3 Steps To Great Leadership Qualities

Tatiana Sehring's picture

Leadership. It’s a hot topic of career conversations that fuels a multi-billion dollar self-help industry. From highly effective habits to leadership models and personal accounts of extraordinary life-and-death circumstances—the topic touches everyone in some facet of their career.

Whether you’re interested in developing your own behaviors or those of your team’s, leadership doesn’t require extraordinary tales of war; winning sports championships; or miraculously landing a crippled airliner safely on the Hudson. We all have opportunities to lead and grow in our daily lives. I believe great leadership begins with a conscious choice and sustained effort to improve over many experiences. No matter what advice you’ve read or heard, be sure to set standards that fit into your own life and career goals.

Here are three empowering concepts that fit into my own life that I’d like to share.

1. Rise Above and Establish Your Key Internal Drivers

To become a successful leader, you will need to rise above it all and set yourself free of your own fears and judgments, as well as worries of what others may think of you. Believe in your own set of values and what you bring to the table. To illustrate this point, I often look to Google’s Larry Page. While he faced criticism and many challenges early on, he focused on never letting what others think distract him from doing what he believed was right for the company. Today, Google is considered an industry standard for employee culture and leadership development. If you don’t rise above it all, you’re creating unnecessary limitations that can set you up to fail. Remember that you’re in charge of making your destiny. Trust your personal values and take control of your future! 

Read: Bill George’s national bestseller, “True North

Leadership requires self-awareness. Carefully take the time to assess what gives you a deep sense of purpose. Bill George writes, “Just as a compass point toward a magnetic field, your True North pulls you toward the purpose of your leadership. When you follow your internal compass, your leadership will be authentic, and people will naturally want to associate with you.” Once you’ve discovered your passion and purpose, keep them close to your heart at all times. Let them clearly set the direction toward your goals. You will then be able to focus your energy on what truly matters.

2. Fine Tune External Drivers and Use them to Inspire Others

How do you inspire others? To be a great leader, you will need to make a genuine effort to understand what is important to those with whom you interact every day. What motivates them and how do they perceive you? The best approach is to develop a can-do and collaborative environment by setting the leadership example, and by listening and providing opportunities for others to be creative and to shine. No matter how large or small your sphere of influence may be, always promote a culture of enthusiasm. 

Read: Dave Kerpen’s, “11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader

Kerpen talks about simple, but key principles that make successful leaders:

  • The ability to listen and engage in collaboration as a team player
  • Demonstrate respect and offer recognition to others
  • Act with humility and integrity

I agree with Kerpen’s explanation that although these concepts above are simple, people do tend to forget them. A great example of an organization that consistently demonstrates these principles is Zappos.com, led by the pioneering CEO, Tony Hsieh. The company is renowned for a culture that puts people before profit by motivating employees and generating strong consumer loyalty on an emotional level. Zappos.com is considered one of the best places to work in America and customers consistently rank it as one of their favorite companies. Amazon was so impressed that the online retail giant acquired Zappos.com for $1.2 billion in 2009.

3. Become Your Best by Focusing on Lifelong Learning

It’s an established standard for me and for my team that we should embrace lifelong learning, because education will always be critical in order to keep pace with industry and leadership trends. The best leaders are always up-to-date on the most current information. They develop fresh ideas and harness best practices. As a leader, you’re not only responsible for self-development, but for engaging others and helping them to develop and achieve their own personal and professional goals. Education will always play a pivotal role in helping you and your teams grow experientially.

Read: Dr. David G. Javitch’s, “10 Characteristics of Superior Leaders” 

Javitch accurately points out that you must be seen as the expert in your field, highly credentialed and capable of leading to success in order to be respected and followed. Ask yourself this question. What will it take for you to become this type of person?

Becoming a successful leader is a very personal journey. It will take work, persistence, dedication, and many years of experiences and challenges. There is definitely a learning curve, but if you are to be successful, you may be able to make a real contribution to the lives of many. You will find contentment in positively changing the world around us—one step at a time.

(Tatiana Sehring is the Director, Corporate and Strategic Relationships at American Public University System. She has over ten years of combined experience in strategic partnerships, business development, and marketing in a variety of industries including higher education, human capital management, environmental services, sustainability, hospitality, retail, government contractors, information technology, professional services, and non-profits. At APUS, she has developed long-term relationships with key industry and corporate partners. Currently, she also represents the university as a thought leader in a variety of speaking engagements and articles across industries.)