we listed until now. All those combined make a great leader that inspires and motivates people.

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Hey, y'all I'm Faisal!!👋

I’m SO excited you’re here!  I’m super passionate about improving ourselves and the daily challenges we Millennials go through, gives me hope to change our lives for good!

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