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There are many leadership theories floating across the web that try to tell you what it means to be a great leader. Some of them come from real experiences and are legitimate while many others come from the need to appear smart online or by curating pre-existing leadership wisdom. In this article, I talk about six tough and authentic leadership lessons that I learned from my experience with different leaders across many years.

1. You don’t become a leader by having a leadership title.

Leadership doesn’t get handed down to a person on a platter along with a leadership title. You could be a terrible leader despite being at the helm of a company while the office help could display special leadership qualities in tough situations. Leadership is like learning to ride a bicycle. You have to learn it, practice it, and keep at it before you get a hang of it. And you’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way. What’s sure is that simply owning a bicycle is not going to make you a rider.


2. It takes a day or two (or more sometimes) to make the right decision.

Making decisions is a crucial part of a leader’s life. They’re expected to look at a situation, evaluate it, and make a decision based on what they’ve learned. It’s not an easy thing to do because decisions come with consequences. And more often than not, it’s the decision makers that face the chin music if the decisions turn faulty. In such a scenario, it’s wiser to take a day or two before making your decision. Don’t plan things or evaluate the situation in this time. Just let time work its magic.

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3. Actions speak louder than words in most cases.

No matter how good you’re at motivating people, selling your thoughts, or communicating with others, the only thing that finally matters is what sort of actions you take and how you behave. That’s one of the best barometers of how good a leader really is. Speaking is free and easy, and can be done by anyone with a mouth and a tongue, but doing the deed takes hard work, patience, and determination, and is not easily accomplished by people occupying strong leadership roles.


4. The autocratic style of leadership fails in the long run.

Being a leader or “boss” is often thought of as being the ultimate authority. While that may not be too far off the mark, it often gets misunderstood to be someone who knows what’s right for everyone and is free to make whatever decision they think is right, disregarding everyone else’s views in the process. This is a big mistake, and committed by many leaders around the world. As a leader, you should lead from the front and by example, not control, dictate, or rule over others.


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5. Keeping your word is what matters ultimately.

You should be careful with the promises you make as a leader. Most promises that you make should be fulfilled — if not all, or else you risk being thought of as someone who either doesn’t put a price on their word or takes it very lightly. Which is not a quality you’d expect of a leader. This makes it important for you to not over- or under-promise and be smart about who you give your word to and why. Someone who delivers on their promises comes across as a strong leader.


6. The sooner you get over yourself, the better.

As someone with a leadership title, there’s a tendency to think that you know best, that you’ve got it all figured out, and that others only need to abide by the decisions you make for them since you know best. This is nothing but your ego talking. Not accepting a team member’s idea because it didn’t come from you or blowing your lid at someone who disagrees with you are just two of the many examples of oft-seen faulty leadership style seen in workplaces. You have to rise above your ego as a leader.