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What Does It Mean to Lead?

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Being a leader is about so much more than a title. It’s about the actions you take to lead yourself and your team toward achievement, growth, and success. I think the idea of action and leadership really go hand in hand. When reflecting on my own experience as a leader, these are the action words that feel central to the role.


A successful leader is a teacher. They know how to guide their employees without dominating their actions. They know how to offer help without micromanaging. Guiding means setting a direction and establishing standards while also educating and supporting in a way that promotes independence.


The success of a team is dependent on the actions of each individual member. A strong leader knows how to inspire their employees to work to their full potential. This starts with helping employees create individual goals and also defining the overarching branch goals. Making goals clear, checking in on progress, and celebrating and rewarding accomplishments are all ways managers can motivate their team members.


Encouraging your team begins with offering help and support to team members. This means taking time to get to know your employees, keeping an open door, fostering honest communication, and noting strengths and achievements. Leaders who focus on the positive tend to get better results from their team. This doesn’t mean avoiding constructive criticism or difficult conversations, but it does mean paying specific attention to things that are done well, so employees feel encouraged to continue with their good work.


Leaders play a significant role in creating the culture of their office. As a leader, you’re an example for your team, and the energy you bring into the office every day sets the tone for everyone else. If you come in dragging your feet and unexcited about the day ahead, how can you expect any more than that from your team? If you bring energy, positivity, and motivation, your team is much more likely to follow suit. Once you establish that momentum within your office, it’s much easier to maintain.


One of the most important ways to lead is to serve. I like the no-task-too-small mindset. Just because you have the title of a leader doesn’t mean you should be separate from or above your team. Offer your help out in the field, make sure you understand their day-to-day work, and be willing to assist in whichever ways you’re most needed.


Active listening is one of the clearest ways to show respect. It says, ‘I value what you’re saying’. Barking authoritative orders at your team will likely get you a group of uninspired employees with little direction and no initiative. When you ask for their thoughts and listen to what they have to share though, you empower them. By valuing their input and collaboration, you motivate them to continue contributing.


What characterizes successful leaders? I believe it’s all in their actions. While this list of actions is certainly not exhaustive, I do think these are some of the most important actions a leader carries out. What actions do you think define great leaders? Share your thoughts in the comments!