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7 Ways Leaders Excel – And 7 Ways They Get In Their Own Way

Learn about 7 ways that leaders can excel in today's organizations, and 7 ways that they can trip themselves up from succeeding in their efforts.

Leadership is much more than what you know or even what you do. Your personality in great part determines how you influence the people around you. That’s why it’s important to know who you are as you lead if you want to understand how you go about the work of managing, delegating and leading.

But as with most things, there are two sides to every personality trait. For every good tendency there is a bad one; for every light there is a dark; for every strength there is a weakness. These traits make up what I call your leadership gaps. Unless you can learn to integrate and leverage every part of who you are—especially your gaps—these hidden impediments will get the best of you, and your business and leadership will be impaired.

Here are seven of the top ways to be the best leader you can be—partnered with seven ways you might be holding yourself back:

1. Be a rebel
In my coaching practice, I have long advised leaders to encourage their inner rebel. A rebel is confident. And just as important, that confidence stems from their capabilities and competencies.

But when times are challenged or stressful or disagreeable, a leadership gap can emerge and leave even the most confident rebel feeling like an imposter. This self-doubt can cause havoc within an organization, and it won’t allow you to lead effectively. You can leverage any self-doubt you feel by concentrating on your capabilities and competence, and focusing on the positive things you have accomplished.

2. Be an explorer
Exploration is all about finding new uncharted waters away from the everyday noise of a business, project or product. The explorer is fueled by intuition and depends on the ability to let some things go to make room for new things.

But within the leadership gap, the explorer can become a manipulative exploiter. This gap originates in one of the most difficult struggles of leadership—the desire to control and micromanage. To win out, you must invite your intuition to take you to the next level, and learn to leverage the moments when you want to take control.

3. Be a truth teller
Great leaders know the secret ingredient to leading well is to speak with candor and be honest with others. If things are going well, you need to tell people—and if not, you need to share that too.

But there is a leadership gap for the truth teller—one of deceit, most often through half-truths and withheld information, leading to suspicion and doubt in their organization. The best managers tell the truth and always speak with candor because they want honest relationships with those who matter most: their people.

4. Be a hero
The best leaders are brave when most people are fearful and courageous when most people are afraid to take action. They hold to positivity and do what needs to be done no matter how badly things are going.

But when people see or hear about a problem in the organization and no one moves to fix it, they’re being led from the bystander gap. Be the hero of your business and take the courageous actions that are necessary for success.

5. Be an inventor
Highly effective leaders—those who take their craft and their leadership very seriously—have the mindset of an inventor. At the heart of everything they do, you’ll find unwavering integrity and consistent excellence.

Within the gap, the temptation arises to cut corners, go faster and cheaper, and hope no one will notice. But excellence and integrity are worth protecting—they’re priceless assets that pay great returns far into the future.

6. Be a navigator
Great leaders are skilled at steering and guiding others through challenges and crises in ways that are practical and pragmatic. Because they are very good at what they do, people trust them.

But some leaders feel the need to fix every challenge and every crisis, and this gap can cause them to come across as arrogant. They tell people what to do instead of guiding them—they bark out commands instead of utilizing others’ talents and strengths. The best leaders coach and guide their people instead of trying to fix them, which results in disempowerment and resentment. To gain trust and respect, be a navigator instead of a fixer.

7. Be a knight
Genuine loyalty is the cornerstone of all great leadership, and it’s a two-way street. To earn loyalty from a team, the leader has to show loyalty, by looking out for their best interests and by protecting and supporting them when they take risks and make mistakes.

But the gap turns the loyal knight into a self-serving mercenary—one who appropriates the efforts and hard work of others and whose loyalty doesn’t extend past looking out for number one. A self-serving leader, however, is not truly a leader.

To be a great leader you must make it a habit to lead with confidence, competence, courage, candor, intuition, trust, and integrity. These virtues will make you the best leader for your people and for your business, and they will make you as successful as you want to be. Just remember to stay mindful of the gaps.

Lolly Daskal is the president and CEO of Lead From Within, a global consultancy that specializes in leadership and entrepreneurial development. Her writings have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Inc.com, and Psychology Today. She’s also the author of “The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness”. To learn more about Lolly’s work, visit her website: LollyDaskal.com.

Listen to my interview with Lolly in this episode of my podcast, “Leadership Biz Cafe” where we discuss her new book.

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