The hidden secrets of how to be a good leader

Have you had opportunities to work with good (or great) leaders before? Would you say you are a good leader yourself? How can you define what a good leader is? There are tons of leadership definitions out there. Why would I bother writing about this topic again?  

My quick answer is that every leader has a great influence on someone’s life. Leaders could lift someone up or could bring someone down. It shouldn’t depend on luck for those someones to work with good leaders. Unfortunately, there is no clear set of formula that could help us find the good ones.  

What is the definition of a good leader? 

My own definition, a good leader is someone who takes care of the people around him. He is someone who lifts others up, someone who believes in his people even when they don’t believe in themselves. 

You might also be surprised to know that a good leader requires one thing, and one thing only. He requires “followers”. Without followers, no one can be a leader. How to get people to follow you? Those people need to “trust” you. They need to know that, by following you, you are taking them somewhere better than where they are now. 

I would also like to point out that if you lead by title or use authority to lead, you don’t have followers, you have subordinates. 

In essence, a good leader possesses 2 simple things:

  1. He does things for other’s best interest, not his. 
  2. He takes accountability of the situation because he wants to make a difference. 

That’s why leadership is not for everyone. It actually is a lonely place to be. When things go right, leaders have to give all credit to his people. When things go wrong, they have to take all the blames and pressure. It’s a very bad deal. But, why should we aim to be a good leader? It’s because it’s the true and only path to happiness. You help others to be the best of themselves. 

How to lead without authority

Even though leadership is not for everyone, everyone can be a leader. You don’t need authority or title to be a leader. 

Did you see a movie called My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Greek families are like Asian families in the way that a father is the head of the family. He commands everything in the house. There is one scene that the mother, who tried to help her daughter to convince her father, said the following “let me tell you something Toula, the man is the head but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants.” And, this is guidance for normal people like you and me to take a leadership role even we don’t have authority. 

How can we become the neck? The quick answer is through influence. There are 4 principles that could help us influence others to follow our lead. 

  1. Build trust. It sounds simple but building trust requires a lot of investment from your part. You have to open first. One good way to start is to keep your ego in check. 
  2. Create alignment. This can be done through better communications. I focus a lot in my communications. It’s never been good enough. Miscommunications or lack of communications could happen so easily. 
  3. Cultivate momentum. Actions will drive people to follow you. Everyone wants to be successful. If you can show them that everything is possible through taking actions, they will look up to you. 
  4. Inspire belief. Everyone wants to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. Find your just cause and show to people through your action. 

The above is a formula to help us become a neck that could turn the head of the people in authority. 

The leadership hormones

Leadership can also run in your blood and your body. There are 2 hormones that can help you to become a good leader. 

  • Oxytocin: This hormone increases loyalty, trust, empathy and generosity at your workplace. To increase oxytocin, take the time to help, encourage, mentor, or compliment your people. 
  • Serotonin: it boosts will power, self-esteem, inner satisfaction, confidence and a sense of purpose. To boost serotonin, go out to natural sunlight during your lunch break or choose to walk outside when taking a call. Also, expressing your gratitude by saying thank you also boost serotonin. Most importantly, trying to find your “purpose” on how to make a difference in people’s lives and the world is the best way to boost this hormone. 

My final thoughts

I used to work in an environment that leaders acted as a messenger. They took orders from the top, passed the orders on to the team, pressed the team to action, and reported the results back to the top. There was no guideline on how to do things better. The team had to figure out by themselves how to overcome challenges. Some of the team failed to do so. Their performance dropped. Their morale also dropped. 

I believe that good leaders must at least provide guidance to their people. Leaders don’t have (not possible anyway) to have all the answers. BUT, they must invest their time to do enough research to understand the challenges. At the bare minimum, good leaders must be able to describe or explain the challenges better than anyone else.

I would like to finish this post with Simon Sinek’s quote below:

“Great leaders are optimist. This is not the same as being positive. Positive is finding the light in the now; optimists see the light always.” 


Image credit: Hollywood Reporter

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