The Secret to Becoming a Great Leader


Of all the self help tips I’ve read, all the leadership lessons that have been passed along to me, all the nuggets of life advice I’ve been given, I can sum everything up in one word:


We’re all different people coming to situations with different perspectives. We all have something to offer a situation and a good leader understands that. A good leader can listen to everyone that comes across their path and distill order out of chaos. But before they can make sense of anything, they must do just that: listen.

Listening isn’t something to be done passively. In fact, meaningful listening takes more effort and energy than speaking. Listening doesn’t just mean hearing – it means understanding where the person is coming from, what matters to them, and how they feel about a situation. It means hearing what they are saying but also perceiving their body language, tone, and passion. It takes unique abilities to listen well, and it just may be the secret to becoming a great leader.

Today, consider the situations you find yourself in. When communicating with others, are you truly actively listening, or coming to the conversation with your own agenda? It’s great to maintain focus when it comes to getting what you want, but be open to understanding other people’s perspectives as well. You never know, what you thought you wanted just might not have been the best thing for you or your organization.


A Second Look at My Biggest Weakness

OK, I was wrong. I’ve thought more about my biggest weakness, my last post, and I’m not sure I entirely agree with it. After I wrote the post, I discussed it with one of my colleagues who also is an introvert. And then, just yesterday, I saw this blog post in my inbox. It must have been fate! Here are a few of the things I’ve been thinking about the past week.

  • Leadership comes in many styles. Just because I’m not a dominant extrovert doesn’t mean I’m not a leader. In my current office all the managers look like just that: they have dominant personalities. Even at lunch they will jump to share stories about their weekend. I have never been that type of person and never will be. I think there’s a lot of value to a leader who doesn’t have that type of personality, and that’s who I hope to be.
  • Why fix what isn’t broken? In my short twenty-something years on this earth I have had many leadership roles – I have led student organizations, formed programs, and managed people. Why would I have had these opportunities if my working style didn’t represent that of a leader? I must be doing something right!!
  • I need to chill. I’m being too hard on myself! I’m always obsessing over my areas of improvement and I need to spend more time celebrating my strengths. That’s what will get me in a leadership role, anyway!

I appreciate my supervisor’s perspective of my biggest weakness, but I also appreciate the point of view of my colleague, who has the opposite opinion. Everyone has her own. And, of course my supervisor got to where she is by accruing experience and insight, but I’m going to respectfully disagree. I am an introvert who listens intently, and I love it!