Leadership has been and always will be the most valuable asset on earth. Without it, no amount of money, resources or talent will ever achieve sustainable success for any organization. But with it, all other odds and obstacles can be overcome. Leadership is what moves us from point A to point B; leadership is what makes each of us all that we have the potential to be. Leadership is what gives us hope for a better tomorrow.
No one ever said it was easy. Follow this process to become a more effective leader:
Lead Yourself First
The most important and most difficult person to lead will always be yourself. It is the aspect of leadership that will require the most discipline, commitment and determination. However, it is also the aspect that will reap the greatest rewards.
One of the most effective methods of leadership is to lead by example. Everything in an organization starts at the top; as a leader, the tempo that you set will generally set the tone for how members within your organization interact with each other as well as others outside of your organization. This is a double-edged sword. It can give you great influence over creating a positive mentality within your organization. However, by the same token, the next time you are about to lose your temper towards an employee or counterpart, don’t be surprised when one of your employees decides it must be acceptable for him or her to do the same towards a colleague.
There is no simple and fast rule here, but generally speaking, not only should you know the difference between what is right and what is wrong, but you should be practicing it and living your words each and every day. As a leader, you are on 24/7. There can be no transgressions. Conduct yourself with the same level of discipline and maturity that you expect from others -- and you will get it.
Cast Your Vision
No matter how strong your leadership and persuasion skills are, without a vision, your team is going nowhere fast. One of the defining traits that separates leaders from everybody else is that they know where they are going two, five, 10, 15 and 25 years from now. They feel a strong sense of purpose, have a plan to get there, and most importantly, are able to communicate that to others.
The practice of casting a vision as a leader is two-pronged. First, you must have a vision to begin with. But secondly, you must be able to clearly and vividly communicate this vision to others in a compelling way that will persuade them to follow you. They have to believe in what you are communicating. You need to communicate to them why their lives will be better off for having achieved this.
Finally, it is critical for all leaders to have exceptionally strong interpersonal skills—otherwise, they are not actually leading anybody. Interacting with and persuading others is both an art and a science, and it includes:
- Understanding others. The first step to being able to influence or persuade anyone is to understand them. You need to understand what drives people’s desires, fears, needs, wants and why they react the way they do in a variety of situations. You need to be able to see a situation from perspectives other than your own.
- Motivating others. The easiest way to get anybody to do anything is to make them want to do it. The key to motivating anybody to do anything is to speak in terms of their needs and wants. Communicate how this task will benefit them -- i.e., "what’s in it for them.” Also, never order someone to do anything. Coercion is not leadership.
- Empowering others. This is why people will follow some leaders to the ends of the earth. Encourage your followers to reach for their highest potential and to believe in themselves (by your believing in them first). If you could be the one to show somebody the person who they were born to become and help them get there, I guarantee that person will be with you for a long time.
Richard Lorenzen is the CEO of Fifth Avenue Brands, a New York-based public relations and digital media firm. Richard has been seen in Forbes, Fox Business, Inc. Magazine, CBS and more, and he speaks on leadership, business, economics and politics.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.