3 Traits You Can Learn to Be a Great Leader

Sacha Strebe

When you look at some of the world’s great leaders, you have to ask: Are they born leaders? Sometimes it’s hard to imagine being that powerful when you’re sitting in your office cubicle or cleaning up after the kids. Whether your intention is to climb the corporate ladder, be a successful entrepreneur, or improve your confidence in everyday life, leadership skills are great qualities to have, and they’re not limited to the boardroom. The good news is “leadership isn’t genetic.” According to Robert Steven Kaplan, author of What You Really Need to Lead, leadership can be taught. “Leadership is a skill, not some genetic trait inherited by a lucky few,” he says. In an interview with Harvard Business School, Kaplan says the first step to becoming a great leader is “ditching the idea that you’re either born a leader or not.” Scroll down for three things you can learn to lead. 

Think and act like an owner.

Before you start, think about what leadership really means to you and lay out what Kaplan calls a “framing” for the leadership journey. This also means taking ownership of the leader mind-set, “thinking and acting like an owner regardless of your job title.” You need to have a determined focus on “adding value to others,” from customers to members of the community. Once you set your leadership priorities, your employees will align. “What is the vision, how do you add value that’s distinctive, and what are your top three or four priorities,” he said. “Everything flows from that.”

Know who you are.

All bosses need a deep understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, passions, and boundaries in order to lead effectively. This also means being aware of your “blind spots,” which Kaplan says can hold you back. This means asking your employers questions and making sure they aren’t afraid to give you feedback or constructive criticism. “Bosses need to be aware of the power asymmetry between themselves and subordinates—it causes people to hold back from mentioning things they think their superior doesn’t want to hear,” he said.

Analyze everything.

If you want to be a great leader, it’s not a “one-shot deal.” Kaplan says you should constantly analyze yourself, actions, situations, and your organization to “tweak your approach.” You also need to welcome any changes that come about as a result of your analytics. “Businesses fail because they can’t make transitions," he said. So if you want to be a great leader, don’t wait around for a promotion; “you need to act like it today.”

To read more of this article, visit Harvard Business School.

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Do you think people are born leaders? Or do you agree that leadership can be learned? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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