5 Things Great Leaders Do

Great leaders are hard to find. But if you are lucky to work with one it can change your life.

“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence, and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.” Robin S. Sharma

Throughout my career, I had many bosses. Some were administrators, some managers, some leaders.

Luckily, I was able to work for some extraordinary people that inspired not only my own leadership style but my perspective on life.

Of course, all of them practiced their unique leadership style but I found that there are certain behaviors that they all had in common:

#1 They challenge your strengths and manage your weaknesses

“The greatest gift of leadership is a boss who wants you to be successful.” Jon Taffer

I learned this from one of the most inspiring leaders I have met in my life. He took 2 hours to interview me, and when he offered me a job, it was 100% matched to my strengths and my experiences.

Plus, he helped me to be aware of my weaknesses and showed me how to manage them without wasting too much time and energy.

How can you apply this for your business or in your day-to-day life?

  1. Take some time and list your “core competencies.” These are things that you get the most compliments for. They often feel easy and fun.
  2. Define your weaknesses: these are the things that make you feel drained and take up lots of your time because you struggle to accomplish them.
  3. Define the “hygiene” level for the tasks that you have to do but are not good at. The hygiene level is your lowest possible performance that will not harm you. For example, you suck at developing a fancy website for your business. Try to find out how much that really matters for your customers. If you have a great product, they will probably expect that your website is functioning and user-friendly (hygiene criterium), but care less if you have fancy features that don’t have to do anything with your product.
  4. If you have the financial means, you could outsource things that you struggle with, so you can focus on making (more) money with things that are in line with your passion and talent. For example, when I was a student, I worked as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor with a decent hourly rate. I sucked at cleaning my place, so I hired a cleaning lady. Some of my friends thought that was decadent, but I made more money working in a job that I loved than paying somebody for something I hated.
  5. If you work in a team, you can try to swap tasks with team members that are talented in the areas you are not. The same holds true for couples: my husband likes yard work, and I like doing the laundry, so I focus on that and “escape” a task I would 100% mess up.

#2 They motivate you intrinsically

“Leadership is having a compelling vision, a comprehensive plan, relentless implementation, and talented people working together.” Alan Mulally

Psychologists, coaches, or behavior change specialists differentiate between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. While extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards or the avoidance of punishment. Intrinsic motivation occurs when we want to achieve something important to us.

When I was working in Munich, I had a manager that would not just motivate his team with promotions or salary increases; he created a team spirit with a crystal clear vision that everybody was excited about. We always smashed our targets.

How can you apply this for your business or in your day-to-day life?

Try to find a vision for your major projects. For example, if you want to declutter your house but don’t know how to motivate yourself, envision how happy you would feel living in a clean, organized home.

#3 They take responsibility and share success

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Lao Tzu

I was fortunate to work for another very inspirational leader while working in South Korea.

Whenever there was an issue, he would stand up for the entire team by explaining to his superiors that he was not able to lead or influence most effectively. Of course, he would coach us afterward to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

However, when he received a company award for managing the most successful market, he asked the entire Korean Leadership team to join him on stage.

How can you apply this for your business or in your day-to-day life?

Blaming people of things that went wrong will only lead to frustration, de-motivation, and decreasing performance.

For example, when my clients can’t stick to their exercise or behavior change programs, I try to figure out how I can be more inspirational or offer them better resources that make them successful.

But if they master a lifestyle change, it’s their accomplishment because they were the ones putting in all the great work.

#4 They lead by example

“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” Nelson Mandela

During one of my projects, I was working for somebody that had to reorganize his entire department and make it more efficient. Together we developed a planning process with guidelines for meetings, KPI (Key Performance Indicators) tracking, etc.

Instead of just pushing his team to adhere to the newly defined rules, he presented his own KPIs during the monthly meetings. That did not only help to create more transparency but also encouraged everybody else to stick to the new guidelines.

How can you apply this for your business or in your day-to-day life?

Whatever behavior you want your kids, team, or spouse to do, start doing it first.

For example, you don’t use your cell phone during meal times, if you want your kids to do the same thing. Kids (and team members) tend to mimic what they see. Give them the chance to see something inspirational.

#5 They change your life

“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” Henry Kissinger

I used to have ZERO self-confidence, which would always hold me back. While I was working for an automotive company, I had a boss that would make EACH and EVERY team member feel special.

Working for him gave me so much confidence, that I was finally able to tackle some of the major issues in my professional and personal life.

How can you apply this for your business or in your day-to-day life?

Don’t underestimate your power to inspire others. Also, making somebody feel appreciated (or not) can make or break their day.

For example, a friendly and honest “Thank you” doesn’t take much but can make the other person feel valued and respected.

What’s your leadership story? Inbox me!

In good health,

Rike Aprea

My name is Friederike Aprea. Most people call me Rike. I'm German-born and have lived and worked in Japan and Korea before I moved to the US. I coach individuals and companies using the principles of Kaizen. Whether you want to live a more purpose-driven life, improve your health, or change the business model of your company: Kaizen can get you there. Step by step. Day by day.

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