132 Leadership Tips
Below you’ll find 132 easy leadership tips for busy professionals who want to manage better and lead well at home, work, and the places in-between. It’s presented in four parts.
- Positive Actions Checklist contains a checklist of 60 personal improvement directives to help kickstart your attitude adjustment.
- No More Whine has twelve exercises and thought starters to reduce the amount of complaining you might be experiencing.
- Begin to Lead You’ll find 24 tips that enhance the quality of your leadership, regardless of your role.
- A-hole Reduction It’s time to acknowledge that many leaders are a-holes. Don’t become one of them. The 36 tips in this section help ensure that.
Combined, these 132 leadership tips will serve you well, whether you are in a formal leadership position to not.
TLDR; Download the entire list in a pdf or epub file you can browse through at your leisure.
POSITIVE ACTIONS CHECKLIST
There have been times you have felt uninspired. At some point, apathy washed over you. Instead of getting sick from it, you got sick of it and prepared for a change.
You may be starting a new endeavor in your life or have simply decided to adopt a new attitude. You want to get started on the right foot and do something positive. The 60 items that follow are for you. On the days you feel bored, stuck, lost, confused, or overwhelmed, flip through this list. It’s designed to get you moving and act differently from before you started.
1. WRITE A NOTE AND MAIL IT TO SOMEONE
Writing a note of appreciation or sharing some news is a nice thing to do, and it forces you to think about someone else. You get to practice your penmanship and help support the post office by using a stamp. Everyone benefits from this small act.
Regardless of your current condition, there is always something in life that can still make you smile; children, baby animals, nature, or an excellent book. Seek these out. If nothing else, smile in the mirror. You’ll experience the joy of being smiled at by someone attractive.
Laughter helps you. It works muscles that are hard to reach any other way. It also shows you have a sense of humor. Find people or situations that give you such a belly laugh that it hurts your sides. Bonus points if you pee a little.
4. GET IN A GOOD CRY AND GET OVER IT
Life is not always rosy and perfect. Bad things happen. Sometimes you hurt somebody, and sometimes you’re the one hurt. When everything feels out of your control, grab a pint of ice cream or a box of chocolates, and drown your sorrows. For a short time, stop trying to be so strong. Sometimes things suck. Cry until you’re all out of tears and snot. Give yourself two hours, maybe a little more if you’re particularly aggrieved. Then get over it. Brush yourself off and get back in the game.
5. LEARN SOMETHING
If you think you know everything, you’re probably an idiot. In the grand scheme of things, even with the Internet, you don’t know much. Develop your intellectual curiosity. It doesn’t have to be stressfully ambitious. Maybe it’s flipping a fried egg without breaking the yoke or understanding another person’s point of view on some cantankerous issue. It’s good to stretch yourself too, so consider learning how to play a musical instrument or speak Urdu. There’s no shortage of things to learn.
6. TEACH SOMEONE
Teaching helps you learn. It solidifies your thinking, and if you have a great student, it challenges your thinking and makes you even better. To teach someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give to another human being.
7. SAY THANK YOU
Although it’s healthy to expect things in life, it’s polite to be appreciative when you get them. When you don’t say thank you because you’re too busy, too important, or too careless, people think you’re an ass — and they’re right.
8. BE OKAY BEING WRONG
Many people relish being right. Full disclosure, one of my favorite sounds is when someone tells me, “You were right.” It has a very appealing musical quality to me. I prefer being right, but I’m okay being wrong. Being fallible is a human condition. Being wrong and intelligent enough to admit it teaches you something besides humility and endears you to others. It takes bigger guts to admit your mistakes than to blame others.
Don’t be afraid of hugging. It’s a beautiful demonstration of affection, respect, warmth, caring, and understanding, things the world could use more of. Increase your contribution.
10. DRINK MORE WATER
It’s good for you. It hydrates your brain, flushes toxins out of your system, and you’re not getting enough. Flavor it if you must, but get eight ounces for every hour you’re awake.
Tomorrow you’ll feel better than you do today.
11. REASSERT YOUR VALUES
Look where you’ve spent your time and money over the last three months to learn what you currently value. Are you happy about that? If not, start acting in better alignment with the things you say you value.
12. MAKE A PLAN
At night, or in the morning, every day, once a week, or once a month, plan what you’re going to do next. What do you want to happen? What do you need to get done? Write it down and plan it out. A lousy plan surpasses no plan.
13. DO SOMETHING OFF-PLAN
A few people get too rigid with their planning and have no room left on their calendars. Be open to serendipity. Have some flexibility to go off-script from time to time. Have superior focus and peripheral vision.
14. GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO HELP SOMEONE
Everyone could use a little boost from time to time. Everyone faces a struggle, no matter where they fall on the socio-economic scale. You have time, treasure, or talent that someone else could benefit from. Help others when they need it, not only when it’s convenient for you.
15. COUNT YOUR MONEY
Always know how much you have. It’s empowering. Sometimes it can be shocking (positively or negatively), but it’s always better to know because the knowledge influences you to make better decisions.
16. PUT 10% OF YOUR MONEY ASIDE
You’re not saving enough. Yes, it’s hard when times are tough and expenses keep growing, but this habit helps you in the long run. Go extreme. Each night when you empty your pockets or set your wallet aside, count your money, put 10% in a jar or an envelope, and don’t touch it. The first few times, it will feel unnatural. Soon, it will be fun, and you’ll become as excited about saving money as you are about spending it.
17. READ SOMETHING
If it’s not a habit yet, make it one. Read every day. To get started, it doesn’t matter what you read. Eventually, challenge yourself to read above your comfort zone, both in language and genre or perspective.
18. LEARN A NEW WORD
An increase in vocabulary correlates to an increase in wealth. When you become aware of the meaning of words, you’re more apt to use them correctly and judiciously. It improves your decision-making skills. When I was younger, my mother, sister, and I randomly opened the dictionary, pointed to a word, and used it for a week. I stupefied my third-grade teacher when I told her I was shy in school but loquacious at home.
18. CLEAN UP YOUR MESS
Somewhere around you is a mess. Instead of complaining about it, clean it up. Loose papers, a sink full of dishes, scattered laundry. Stop staring at it and getting yourself all worked up. Clean it up and be done.
20. DONATE SOME CLOTHES
You have too many. Something is out of style, doesn’t fit, or is ugly as sin. Give it away. Throw it in a bag and sneak off to one of those donation boxes, or regift it to an appreciative friend or family member with great fanfare. It doesn’t matter how you do it; just get rid of it.
21. TRADE HABITS
Save your time trying to break a bad habit. Instead, decide on something good you want to do (pick any number on this list) or choose a “less-bad” habit to replace it with.
22. BREAK A SWEAT
Some hate to sweat, and some love it. Do something that creates enough exertion to make you sweat. Don’t endanger your health, but move faster than you do now.
23. SAVE YOUR WILLPOWER FOR LATER
Studies suggest we each have a limited reserve of willpower; some have more, some less. It’s used during the day and replenished with sleep. If you exhaust your willpower during the day, you’ll be less likely to call upon it in the evening when you may wish you had better judgment. Two options; give in to your morning weakness so you don’t succumb to evening temptation, plan your day ahead of time, determine where you will say yes and no, and stick to it.
24. DECIDE HOW MUCH AND BY WHRN FOR THREE IMPORTANT THINGS
When you know how much, you’ve set a metric or success measure. When you know by when you’ve selected a deadline. Now you have three goals instead of three wishes.
25. MARVEL AT SOMETHING BIGGER THAN YOURSELF
Justifiable arrogance or cockiness doesn’t bother me much, but egomaniac behavior would be abhorrent. To guard against this, visit nature or contemplate something bigger than yourself. When I lived in Boston, I liked to walk by the John Hancock building and look at my reflection in the glass. I felt sure of myself in one pane, but when I let my eyes gaze upward 60 stories, I couldn’t help but feel insignificant. I feel the same when I glance at the moon. For thousands of years, humans have looked up at it in wonder. In my lifetime, people have been there and back. You’ve got to know where you fit and then explore the boundaries.
26. COMPLETE SOMETHING
Find something incomplete and finish it. There’s a project you started months, maybe years ago, still sitting there waiting for you. It could be a book you began writing, an engine you’re rebuilding in the garage, an afghan you’re crocheting, a piece of IKEA furniture you gave up on. Roll up your sleeves and get it done. Finish something and celebrate your success.
You’re not doing enough of this. Park farther away, take more stairs, walk around the block, beach, or park. Move your body.
28. OPPOSE SOMETHING
There is something you are vehemently against, but you’ve been politely silent. It’s an opinion someone has been spouting off or an important issue that’s not going the direction you want it to. Speak up, act and oppose it. Rock the boat if you have to. You have the right to be heard. Speak with our voice, your pen, or your feet.
29. BE FOR SOMETHING
Being for something doesn’t always elicit the passion as being against something does, but it has the advantage of being an action in the affirmative.
30. FIX SOMETHING
A flickering light, a dripping faucet, a relationship with a loved one. Something in your surroundings is currently broken. Fix it on your own or with the help of others. Now.
31. CREATE SOMETHING
Make something you can point to and say, “I did that.” Decorate a room, make a killer presentation, write a poem, and build a house. You decide the scope and scale, but get started and complete it.
32. HOLD SOMEONE’S HAND
Two hands together feel powerful. It creates a connection and solidifies a bond. Be it intimate or casual, lifesaving or comforting, holding hands puts you in touch with humanity.
33. PREPARE. LIFE HAPPENS.
Are you ready for it? Something is constantly happening: an opportunity, a disaster, events on the calendar, and the unforeseeable alike. The better prepared you are to meet it head-on, the more likely you’ll handle it successfully.
People enjoy being asked. They won’t always give you the answer you want, but asking at least gives them the option. Asking trumps telling in creating respect. Asking also greatly enhances your chances of getting what you want.
Something in your life is in disarray. It might be as simple as your sock drawer or where you keep your bills. Maybe, your thinking is cluttered. Make the time to get things in order. You will feel better and more productive.
36. ACT ON PURPOSE
Do you know what you’re doing and why? Most people don’t bother to ask simple questions of themselves. You ought to, multiple times a day. Is what you’re doing moving you in the direction of your dreams, or is it deferring them? Adjust your course.
37. SHOW GRATITUDE
People sometimes think they are owed something. Typically, the less grateful believe they are owed the most. Abandon the self-righteous attitude you sometimes carry with you. Shut up for a few minutes and be appreciative of all you have and all you have learned.
38. TREAT YOURSELF
There’s no need to go hog wild. You don’t need to throw a parade for tying your shoes, but reward yourself for accomplishing something of significance instead of shrugging it off as no biggie.
39. TREAT SOMEONE ELSE
When you notice other people and the good they are doing, it’s natural and wise to show your appreciation. Find people doing good things and treat them to something they would like.
40. PUT OFF PROCRASTINATION
Procrastination is perhaps your biggest enemy; stop giving it so much of your time. It keeps you away from the accomplishment.
41. KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DICHOTOMY AND HYPOCRISY
A dichotomy acknowledges that some complex systems require two opposing forces to work properly (you breathe in and out). Hypocrisy is claiming one thing but acting in opposition.
42. WATCH SCHOOLHOUSE ROCKS
Please, get a basic understanding of the founding of the United States and how the government works (bonus points for math and grammar). I’m tired of bloviating elected representatives who don’t know the basics. It’s not entirely their fault. We, the people, put them there, probably because we were ignorant or fell prey to their tortured logic. Get a minimal primer and smarten up. This stuff’s important.
43. KNOW YOUR PREFERENCES
Stop living with your default settings — advocate for what you want. You won’t always get it, but at least try.
Whenever there is an opportunity to voice your opinion and preferences, do it. It’s an incredibly empowering feeling. If you have doubts about how vital it is, look at how hard people work to get your vote or try to subvert it. Attempting to dissuade another from voting is a despicable and reprehensible act. Elections have consequences. Take your responsibility seriously. Learn what you must to make an informed decision, then make it, and then make sure your vote is counted.
45. APOLOGIZE PROPERLY
We’ve all heard crappy apologies. They included the words “if” and “but.” Those aren’t apologies; they are noisy and useless public relations exercises. A proper and sincere apology meaningfully fills in the blanks.
“I’m sorry. I feel __________. I __________, and take responsibility for the harm that’s caused. I acted in a way that was not consistent with whom I wanted to be. I’m going to make amends for the damage I’ve done by __________.”
46. SLOW DOWN AND THINK
We are being inundated with information from a variety of sources. With all the outside stimuli, we tend to react to uncertainty by hunkering down with what we think we already know instead of thoughtfully pursuing a rational alternative to the circumstances in front of us. Gather a variety of information from different sources. Look at things from a historical, political, social, economic, and humanistic perspective rather than regurgitating someone else’s opinion.
47. SPEED UP AND ACT
Former Secretary of State, the late general Colin Powell, had advised that once the probability of success of a decision is between 40% and 70%, make the decision. Acting with less than 40% is careless, and if you wait until it’s greater than 70%, the opportunity will have probably already passed.
48. KNOW GEOGRAPHY
Know where in the world you are. Know who’s around you. Know what the other side of the world looks like. Geography has a significant influence, and it matters. If you struggle to find where you are on a map, why would you expect people to follow you to where you say you want to go?
49. BE AWESOME
You can change how you feel anytime you want. Choose to be awesome.
50. GET INSPIRED
Listen to upbeat music, inspirational speeches, sermons, podcasts, or books.
51. HELP SOMEONE ON THEIR TERMS
Ask someone, “What one thing can I do for you that will most help you make a positive difference?” and then help them.
52. DRAW A PICTURE OF SUCCESS
You don’t have to pull out the crayons; you can write them down if you prefer. Create a repeatable compelling vision and a sense of purpose, and then ask for help. You’ll probably need a hand, and people like being asked.
53. FIND THE UPSIDE TO YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE
Do that, and you’ve nearly conquered the thing because your fear will turn to purpose.
54. BE A CHILD
Can you remember what you said you always wanted to be when you grew up? Why? What about now? List your ten best excuses for not pursuing your dreams. Let them stare back at you and mock you. Then turn them into an action plan and cross them off as you work to eliminate your barriers.
55. LIST YOUR TOP THREE ACCOMPLISHMENTS
You’ve done some good things. Remind yourself of them.
56. HAVE A SENSE OF OVERWHELMING OPTIMISM
You can still be a realist. An optimistic realist is more fun to be around than a pessimistic realist.
57. IGNORE OR CRUSH ANY APATHY OR NEGATIVISM YOU ENCOUNTER
They’re out there, you can’t avoid them, but just like pests, you can minimize your exposure. Keep a lid on the things they feed off so they don’t return.
58. RECOGNIZE PEOPLE FOR THE GOOD THINGS THEY DO
Don’t stop at just thinking about it; actually, thank people. Praise progress, even if it’s approximately right. They don’t hear it enough.
59. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND GET TO WORK
Justified confidence is great. Even unjustified confidence gives your spirits a boost. Sitting back in the glow of greatness is arrogant and will dim fast. Use your confidence, real or imagined, to work on the things that are important to you.
60. CAPTURE YOUR AHAS
Create a list based on your experiences and beliefs and share it with people important to you.
Go back through the previous list of 60 positive actions and tag the ones you like. From those, pick three and do them. Believe in yourself and get to work. How useful do you imagine you’ll be working with others if you don’t work on yourself?
NO MORE WHINE
Nobody enjoys working with complainers — the people who seem to be perpetually ungrateful and gripe about everything that is wrong. Left unattended, their toxicity can contaminate the entire team and organization. How can you help them to reduce the whine?
Start with yourself. Make sure you have not been infected with the urge to whine. For example, have you caught yourself complaining about the complainer? It’s easy to do. Work can grind you down. Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed or disillusioned. Things are not working out as you planned. This emotion frequently hits hardest for those who have probably been in their current role for eighteen to twenty-four months. For some, it comes earlier; for others, much later.
Regardless, it’s a slippery slope. People begin whining about their job, the people they work with, their family, their weight, their government, their income…
You know, all that whining is unattractive. There are already plenty of unattractive people in the world; it does not need more. Besides, whining is also very annoying. To help others, take responsibility and show some self-leadership first.
This part of Leadership Tips attempts to get you started in a positive direction. The 12 tips contain exercises and thought starters aimed at helping you get over yourself and start working on something productive.
Only then can you effectively help others. You will find ideas that you can apply to virtually any role in any size organization.
Are you ready to take better control of your attitude and approach toward work and life? Let’s get going!
61. KNOW WHERE YOU ARE
Most of the time, you want to look toward the future, but right now, it is best to confront today’s brutal facts. At the end of your next workday, answer these questions.
- How are you feeling?
- When you look in the mirror, describe whom you see.
- What do you think you sounded like to people who may have overheard your conversations today?
- Do you have a sense of purpose in what you do? Why or Why not?
This is your baseline measure. It’s subjective, but how you feel after reviewing your answers will give you a lot of information on your current state of happiness and how much energy you will need to devote to improving your outlook.
62. GET HAPPY, STAY HAPPY
Wouldn’t it be cool to feel excited or passionate about something? Actively look for something that makes you smile and quickens your pulse.
First, pay attention to what you regularly complain about, then shut up and fix it or just shut up. Your complaining is annoying. Next, identify five positive people and spend more time with them. Hanging out with happy people helps make you happy. Still struggling? Write down the things that make you happy, and then figure out how to spend more time with the things and people that lift your spirits.
- List three things (or people) that currently make you happy.
- How will you spend more time with those three things (or people) that lift your spirits?
You want to feel better, don’t you? Then you had better show these people or things some enthusiasm.
Unyielding happiness is unrealistic and unhealthy. Life is full of ups and downs. The goal is to reduce the recovery time it takes every time life deals you one of its inevitable blows.
63. CHECK YOUR VISION
What is the difference you want to make? Something is spurring you on. There’s a vision you have that is aching to be realized. Now is the time to breathe some new life into it.
What lofty ideal do you want to achieve?
Your vision must be seen through your eyes first before others can see it. So, make it as vivid as possible. Create a sensible vision. Use all your senses to describe this future state. Keep working on it until others who hear it for the first time easily understand it; make it memorable and repeatable.
Too often, people spend too much time and energy trying to create a literary masterpiece instead of a clear, easy-to-follow and understood vision. It’s a terrible waste of resources.
64. CALIBRATE YOUR COMPASS
When you are overwhelmed by the challenges and changes around you, look for the certainties in your life. People who get lost forget to look at their dependable set points on their compass. Pinpoint these directions, and you are never lost. You will know exactly where you are.
If you are having trouble, identify each personal direction as your primary goal.
Discovering where you are is essential before attempting to figure out where you are going next and what vehicle you will use to get there.
Calibrate your compass.
• North — What are your true values?
• East — What is your motivating purpose? Why do you bother to get up in the morning?
• South — How do you rejuvenate and lift your spirits?
• West — What do you dream about or want to bring about?
65. BE A STAR, NOT A BLACK HOLE
To over-generalize, let’s say there are three types of people in most organizations.
Greatness Inhibitors: Some people feel that what they are doing is just a job. They do not feel like they get enough. In fact, they think they are owed something. They are Greatness Inhibitors, and they suck the oxygen out of the room like a black hole.
Potential Stars: Some people wish things could be better. They may not love what they’re doing, but it pays the bills, and they still have ambition and hope for the future. They have had moments of greatness and liked how it felt. These people would benefit from making more contributions to the organization.
Highly Valued Stars: The people who often problem-solve away from work and feel that their job enriches a part of their life and part of their life enriches their job are rare. They are the leaders, regardless of title, because they are committed to continuing to perform and enrich themselves and others.
- Which type of person best describes where you are today? Which do you want to be tomorrow?
66. STOP COMPLAINING, EVEN IF IT’S FUN
People like to tell other people how they’ve been wronged. So much so that they have been known to embellish it a little so everyone knows the pain they are feeling. Sometimes, people unwittingly take on a victim mentality because it provides them with needed attention.
Rather sad, huh?
Think about it. When you hear other people complain at work about their situation, don’t you immediately think of all the alternatives that person could have done to avoid their pain? Don’t you immediately try to help, even if they don’t want to hear your ideas? You never heighten their misery by agreeing with them and encouraging them to give up. You seek reasonable alternatives to buoy their spirits. You have to do the same for yourself.
What or who do you regularly complain about at work?
When you feel lost and you’re floundering, seek out the positive people you know. They are the ones who have modified their attitudes to match new circumstances. Can you identify them? Are they a part of your circle? They need to be. They can be the lifelines that stop you from sinking any further.
- Who are the stars in your life that you can chart your success journey with?
- Try to identify five people who fit the bill of what you need right now. How are you going to spend more time with each of them?
67. DON’T BLAME IT ON BURNOUT IF YOU’RE THE ARSONIST
You may think you are exhausted by work, your boss, and life — and you might be, but don’t blame it on burnout if you’re the arsonist. People get ticked off when you moan and groan to them about how tired and worn out you feel because they know it’s a load of garbage. You can sustain a lot of real pain and hardship as a human being. Like it or not, much more hardship than you currently feel. Most people you know have endured more difficulties than you; they just don’t talk endlessly about it. You are blessed with a brain that can solve almost any problem set before it. Being lazy is a lousy and irresponsible option to pursue.
Decisions can be hard, but you need to do something to address your problems. Fortunately, you have choices.
- You can try to change the problem into something more to your liking.
- You can ignore the problem for a little while anyway.
- You can choose to get rid of the problem. Just move on and find something else.
The same applies to you and your current role. Which do you choose? To change it, ignore it, or get rid of it?
Identify what motivates you.
68. FIX WHAT’S WRONG
If you have a “What difference does it make?” attitude, you need to fix it immediately. It is essential that you find something to start to care about.
When something is wrong, and you know it’s wrong, or there is a direct or indirect assault on your values, beliefs, mission, goals, or people, you need to fight back. Do what is right even if it’s not correct. Find a substantial role to play and make a positive difference.
Know that you can make a difference — and in fact, it’s your human responsibility.
- What needs fixing, and how will you start?
69. BEWARE OF THE THREE DONKEY DAY
Believe it or not, people are generally good. Very few wake up each morning and commit to screwing you somehow. So, beware of the Three Donkey Day. Today, if you encounter three separate people you feel are complete donkeys, you are probably acting like the ass.
- When was the last time you came across three “donkeys”?
- Reflecting back on that day, who was the biggest donkey? If you believe it was anyone other than you — think harder. Not sure? Ask someone who was with you.
- Knowing what you now know, what will you do differently in the future?
70. MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE
If you behave glumly every day, it is assured that you will build momentum and speed toward a much-deserved outcome. Unfortunately, that outcome will not be a positive one. You’re not doomed, but you need to change your approach toward the people you interact with, and it doesn’t have to be complicated.
- As a start, in true servant-leadership fashion, ask others, “What one thing can I do for you that will most help you make a positive difference?”
- If possible, fulfill the request immediately, or at least help get it done. Doing this consistently creates a positive and proactive buzz, the likes of which you probably have not seen in quite a long time.
- If you find yourself lost and rudderless, find ways to make a positive difference.
71. KNOW WHY YOU’RE STILL HERE
Ask yourself, “Why am I still here?” Keep probing until one or more of these motivations are revealed.
- Is it For Personal Development?
- Is it Because of the enriching experiences with others?
- Is it to work on leaving a legacy, something bigger than yourself?
- Why are you still in your current organization? If it’s not clear, go someplace where it is!
72. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
Have you asked yourself, “What do I want?” Do you even know, or are you still feeling far off track?
If you’ve gotten comfortable with your complaining, it’s time to stop. Quit playing a victim; it’s no way to live. What do you want to do with yourself?
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
Is that still appealing? If not, why not? If yes, why aren’t you doing it now?
Think of yourself as an actor on a television show. You want to contribute toward getting high ratings, so the show avoids cancellation, and you want to be renewed each season. So, you act and perform in a way that leads to the show’s success, and you earn awards along the way. Remember, you want to be a Highly Valued Star, not a Greatness Inhibitor.
- Go ahead; list your ten best excuses for not pursuing your dreams. For each one, ask, “Why is this an excuse?
- Next, figure out how to eliminate each excuse. Prioritize this the same way you would your goals. You need to get rid of the barriers that are keeping you from your dream.
These 12 tips and series of questions, exercises, and thought starters were aimed at helping you get over yourself and work on something productive. One of those positive things could be helping others who have not been their optimal selves.
The concepts can apply to virtually any job and any position in any organization. Hopefully, it inspired you to begin moving your mind in a more positive direction.
The intention was to help inspire you to maximize your strengths and continuously improve yourself and your organization by using the powers of vision, passion, and action.
The rest is up to you. It is time to put yourself back in the driver’s seat of your career and your life and begin pursuing the dreams, hopes, and aspirations that you have been moaning about. Believe in yourself and get to work.
BEGIN TO LEAD
You can pick up dozens of books that tell you what makes a good leader. When you are brand new to leadership, you might try to read all of them. You may be trying to combat imposter syndrome, or you may have the conscientiousness to study and learn so you don’t screw up. That is admirable, particularly in light of the findings that nearly 60% of new managers fail within the first 18–24 months in their role. By deciding you want to be a good leader instead of a lousy one, you significantly enhance your odds of success.
Effective management and leadership can be difficult. There are days (and nights) when external motivation or internal inspiration is lacking, and you feel directionless. That is not a luxury you can afford if you are serious about being a professional who can be counted on to manage better and lead well.
In this part of Leadership Tips, you will learn 24 tips that enhance the qualities of a good leader so you can begin to lead. Use them as a daily reminder, or turn them into an action plan for a month’s worth of leadership development.
Refer to these tips often, and you will have a head start managing better and leading well.
73. MAKE DECISIONS
To move forward, leaders make decisions. Make and act on one big decision you have been putting off today. Simple, but not always easy.
74. INSPIRE CREATIVITY
There is joy in solving problems and finding solutions. There is a pain in letting things rot, fester or stagnate. As a leader, you set the stage; which one do you prefer. Feed yourself with something that inspires you today, and then encourage creativity in others. (Repeat often.)
75. BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS
Good leaders are not situationally responsible. When you goof, you own it. When you succeed, you share the credit.
That is the compact if you want to be taken seriously. Pick an important item you are wavering on and find someone to hold you accountable for the results.
76. COMMUNICATE EXPECTATIONS
Whim is difficult to anticipate. People do not always know what’s happening in their leader’s head. Thinking does not make it so. Acting on those thoughts does. Be clear about what you want. If people do not understand you, that is on you — not them.
77. BE DEEPLY CURIOUS
The arrogant think they have all the answers. Leaders know when they do not and ask better questions. Pick one assumption you are sure of, and then look for ways to prove yourself wrong.
78. PROBLEM SOLVE
Leaders work on solving problems. Sometimes that involves creating new ones, which is okay. Solve those too. Make a list of all the current issues that are on your plate. Eliminate the ones you have no control or impact on, e.g., the weather. Choose the problem that, when solved, would positively impact other problems too. This problem is now one of your goals. Put a singular focus on solving it. After it is resolved, celebrate and go find another.
79. FREQUENTLY COMMUNICATE
As a leader, you often get great ideas. Also, remember to reinforce your existing vision, mission, values, etc. You might think you are repeating yourself. It’s okay. What you think is essential bears repeating. Incorporate new feedback and stay on message.
80. EMBRACE AND MANAGE CHANGE
Leadership thrives on change; management too frequently does not. Instead of dreading inevitable change, pay attention, find the predictable elements you can control, and approach the rest with curiosity.
81. VALUE CUSTOMERS AND END-USERS
Everyone has customers or end-users, the person who benefits from your work. Without them, you do not have much work. Do you serve them begrudgingly or with a sincere smile? Leaders who value client relationships are responsive, inquisitive, helpful, and grateful. See if you can be all four with each client you interact with today.
82. ENJOY YOUR ROLE
You will not love all of it, but you had better love most of it. Think about your role as a leader and list the elements you dislike against the items you enjoy. If you find you lack gratification and joy the majority of the time, how capable of a leader do you think you are? Today, overcompensate and pursue the tasks that fulfill you.
83. SHARE A VISION
Where do you want to go? What can you see that others do not … yet? It is one thing to see in your mind’s eye where you want to go and what you want to create and achieve. To get there as a leader, you must share your vision with others who can help. To do that, make it a sensible vision. That means two things. It should be currently out of reach but not out of the realm of possibility. Second, you should describe it in a way that invokes all senses.
84. BEHAVE ETHICALLY
If you find it difficult to operate within the rules, you might not be cut out for leadership. Ensure you are acting congruently with your morals, values, and ethics.
85. GIVE CREDIT AND TAKE BLAME
Leadership is finding the nuance between “It’s not about you.” and “You are 100% responsible.” When you receive praise, say thank you, and if anyone helped you achieve something, thank them. When you receive blame, accept the feedback and fix the problem.
86. FOCUS ON A GOAL
Wishing is not enough. Consistent active participation makes dreams come true. As a leader, you had better be goal-driven, and that goal or those goals should bring you closer to your vision. Keep yourself and others focused on the things that do that and away from distractions.
87. GET BETTER AT SETTING GOALS
Don’t confuse goals with wishes. Goals are not easy. It takes much effort to set a goal for yourself or others. You cannot merely command a goal into being. Secondly, good goals are inspiring and specific. Vague goals get vague results. Sometimes you announce your goals, and sometimes you keep them close to your vest. Whom you share them with matters. How and how often you measure progress matters. How you celebrate along the way matters. No goal, no direction. No direction, no point. Always have a great goal.
88. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR PERSONAL DASHBOARD
When you manage and lead others, getting engrossed with their performance and metrics is easy. Pay attention to YOUR personal dashboard as well. Business results and improvements in your relationships, health, education, etc., should get your attention. Measure the important aspects of your life. Knowing your measures is the only way to maintain and improve your performance.
89. TAKE THE INITIATIVE
Some wait for someone else to act, and some will not wait and instead make things happen. Don’t wait to see who moves first, be the person who moves first.
90. SET YOUR OWN EXAMPLE
You look foolish when you admonish people for acting a certain way and then act that way. Today, and every day after, don’t think you can just set the example and consider your job to be done. You have to also BE your own example.
91. MEASURE THE RIGHT THINGS CONSISTENTLY OVER TIME
Anything can be measured; however, this does not mean everything should be measured. Pick the items (units, calls, dollars, scores, errors, etc.) that are most relevant to your important goal(s) and track them over time (every hour, day, week) without fail. Don’t miss a measurement. Be consistent. Fix your attention on your leading indicators to influence your lagging indicators. Don’t change the goal post if you do not like the trend or results. Look for what’s working. Celebrate successes and keep the trend line moving in the direction you seek.
92. POSSESS A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Your attitude colors and filters everything you pull in and push out, which is one of the rare things you have complete control over. Today, lead from a positive place. Find the best in people and give the best of yourself.
93. VALUE RELATIONSHIPS
You are a reflection of your closest relationships. It is easy to take advantage of your meaningful relationships. It is easy to take shortcuts and leave them shortchanged. Stop doing that. Make a plan and a commitment to showing people how much you value them.
94. BUILD A RECORD OF SUCCESS
Action breeds action. Note your accomplishments, not to humble brag, but to record where you have been and what you have done. If you have been doing that, trends of strengths and weaknesses will appear. Make adjustments when starting your next endeavor.
95. BE FLEXIBLE AS CONDITIONS CHANGE
Stability is nice; change is inevitable. Learn to discern when to be unyielding and when to go with the flow. A river follows the same basic route but is in constant movement.
96. POSSESS COURAGE
Make a distinction between danger and fear. Avoid danger and confront fear. Confront something that fills you with dread. Confidence grows out of competence, which you achieve by doing. Help to destroy a fear today, either yours or someone else’s.
This is your baseline measure. It’s subjective, but how you feel after reviewing your answers will give you a lot of information on your current state of happiness and how much energy you will need to devote to improving your outlook.
The 24 tips in this section were aimed at helping you to begin to lead. Pay attention to the essential leadership skills because they often get lost over time. The leadership qualities outlined can apply to any level of leadership in any discipline.
The intention was to help inspire you to maximize your existing strengths and continuously improve yourself and your organization by using the powers of vision, passion, and action.
The rest is up to you. Leaders take on more significant responsibilities and burdens than they originally signed up for.
If you are going to lead, meet that challenge and lead well.
Leading a team can be equally daunting and fulfilling. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against most because those who rise in positional power typically didn’t get there for their team prowess.
Executive suites and corner offices remain havens for barrel-chested man-babies who treat people like they are disposable.
To be fair, whenever people come together for a common purpose, there will be those who are unwilling to participate fully. Sometimes they are the adored mavericks, the rebel, or the disruptor. I support all those roles, but it is possible to fulfill them without being the a-hole on the team. This section gives you 36 tips.
You do not need positional power to lead well. Still, many people are ignoring the essential leadership tools that focus on the people that make teams possible. Becoming a good team leader without being an a-hole can be difficult. Difficulty is not a sufficient excuse for incompetence, and as you know, if you have ever worked for a lousy boss, incompetence hurts and can derail careers.
Leading a team of any size is an important responsibility. Doing it well requires the right mindset and disciplined self-leadership. Use this guide as a preventative measure. Adopt several of the tips and methods discussed, and you will be well on your way to managing better and leading well.
97. CREATE AND NURTURE CULTURE
The larger the organization, the more defined (and entrenched) the culture. Regardless of the team size, leaders set the tone of what is acceptable and what is not. Acknowledge that, like it or not, you are a role model as a leader. Your actions are being scrutinized and mimicked. Therefore, make sure they reinforce the culture of performance you want.
98. LEAD PEOPLE FROM “A-HA” TO “NO-DUH”
When faced with something new, it is safe to assume people don’t know things at first. Connect the dots for them and do it repeatedly. Sometimes, you will feel caught in an endless loop, and your work colleagues will still not “get” something. When you continue to repeat your message, they will eventually understand, perhaps roll their eyes, and say something like, “Everybody knows that.” Only then will you know you’ve succeeded.
99. BE THE ONE WHO DOES NOT PANIC
Panic is the opposite of leadership. Panicking does not help you or those who look to you for guidance. You can be calm, forceful, clear, and still lead. Do not be the hothead, the shrill voice, or the man-baby crying for attention. When a crisis arises, rise to meet it with detached confidence. This is not always easy, but it is what you do when you are committed to leading well.
100. REWARD THE EFFORTS OF OTHERS
Author, management expert, and mentor, Ken Blanchard is fond of saying, “Raise your hand if you are getting too much reward and recognition.” Hands seldom go up. Make a point of noticing what people do right (or approximately right) today, and acknowledge them.
101. GIVE CONTINUOUS FEEDBACK
Feedback is information. It is not inherently positive or negative — but how it is delivered influences how it is received. First, ask if your feedback would be welcomed, and then be sure what you share is for the recipient’s benefit, not you.
102. PLACE TEAM MEMBERS WHERE THEY CAN WIN
The point of a team is to accomplish results better than if pursued singularly. Evaluate your current results and decide if you have the right people in the right positions for right now.
103. LEAD PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE WITH YOU
Leading a group of yes-men is not particularly impressive. Skill is required to lead effectively, and this approach demonstrates very little mastery. If you rely on positional power and authoritarian tactics, you will attract the weak-willed who will fawn over you. That is not a difficult feat, and your results will be suboptimal.
It is better to be a leader who can influence, inspire, and compromise with those who disagree with you. To do so shows your ability to listen, empathize, negotiate, and collaborate. Disagreements do not have to be adversarial. Curiosity can just as easily fuel them. Curiosity is a desirable trait most people enjoy seeing in others.
If you are going to lead, make it worthwhile. Invite challengers to help you clear the obstacles in areas you may not see. They will develop your strengths, and your mutual respect will move everyone closer to the desired vision.
104. DEMONSTRATE EMPATHY
It is tempting to think of yourself first; after all, you are the person you spend the most time with. Make an effort to understand where another person is coming from. Resist being ego-driven and defensive. Instead, listen, show compassion, and cry unapologetically if you must. Be there for someone besides yourself.
105. TEACH OTHERS
Sharing your skills and knowledge is a selfless act. Make the extra effort and take the needed time to share a skill, a shortcut, your wisdom gained, or a trick of the trade that will make an invaluable impact on someone else.
106. BE HONEST
Being honest isn’t always painless, but it is easier. When you trade truthfulness for expediency, you chip away at your integrity. Do it often enough, and your integrity will reduce to rubble. You will be left rudderless and subject to the whims of others without any control or direction of your own. Instead of a strong vision, you will be dependent on your wishes. You’ll chase the current and winds others produce instead of your own. You abdicate leadership. It’s not worth it. Protect your integrity.
107. SERVE THOSE YOU LEAD
It is not about you. The team is not there for the career betterment or aggrandization of the leader. It is the reverse. Determine how you will serve your team so they can achieve increasingly more significant things.
108. PRAISE PROGRESS
Who will you go out of your way to praise today? You might think someone is doing a good job, but telling them makes all the difference. Say it. Let someone feel recognized because they matter, what they are doing matters, and they are making a difference. Authentically praising people IS your job.
109. PROVIDE TOOLS
Does your team have the tools they need to succeed? If you are fortunate enough to have a team helping you achieve your goals, make sure you equip them with tools for success. It could be training, reducing bureaucracy, or an adequate supply of red pens. Anything that stands in the way of their success is your responsibility. Always find ways to remove their obstacles.
110. START TO GIVE A CRAP.
On average, 50–65% of managers do not give a crap. Managers do not care about their direct reports, the organization that pays them, and they do not particularly care about you: their leader. Now, if you are a jack-hole like them, maybe you don’t care either and if that is the case, look forward to the eventual demise of your organization.
If you DO care, start giving a crap.
- CARE — Care about your direct reports, clients, and boss. If you do not, you are doing your job wrong. Either improve or resign from your position.
- RECOGNIZE — If you cannot take the time to recognize people who are helping you achieve the goals you are responsible for, find ways to return to being an individual contributor because you are not demonstrating a basic component of effective leadership.
- ACCOUNTABILITY — The challenging person to hold accountable is you. You make and break promises to yourself all the time. Polish your integrity. Honor your commitments and your mistakes. Instead of passing blame, accept and fix a problem.
- PERSIST — Do not abdicate your leadership when it gets too hard or uncomfortable. Persist. Don’t succumb to apathy when things do not immediately go your way. Persist.
There are plenty of strong, effective leaders. Unfortunately, many effective leaders do not hold positional power. That’s okay. Strong leadership has never needed a title. It is most attracted to those who give a crap.
111. FOCUS ON THE RIGHT THINGS
Make sure you focus on the right things. Ensure your employees feel valued, so they ensure your customers feel valued because if your customers do not feel valued, you lose. When you lead, you serve your customer, client, patient, member, constituent, or user, not the other way around.
112. MEET ONE-ON-ONE
Either find the time to have meaningful and regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with your team members, or reconsider how you use the word “manager.” If you cannot find the time to sit down with your team individually and learn more about their needs, obstacles, ideas, and status on their goals, you need to reevaluate where you are spending your time and begin to make adjustments — fast.
113. REMOVE OBSTACLES
Roll up your sleeves and genuinely help your team today. Make time to listen, remove their obstacles, and sing their praises. If you cannot take the time to consider your team, work on your time management skills. If you cannot be bothered, it would be best to reevaluate the utility of your role.
114. LOOK IN THE MIRROR
Your environment mirrors what you have created; want a different view? Start with you. You can argue whether your external environment matches your inner thoughts or if your inner thoughts create your exterior results; the bottom line is that they are linked closely enough to influence each other. Change your surroundings if you do not like the environment you created.
115. FIND WHAT’S RIGHT
Today, find what’s right, or approximately right, and praise progress. Do not cast a blind eye to mistakes, but do not provide them with more attention than all the achievements, big or small, you have made along the way.
116. BE DELIBERATE WITH YOUR INTENTIONS
The best intentions are still only intentions. To make an impact, you have to actually do something. Plan your intentions by asking yourself, “What do I want to achieve?” Then give deliberate thought to the following.
- How will doing so make a big difference
- What does success look like?
- Describe the feelings and impact on confidence, beliefs, finances, and other factors?
- Who else will be impacted?
Go deeper with two more questions.
- What is the worst-case scenario?
- What is the best-case scenario?
Don’t stop at making your intention, which is no different from a wish. Instead, make it happen!
117. STOP DOING DUMB THINGS
Find a process or system that everyone agrees has outlived its usefulness and put it to an end. Either stop it quietly and see if anyone notices, or have a big funeral to bury it. Remember, every solution creates another problem, so make sure you upgrade your problems.
118. ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU MIGHT BE WRONG
Do not get so hung up on your “truth” that you miss everyone else’s reality. The world is full of disinformation. It’s not a new phenomenon. Information is just more accessible. While you must live an authentic life and act congruent with your values, do not insist that your path is the only correct one. Your life values are not necessarily the easiest, most difficult, wisest, or even economically sensible for anyone but you. Don’t be blind to the personal experiences of others.
119. COMMUNICATE YOUR PLAN FREQUENTLY
Telepathy doesn’t cut it. If you like planning, you spend a lot of time on your plans — more than anyone else. So, it’s easy to forget that other people may not know what you are trying to achieve because they are not in your head. Communicate in many ways over many days.
120. PRODUCE MORE THAN YOU CONSUME
Do more than expected. Not for the money, for the mind. Share your time, treasure, and talent with others. Be a bigger contributor to causes you believe in and the people who support them. They are worth it.
Make things easier, clearer, and more efficient wherever you can. Replace a presentation with an infographic. Draw a picture to illustrate a complex concept. Eliminate redundant steps. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.
122. WORK ON YOURSELF, TOO
You are devoted to efficiency, better productivity, and results. Do not exempt yourself from the calculation. You may be a hindrance, either through ignorance or intent. Ponder your motives and skills and make an adjustment to yourself.
123. REMEMBER YOUR A GAME
Make sure your attitude, appearance, and approach are aligned. Do not confuse people. Your attitude must be appropriate to the task — your appearance, attire, and grooming matter more than you think. Your approach and demeanor speak volumes before you open your mouth. Ensure all these elements are aligned with each other and your purpose. Always.
124. KNOW THE IMPLICATIONS
Work through the implications of your actions, preferably while they are still notions. Lousy leaders act without thought or think without acting. Effective leaders strike the right balance. Every action has good and bad consequences, intended and unintended consequences. Consider your actions without falling into over-analysis.
125. ALWAYS HAVE AN OBJECTIVE
Act with purpose, every time. When you know your objective and purpose, you improve your execution and are less likely to fall prey to distractions or low-impact activity. For every meeting, interaction, and goal, have an objective and work toward completion.
126. KEEP WALLOWING TO 5 MINUTES OR LESS
Do not tolerate wallowing in yourself or your team.
- We wallow when we are feeling relaxed or lazy. Lazy does not pay well; action does.
- We wallow in our victory and success, forgetting how short-lived they can be without vigilance and maintenance.
- We wallow in our failures, giving too much oxygen to our shortcomings and short-shifting our ability to persevere.
Do not deny the emotion that brings about the urge to wallow. Instead, acknowledge it, appreciate it, and then focus on your purpose.
127. DISTRIBUTE A DAMN AGENDA
Complaining about meetings is cliché.
“They feel like a waste of time and resource.” Blah, blah. They ARE if you do not run them correctly. Pull yourself together if you called the meeting and act like a professional.
Every meeting run by an effective leader has a clear purpose stated upfront; otherwise, there is no point.
- An agenda establishes a purpose. Use whatever format works for your organization.
- Use a similar format for one-off meetings, standing meetings, and client presentations every time.
- Stating the purpose forces you to be succinct and keeps you focused.
Parts of a DAMN Agenda
- Dates — of the meeting and milestones you are working toward.
- Actions — commitments made or required.
- Motivations — what is the point of the meeting, subtopics, and who beyond you cares?
- Names — of those invited, who attended, who is to be informed, and who is accountable for the actions.
128. PROPERLY HONOR THE PROCESSES YOU KILL
Take a moment to respect their heritage when you find inefficiency, redundancy, antiquated process, policies, or practices. Many systems that have worn past their usefulness were at one time designed to solve a problem, speed things up, ensure quality, or some other noble purpose.
Do not merely eradicate a given system and move on; honor its contribution with a ceremony of sorts. Involve the team, perhaps members who created the system, to give it a proper send-off. Old systems were once heroes. Appreciate the contributions while making it clear that it is time to turn the page. Allow people to mourn the loss and then begin anew.
129. FEEDBACK IS A TOOL
Resolve to stop being stingy with feedback. Feedback is essential. Make it fast, frequent, relevant, and positively delivered. People tend to hold off on providing feedback as if it were a secret — that’s no good. Holding off dilutes the effectiveness over time or, worse, creates a vacuum. It is much better to provide feedback right then and there. The closer to the event, the better. Effective leaders are masters at providing, receiving, discerning, and integrating feedback.
130. LEARN WHY PEOPLE LEAVE YOU
People move on. Priorities change, and conditions ebb and flow. The makeup of your team will vary over time. Pay attention to what attracts people to you: Is it your reputation, your results, your humor, your empathy? Double down on your findings. More importantly, find out why people leave. For the vast majority, it is because of the boss. Are you or your leaders driving people away? Odds are, regardless of all the reasons you collect, they are excuses covering your behavior. Are you acting in alignment with your purpose, mission, and values? Your retention rate can help answer that question. Pay attention and fix yourself.
131. CULTURE IS CREATED BY THE BEHAVIOR YOU TOLERATE
You can post placards with uplifting words, and your memos and speeches can have soaring ideals, but your demonstrated behavior is what forms a culture. There are valid excuses for occasional gaffes or one-off exceptions, but it is a slippery slope. Soon, off-color jokes become commonplace, whining replaces winning, and respect for others dwindles.
Every manufacturing process has defects that are a small percentage of error or waste. Good managers reduce that amount of waste to maximize the output of the asset. This knowledge should be applied to your culture. When you begin demonstrating new behaviors in your culture, there will be errors and misjudgments. Learn from them and make corrections.
Do not tolerate ongoing infractions because these problems reduce your production. Good leaders don’t forget to guard and nurture their culture nor allow rust or contaminants to ruin their work. Equally, if your leader regularly sullies the culture with their own poor behavior, look for a new leader.
132. BUILD EVERY DAY
A high-performance team will not be built in one day, but you can start today. It takes a while to assemble a team, let alone one that is high performing. You cannot randomly throw people together without structure or purpose and expect brilliance because you will get dysfunction instead. Start knowing what success looks like for you, and then build toward that goal.
You do not need positional power to lead well, but to be effective, you can no longer ignore the essential leadership tools that focus on treating people on teams with dignity, respect, and common sense. There is no excuse for taking advantage of people, withholding praise, and leading selfishly.
The world requires selfless leaders who understand the value of individual goals and collaborative success. Leading a team can be one of life’s rewarding practices when done well. May you embrace your opportunities to manage better and lead well.
Want help being a better leader in your organization?
Karl Bimshas Consulting is the leadership development and accountability firm busy professionals turn to help grow their confidence and support around management and leadership. KarlBimshasConsulting.com