You can’t just talk the talk.
Talking tough is not leadership. It’s bluff and it usually masks a whole host of insecurities and issues of self-doubt. Being tough: that’s a true foundation of strong leadership. This doesn’t mean being tough in the sense of coming down hard on other people, but an inward strength that helps a leader to navigate whatever waters they’re on.
This internal strength comes from a place of confidence and knowledge. A strong leader has a clear understanding of the world around them and what they are trying to accomplish within it. It’s this understanding that helps them move forward with decisions, big and small.
This inner strength is also what inspires others to action, almost innately. A tough, strong and knowledgeable leader will always be more effective. Are these traits born or can the be learned? Of course they can be learned! It’s a question of practice.
But first, let’s look at a few differences between a strong leader and one who has room to improve.
The Keys to Strong Leadership
- A strong leader sees difficulties as opportunities: Instead of viewing every challenge as a major problem, strong leaders will turn that view around and look at the difficulty as an opportunity. For change, for improvement, for growth… whatever. It’s the ultimate version of making lemonade when life hands you lemons!
- A strong leader exercises their influence carefully: The strength that inspires people is not about control. It’s not about telling people what to do in order to get things done, making rules or micromanaging staff. It’s about setting the right example so that others are inspired to follow, rather than having people who follow out of fear.
- A strong leader is authentic: This is so important: a leader who is more concerned with how things ‘look’ rather than the real impact of actions and decisions is not strong, and people will eventually see through the narcissistic tendencies. Authenticity and true belief in one’s own actions and decisions are vital, regardless of appearances.
- A strong leader can admit when they’re wrong: This goes back somewhat to authenticity, but basically, a leader who cannot acknowledge errors or admit a gap in their knowledge isn’t displaying strength. That kind of leader is showing their insecurities instead of dealing with the challenge of growth and change.
Learn how to become a strong(er) leader
It takes commitment to recognize that you might not be as inwardly strong as you think you are. It takes even more commitment to do something about it but once you make that choice, you can move forward and grow as a leader:
- Give up the bad habits — Giving in to rampant self-doubt and that negative inner voice is vital! Every one of these negative thoughts limits your opportunities to grow. Dump them! Sure, you need to learn from your mistakes to avoid repeating them, but that’s not dwelling: that’s using a negative and turning it into an opportunity for growth.
- Control your emotions — The leader who is always posturing, blustering or yelling isn’t leading: they’re being controlled by their emotions and they’re projecting that out onto others. You can’t think clearly, let alone lead others effectively, if you’re a mess of angry anxiety or fear.
- Don’t try and control things that are out of our control — Your emotions? They’re within your control. Other people’s? Not so much. The world economy? Definitely not. Within every problem or challenge, there IS something you can change and control for the better, so find it and work on it! You’re never going to please everyone with every decision, so don’t try.
Like the muscles of your body, your inner strength ‘muscles’ need a regular workout so they can become stronger. Deciding that you want to be a better leader is the first step. After that, it’s all about the effort you put in.
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