8 Things Successful Leader Do

8 Things Successful Leaders Do

Successful leaders have enormous influence over other people. There are some things that great leaders do that set them apart from others. Here I review eight things that I have found lead to success.

successful leader leadership climb

When you are working for or following someone, you typically drift towards people who you respect, trust, and are pushing you to better yourself. Having a successful leader as a role model can help you gain influence faster than sailing the seas alone. I have listed the eight, but they are not in any order of importance. Now for number one.

  1. First, great leaders have values. The root of all trust is character and values. Without trust there is no respect. Without respect, there is no influence. The values must be created and practiced within the organization and held by the leader as well. If the leader pushes the values but doesn’t live by them, he places a barrier between yourself and your team.

    “Trust is the essence of leadership.” – Gen. Colin Powell

    Some of the greatest leaders in our modern times have been sports coaches. Legends like John Wooden, Vince Lombardi, Adolph Rupp, and Nick Saban. When you think about those coaches, you probably think greatest, and you should, between the four of them they account for 24 National Championships in their respective sports. John Wooden alone had ten championships, with seven consecutively. Coaches take players from all walks of life and make them play on a team. Great coaches inspire and motivate their players to form a team and then come together as one.

In business it is no different. Leaders take teams and cast vision, motivate, and inspire people to play for their team. The rules are different, but the end result is someone who is motivated to perform. Motivation is the power to push through the hard times. As Vince Lombardi said “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

  1. Number three is related to number one, but important enough that I thought it deserved to stand on its own. People try to emulate the behavior of people with influence. A great leader should understand that and model appropriate behavior. If you’re a parent, you understand the importance of watching everything you do and say in front of your kids. Our kids watch us very closely and copy our behaviors. Similarly, our followers will do the same. If you take shortcuts, they will take shortcuts.
  2. Leaders who have successful teams and organizations cast a vision with clarity. Most organizations have their mission statement and know why they do what they do, but how many clearly identify what they do? I once heard a quote that said tell your team the vision 21 times and then say it again. Having a clear understanding on what you are supposed to focus on helps the team to move as a unit.
  3. If managers are about processes, leaders are about people. Understanding people, connecting with them and showing empathy are all huge benefits to leaders and their teams. Daniel Goleman, the modern father of Emotional Intelligence, has said that your EQ is more important than your IQ. Connecting with your people and letting them know you are human and understand they are human can reap huge rewards for your team. As former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” 
  4. John C. Maxwell labels number six in his book Failing Forward. Great leaders cannot be afraid to fail. Better yet, according to Maxwell, it is not failing when we learn from it and continue improving. Why should a leader who is strong enough to continue pushing through fear failure when you can’t fail?

    “Every successful person is someone who failed, yet never regarded himself as a failure.” – John C. Maxwell

  5. Many people will use motivation and inspiration interchangeably, but the difference is clear. Motivation is used to push through, inspiration is something that our heart is all in on. When a leader can light the fire inside someone to accomplish things because they want to, that leader has crossed into an even greater status. As former President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said; “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”Getting people to realize the only competition to focus on is being the best we can be instead of trying to compete with someone else. I am not very good at basketball, I could far easily find inspiration to become better than I am than trying to beat Michael Jordan.

    “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


  6. Last and certainly not least is developing others. Through the act of empowerment, education, and delegation leaders can develop their followers by adding value to them. One of the main responsibilities of a leader is to develop the next generation of leaders. A strong leader is not worried about being replaced. If you are always adding value to others, you will be in demand. Ralph Nader said that “…the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not followers.” 

“Surround yourself with great people; delegate authority; get out of the way.” – Ronald Reagan

I laid out eight things that successful leaders do. The list is not exhaustive and as I said at the beginning there was no order of importance. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes but they all possess special characteristics that draw other people to them. When you reach the ability to develop your follower, you have effectively multiplied your ability to lead.

“You have to enable and empower people to make decisions independent of you.  As I’ve learned, each person on a team is an extension of your leadership; if they feel empowered by you they will magnify your power to lead.  Trust is a great force multiplier.”   – Tom Ridge

Question: What would you add to this list? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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