I've taught leadership (including writing curriculum for leadership courses) at the university level, continue to do so, and have written books on the subject. My favorite quote about leadership comes from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was also Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War !!, "The art of leadership is getting people to do what you want them to do because he (or she) wants to do it." That pretty much sums it up!
However, as I've said many time, the best leaders are really guides who enable those they "lead" to lead themselves. Below are 7 attributes I believe every individual should aspire to in order to become an effective leader.
1. Know yourself first. If you don't know who you are, how are you going to understand others? Understand your behavior, motivators, and communication skills so that you have a clear perspective of how you view yourself. Once you know who you are, you can transfer that knowledge to your work, your relationships, and communications skills and use them effectively.
2. Be non-judgmental. Let people make mistakes, that's how they grow. Advise with being derogatory. being non-judgmental does not mean that you don't recognize problems, are oblivious to a person's negative behavior, or think that everything is fine. It's only means that you dissect situations rationally before acting.
3. Listen. We, especially in the United States, live in a society where listening has become a premium trait. People are so distracted that they fail to give attention to others for an extensive period of time. If you can learn how to listen...really listen - actively - you will be appreciated by others and looked at as a person that they can speak with.
4. Use humor. The one attribute that ranked the highest (according to a survey cited in Daniel Pink's book "A Whole New Mind") for effective leadership is that the leader be funny. Humor relaxes people, makes them feel that they can relate to the leader, and creates on atmosphere of camaraderie.
5. Be authentic. Authenticity is always key. Most people can uncover a phony relatively quickly. However, sometimes it takes time. If you're "putting on a good face" only to be revealed later as someone who is not authentic, after you've been exposed...you will rapidly lose your credibility. Being authentic and staying authentic builds trust - and maintains it.
6. Become a chameleon. Now...that may seem like the antithesis of number 5, but...it's not. Authentic people have the ability to understand themselves and others to the point where they can make them feel comfortable by transferring their behavior, interests, and attitudes to match those they are dealing with. They've learned what makes people comfortable and have no problem doing so in an authentic and pleasing manner.
7. Be the example you'd like others to follow. Leading by example is the most effective way to show your leadership abilities. "Do as I say, not as I do" - doesn't hold water in today's business and personal environments. Respect is an important element of leadership and the easiest way to get respect from others is to show them that you can "do as you say."
These 7 steps should help you become the leader that others look to for guidance. Practice them, perfect them, and then...teach them to others. Happy "leading" my friends!