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The Five Leadership Essentials Every Effective Leader Must Possess

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Written by: David Pottruck 

At a recent fireside chat, I was asked if leadership could be taught. I answered emphatically: YES!

Absolutely leadership can be taught, because there are so many different styles. There’s the big personality, the kind that fills a room. They walk with this amazing air of self-confidence.

Then you have the humble — maybe even shy — authentic leader who people admire and believe in. They come from a place in their heart of gratitude, presenting a character that inspires everyone around them.

With so many styles, nobody is disqualified from being a leader. You just have to find your voice. Of course, other skills are required. Here are five leadership essentials, regardless of style.

1. Courage and prudent risk taking.

There is no leadership without courage. You have to be willing to put yourself out there and take the blow. You need to take responsibility. You need to be willing to be held accountable. Even if it’s not your fault, it doesn’t matter. You also must be willing to walk the path less traveled, to try new things, to risk failure. And to bounce back when failures inevitably happen.

2. Authenticity.

I believe my authenticity comes from my willingness to talk about all the things I’ve failed at, and so I become more credible. My book, “Stacking the Deck,” is more believable because most of the stories are things that didn’t go well, and how I learned from them. If I spent all of my time talking about my successes and saying how great I am, people would tune me out.

3. Communication.

You must learn to communicate with empathy and humility. Fundamentally, this comes from actually being both empathetic and humble in your soul. It’s a journey. It would be wise to seek out the mentorship of someone who has done it before you. Just make sure they’ve done it well. I hired Terry Pearce to coach me and help me grow. It’s been a long journey, and I am still 20+ years later a work in progress.

4. Listening.

You need to be a great listener. It takes practice. You must get feedback. And then practice some more.

5. Earn a Following.

You must be worthy of followership. Your title doesn’t give that to you. Your position doesn’t give that to you. It gives you authority, but it doesn’t give you followership. You earn that from your character. A leader is nothing without followers and without a team of collaborators. Very few successes are crafted by a single leader. Certainly anything I have ever accomplished came from a team. You need a team that believes in you and in the mission.

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