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How to Become a Great Leader

For many business owners, building a group of creative and passionate team members seems like a distant dream they’ll never be able to achieve. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Inspiring a team to follow you is not about money or control—It’s about leadership. So what makes a great leader? Here are 20 guiding principles that will help cultivate and improve your leadership qualities.

20 Leadership Qualities to Apply to Your Life

1. Love Your Team

Your team members are not units of production. They are people who all have hopes, dreams, fears and struggles. Each one of them deserves to be treated with respect, dignity and a caring heart. "Love your team well," Dave says. "Treat them like family, and they will act like family."

2. Give Praise

Make a habit of catching people doing something right and letting them know about it. A sincere compliment is so unusual it immediately sets you apart. A simple nod or smile showing your approval will do. Take a few minutes to write a personal note or tell them in person what a great job they’re doing. Or how about recognizing them in front of their peers? These simple gestures can create magic in a matter of moments, and can easily be started today.

3. Seldom Use Your Power

A "boss" has an iron grip on their team, expecting every employee to immediately jump at their command. They have more rules than Stalin, and spend all of their time ensuring their mandates are followed. Workers know "the boss" holds all the cards. Defy them, and you could be gone in an instant.

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A leader, however, realizes the only power they can use is persuasion. As Dave says, "If you want employees, boss them around. If you want team members, explain why you do what you do. Don’t lead with threats and fear."

4. Surround Yourself With Rock Stars

It doesn’t matter if you are trying to fill a minimum-wage job or selecting a new leader for your company—hold out for the perfect person for the role. Having the right people in the right positions allows you to do your best work. So take plenty of time, set your standards high, and keep crazy out of the building.

At Dave’s company, Ramsey Solutions, each prospective team member goes through multiple interviews, including one with his or her spouse. They are also required to send a personal budget and take a personality test to make sure they fit with the job.

5. Treat People the Way You Would Want to Be Treated

If you want a team that’s loyal, creative, and willing to follow you to the ends of the earth, adhere to the golden rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31 NIV). Simply put yourself in their shoes. When you would expect to be praised, give praise. If there’s a problem you would want help with, lend a hand. If you would expect a pay raise, give it. No matter the situation, stop and think, How would I like someone to treat me?

6. Cast Your Vision

Dave has learned if you play for something bigger than yourself, you play much harder and smarter. And the same holds true for his team. They work harder because there’s a sense of calling. So how do you let your team know they are doing something important? Repeatedly tell them what they’re working for and why. Share your vision early and often.

7. Look in the Mirror

Dave readily admits that when he first started his company, he wouldn’t have won any awards for his leadership skills. It wasn’t until he realized the one thing holding him back was staring at him in the mirror—himself. Your organization can’t grow beyond your leadership qualities. Luckily, there’s a fix. "You can decide who you want to be, and then get about the business of becoming that person," Dave says.

8. Communicate

What’s the best way to kill morale and boost discontentment and anger? Failure to communicate. Always let your team know what’s going on, both good and bad. Intentionally creating a culture of communication will enable you to quickly see the rewards. As Dave says, "Don’t be a mushroom communicator, leaving your people in the dark and feeding them manure." It stinks.

9. Lead by Example

Do you want people to change their actions? Then you need to guide and inspire them through the way you carry yourself. Set the example by what you say, do, and how you react toward others. Your team will follow your lead.

10. Be Genuine in Your Interactions With Others

Authentic people attract other authentic people. Don’t be afraid to be a genuine person—one who is transparent about their strengths and weaknesses.

11. Be Confident Yet Humble

Is that an oxymoron? Nope. It’s possible to be confident and be armed with humility at the same time. Be sure of yourself and your abilities without acting like the world revolves around you. You don’t have to walk around looking like you just received an unexpected award, but learn to practice genuine humility when praise is given to you.

12. Character and Integrity

One of the most basic building blocks of how to be a good leader is possessing strong character and integrity. At all times—not just when someone is paying attention to what you’re doing. Integrity runs deep. It’s the core of who you are.

13. Act Professional

This might go without saying when it comes to leadership qualities, but remember to conduct yourself in a professional manner. It’s awfully tough to expect respect from others when you carry yourself poorly.

14. Be Trustworthy and Learn to Trust Others

Leaders should have the full trust of their team—but in order to gain it, you need to conduct yourself in a trustworthy way. You want your team to know you have their back and will support them no matter what. Follow through on your promises and mean what you say. Be a trustworthy leader they can count on. And if you feel like you can’t trust someone, don’t hire them to be on your team. Only hire team members you know will get the work done with honesty and integrity.

15. Empower Others

Great leaders lift others up. They equip them to be able take on the task at hand, and trust they can rise to the occasion. Contrary to popular belief, being a good leader does not include micromanagement.

16. Loyalty

In a world where people change jobs quicker than NBA players switch teams, loyalty has become a lost art. And many leaders expect complete loyalty from those they work with, but it’s a two-way street. The character of any good leader should always include loyalty. You need to be loyal to your team members and your mission as a whole.

17. Courage

It’s true, being a leader often comes with carrying the burden making the tough decisions. Being the only one who makes those decisions requires you to tap in to a certain level of bravery others don’t have to during their 9–5. You have to be decisive and have the courage to take risks when they are needed.

18. Generate results

Leaders are more than capable of getting the job done. You can count on a great leader to follow through and execute the plan. They demonstrate strong leadership qualities by always working hard and not throwing in the towel when obstacles arise. There are no excuses, no one to "pass the buck" to, and no one to throw under the bus when something doesn’t get done.

19. Accept Change

Any good leader knows change will happen within an organization. The ebb and flow of a company over time is part of the natural process. A great leader knows how to adjust to changes, when to accept changes, and the right way to manage their own reaction change.

20. Be a Servant Leader

Being a servant leader doesn’t mean you wait on other people hand and foot. It means you serve your team and enable them to become great at what they do. It’s asking the bigger questions like, How would I want to be treated in this situation? How would I want someone to support me? When it all boils down, being a servant leader is all about going above and beyond to simply treat people like they matter.

The key to becoming a great leader is serving your team and everyone around you by putting them first. If you do, you’ll be paid back in full with loyalty, hard work and extraordinary results.

Are you ready to cultivate your leadership skills? Attend our EntreLeadership 1-Day event in Nashville on October 27! If you can’t make it, you can still stream the event LIVE online from anywhere in the world!

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners.