Leadership is not only for executives, managers, or the boss. Leadership is also needed for your life. Be the leader of your life. What makes a good leader? Positive communication, commitment, decision making, confidence, persistence, creativity, and honesty. These traits can be learned, and for best results, practiced in a self-sustaining and self-maintaining way.
Positive communication is interacting with people in a way that results in a positive feeling for both participants. Talking to coworkers, clerks, shop owners, and restaurant staff in a positive manner increases personal energy and feel-good neurotransmitters. Visualize two people talking, spouses, friends, or coworkers. One of them is excited about a huge event and can’t wait to tell the other person about it. The other person has four response options. The best is to respond with engagement, enthusiasm, and curiosity (demonstrated by asking questions). A second response is a passive “that’s nice,” not harmful but a missed opportunity for a good feeling for both people. A third response is harmful, which is to ignore the person’s excitement and one-up the conversation with a better or more exciting event. You may have been at a dinner party, work party, or a family get-together, and certain people will exhibit this response throughout the entire gathering. This is not an uplifting and pleasant social interaction. Finally, there is the fourth response: the destructive comment. This is a response such as “While you were having fun, I was stressed out trying to work” or “How much is this going to cost us?” and so forth. These caustic, angry responses usually come from people who are insecure and unhappy with their own lives. Use response number one for the best results. The first person gets to feel good about sharing an exciting event, and the second person feels good because of sharing an exciting experience. Eliminate one-up and destructive responses. There is no place for these responses in positive social interaction.
Commitment means always doing what you say you will do 100% of the time, with no exceptions. You say yes to a meeting, to a dinner party, to helping someone, or volunteering. Do it, even if a better offer comes along or you change your mind. There is no problem saying no. If you don’t want to do something or have a conflict, say no—say no to free tickets, no to an invitation, and even no to a request for help. This is meaningful for both participants, since saying yes and then not showing up is bad for everyone. This makes you feel bad and registers a negative feeling in your subconscious, it makes the other person doubt your character, and it lets down the other people involved in the situation. Say yes, and whatever it takes, do it.
Making decisions means make a decision as fast as possible, one way or the other. A good decision makes us feel good and most likely helps other people. A bad decision makes us feel bad, but we recover, learn something from it, and try another approach. It’s not the decision that’s bad, it’s the outcome. Making no decision is a problem. There is no progress, no forward action. This indecisiveness makes people look weak. This is especially important in your own life. When you are at a standstill, you can’t engage in life. Make a decision—whether it’s good or bad doesn’t make any difference. You can move forward and enjoy the decision or make another one, but you’re alive with energy and creativity from having done it.
Confidence is needed for a good leader. Do you like to follow someone who is weak and has no confidence in a decision, plan, or project? You feel bad when you have no confidence in yourself. Increasing your self-esteem is not enough. We have great self-esteem when everything is going well, but when things get tough, self-esteem jumps ship and abandons us. Use compassion for yourself; this never lets you down. Confidence comes from how much we like ourselves. How much are you willing to be your true self? In grade school, we want to be who our parents and teachers want us to be. Later we want to be who our friends want us to be, who our boss or spouse wants us to be, who society wants us to be—or worse, the perfect, flawless person that our mind wants us to be. It takes time, but be yourself. You’re free. This is freedom from blame, freedom from criticism, freedom from making bad decisions. This is you; there is no reason for complaining, blaming, making excuses, or criticizing.
Persistence is fundamental for continuing success in life. Psychologist and author Dr. Angela Duckworth uses the term “grit” to describe perseverance and passion. Grit consists of courage, which often means eliminating the fear of failure; endurance and follow-through; and resilience—the optimism and confidence required to bounce back from failure. It’s not concentrating on winning, it’s concentrating on doing your individual best. Grit also means not quitting because the task or project is too hard or someone told you to quit or that you’re not good enough. Stop because you have completed the project, the job, or reached your goal.
Creativity is the spice of life. This means using your mind to solve day-to-day problems and bumps. Using your mind to make things happen, to create projects for the community, to create products, to create solutions, create businesses, create enjoyment for yourself and for your family. Increase your creative ability, and you will improve your life and everyone else’s too.
Honesty and integrity are the foundations of a good leader. This is obvious for an executive or boss, but even more important is being honest with yourself at a private level. No exaggerations, no convenient forgetting, and no stretching the truth. Always be honest with yourself. No lies. No rationalizing. In many situations, the raw truth will be painful, and sometimes extremely painful, but recovery will occur. The ancient saying is correct: The truth will set you free.
Call to action. Learn and relearn these attributes of a good leader. Use them at work, when volunteering, at home, and most importantly, for yourself. Positive communication, commitment, decision making, confidence, persistence, creativity, and honesty. They will become self-sustainable, enabling you to live an extraordinary life with energy, meaning, success, and enjoyment.
Gary R. Epler, M.D. in Boston