5 Essential Leadership Skills to Master

Great leaders master manners. Small acts of kindness communicate respect for others, engage hearts and ultimately, increase your influence.

I didn’t learn this valuable piece of leadership advice through years of experience as an entrepreneur. My first teacher, my mom, instilled it in me.

I grew up in a household where “please” and “thank you” were absolutes. My mom taught me that everybody is worthy of respect. This lesson has influenced me throughout my life and provided a foundational basis of my leadership journey.

Here are five manners to master that will transform your leadership:

Do what you say you’re going to do. You never have to wonder with good leaders. You know what to expect. They’re reliable and responsive. Integrity comes with what you say and do. They deliver on what they promise. And they act in the same way they expect those around them to act. This doesn’t mean you are risk averse. In fact, if you declare you are going to try a new entrepreneurial venture or go in a new direction, that’s OK. But remember to stay true to doing what you say you are going to do.

Finish what you start.  Always follow through! See the project to the end. Follow the journey to the finish line. It doesn’t mean that you will not pivot and adjust as you go. It means that you are true to your word and you deliver on your promises. People, even companies, depend on you. Lead by example.

Always be on time.  It’s become common place in our over-scheduled society to blow off meetings and let it slide when others are late. This is not acceptable. A leader should respect people’s time, independent of who they are.

I once heard Nelson Mandela’s private secretary, Zelda la Grange, speak in Cape Town. She shared an experience included in her book, Good Morning, Mr. Mandela: A Memoir, in which she was sternly reprimanded for keeping Mr. Mandela waiting to depart on a private plane because she was running late. Mr. Mandela quickly let it be known that if she, or any other member of his staff was ever one minute late without a good reason, they would immediately be fired. It was a mantra for him, both personally and professionally, to be respectful of other’s time.

Be on time. But if being late can’t be avoided, do so with permission, letting others know you are running late.

Say please and thank you.  Everyone is worthy of respect whether it’s a colleague, a fellow CEO, your neighbor or someone providing a service. I’ve used this powerfully in my life as the foundational basis of my leadership. It begins with gratitude, grace and courtesy. Don’t disregard the power of please and thank you and do so authentically, genuinely and consistently.

Stay curious. Want to know what separates the great leaders from good ones? The great ones never stop learning. You can’t level off once you get some authority. And that’s one area where true leaders excel. Equally important is to continually improve yourself. Look at situations through a different lens and put yourself in others’ shoes. Acquire a new skill, ask questions and never stop being curious.

Behaviors shape reputation

When we hold ourselves accountable to staying true to these behaviors in our daily lives, we form a reputation. Reputation is the most important asset a leader has. It influences everything else around you.

Think of a speedboat going across the lake. The wake that is created by its movement represents your life. It’s all your interactions. It’s who you are. More importantly, it creates a ripple effect.

Acknowledging that life can be messy and difficult at times, makes this even more relevant. Your wake should be as smooth, authentic and consistent as possible. If you hold yourself to these graces and courtesies, you are going to attract the right kinds of people, you are going to send positivity into the world, and you are going to build a reputation that becomes your legacy.

 

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