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How to Become an Effective Leader

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John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the U.S. had this to say about leadership, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Leaders come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and gender. Some are born, but most are developed.

Assess your present leadership skills. It's difficult to know where you're going if you don't know where you're coming from. Therefore, start by taking one or more leadership assessments to determine your current strengths, weaknesses and leadership style. For example, perhaps you are very charismatic and a great orator but lack delegation skills. Lead with your strengths and develop the weak areas.

Study great leaders. Find leaders who exemplify your ideal of leadership and emulate them. If possible, you can ask them for advice and expect that they will be happy to guide you. One of the signs of a great leader is the ability and willingness to mentor others.

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Learn to persevere. Not only will you learn more about yourself, but you will be an inspiration to those around you. Confucius said, “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” Some of the most inspiring stories and movies we see are about people who persevered against great odds.

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Surround yourself with people who are willing to be brutally honest with you. You will not grow as a leader if your peers and subordinates simply tell you what they think you want to hear. A sure sign of a weak leader is one who surrounds himself with "yes" men. Once you find those willing to tell you the truth, learn how to listen. Winston Churchill said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Lead by example. Never expect others to do things that you won't do yourself. Never tell someone to "do as I say, not as I do." Leaders who are not afraid to do the messy or difficult tasks along with their subordinates develop a loyal following.

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Strive for excellence in everything you do, and expect it from others. Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right." He was famous for setting difficult yet achievable goals that his workers consistently met.

Find a way to continually re-inspire yourself so that you can continue to motivate others. Find gurus whose messages work to reignite your spark. Listen to or read motivational books or quotes. Attend workshops on inspiring topics. Get plenty of rest and relaxation, and be sure to take a break from the hectic pace as much as you need it.