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Think about leaders whom you personally admire.

Dwight Eisenhower.  Teddy Roosevelt.  Mahatma Gandhi.  Martin Luther.  Francis Schaeffer.  Eleanor Roosevelt.  Winston Churchill.  Martin Luther King, Jr.  Nelson Mandela.  Steve Jobs.  Vince Lombardi.  William Wilberforce.

leaders abraham lincolnWhat makes these people different from the rest of us?

Yes, they have certain skills and expertise in their field.  Yes, they have experience and good judgment.  Yes, they found themselves in fortunate circumstances which gave them the opportunity to succeed.

But they are still fundamentally the same as any one of us.  Leaders like those, as much as we like to tell ourselves, do not have some kind of inherited gene which makes them better.

If that were the case, then we would have reason to accept mediocrity in our own lives.

No.  Those great men and women learned the difficulty of leadership.  And it’s much less complicated or out-of-reach than most of us are willing to admit.

The fact is, good leadership is attainable for any one of us.

1. Leaders are Willing to Fail

AKA Leaders are willing to take risks.

Drew Houston, the founder of Dropbox says, “Don’t worry about failure.  You only have to be right once.”

He’s absolutely right.

We all know the story of how Thomas Edison failed at the lightbulb 999 times, but on the 1,000th time, he got it.  The numbers themselves are probably an exaggeration, but the fact remains that failure is a part of every success story.

If you want to be different, if you want to be a leader, then don’t be afraid to fail.

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2. Leaders Put Themselves Out There

leaders skateboardingAKA Leaders can put up with critics.

When you start a new venture, whether business, political, artistic or anything else, it is a risk.  You put your reputation on the line.

And to be honest with you, this is usually the step that make most people shy away from leadership.  Because most people care too much about what others say about them.

And everyone’s a critic.

We worry about what our friends and family will say.  We worry about other experts in our field will say.

And then we get so worried about it, that we never even attempt our idea.

Be willing to put yourself out there.  Be proud of your work and your ideas.

3. Leaders Try New Things

AKA Leaders treat their field like an artist does.

I don’t mean that all leaders have to do art.  I’m saying that an artist has a spirit which creates something new that most people might not understand.  They put their heart and their soul into it.  And it is those new ideas which shape the future of culture.

All leaders need to think this way – looking ahead, understanding trends, and then finding new application.

Those who lead try new things, even if most people don’t quite get it yet.

All #leaders need to look ahead, understand trends, and find new application. Click To Tweet

4. Leaders Persevere

leaders street kioskAKA Leaders never quit.

This one is pretty straight forward.

Everyone finds themselves in difficult situations.  Everything seems to be going against you.

But men and women who find greatness don’t let it deter them.  Be willing to suffer great trials, and don’t ever quit, no matter how bad it looks.

5. Leaders Aren’t Afraid of Responsibility

AKA Leaders don’t blame others.

This one is very difficult, because most of the time it’s not always apparent you’re doing it.  When it is legitimately someone else’s fault, the natural tendency for us is to blame them.

But leaders don’t do that.

When you take on responsibility for a project’s outcome or for the results of some new initiative, its success and failure lies with you.  Not on those under you.

So yes, when someone else messes up, you deal with it behind private doors.  But don’t ever blame them publicly.  Take it on yourself.  That’s the burden of leadership.


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Also published on Medium.