It’s an old joke that life is like a dogsled team and if you’re not the lead dog, the scenery never changes. If you’re ready to make that leap to the front of the sled, these top seven tips to become the best leader you can be will help in your aspiration to leave the mutts behind.

  1. Listen & enact. The primary characteristic of any great leader is that they listen attentively to what others are telling them and they use that input to formulate their decisions. If you are locking yourself up in your ivory tower behind your impressive nameplate, you’re missing out on the suggestions which can help become a better and more effective leader.
  2. Act & be accountable. You have to be ready to act when the situation calls for it, and then be able to take full responsibility for those actions. Not every action that a leader takes is going to have the desired positive effect as there are innumerable X-factors involved which can turn the best intentioned act into a debacle. When that occurs your followers are going to become even more dedicated to your leadership if they see that you took your lumps and stood up to face the criticism.
  3. Encourage & promote. In many ways a true leader has an element of cheerleader and promoter deep within. You have to be relentlessly enthusiastic about your tasks, portraying the impression that what you’re doing is motivated primarily by dedication and commitment, rather than by strictly financial incentives. You have to adopt a never-ceasing rah-rah lifestyle where you embody your brand and the reasons why others should be enthusiastic about it.
  4. Promote & encourage. This obverse of the previous tip refers to the way you should be running your organization: Promote your company’s leaders from within, encouraging your employees to step up to the challenges and amply demonstrating to them that if they are able to take the initiative and succeed they will be rewarded with promotions and progress within the business… without having to jump to another company.
  5. Get the “vision thing.” A leader needs to be able to see the road ahead without the benefit of a crystal ball or time machine. You can’t be an effective leader if you are so myopic that your only goal is just to be able to guide the company to barely making its next payroll. You have to see the bigger picture and be ready and willing to maneuver your brand into situations where it can be in an optimal position to be a market segment leader, today and in the future.
  6. Never stop learning. Even if you’ve been running your company for decades, you can still discover new aspects and formulate innovative strategies. Not all new thought has to be sparked by the necessity to embrace rapid technological change, as the most revolutionary and impactful concepts arise from a profound examination of the most basic of business tenets. Discover how to approach your clientele through a completely new paradigm and you’ll benefit far more than by branching off to a new social network or “the fad of the day.”
  7. Go away. There is only so much that you can learn by sitting in your office barraged by emails, social network posting responsibilities, and a phone that never stops ringing. Take the time to get away from everything in order to reconnect with yourself and gain completely new perspectives on your challenges. Many times the best way to arrive at that “a-ha” moment is to separate yourself completely from the situation, so take a few days off, head to the woods or beach… and make sure you leave your smartphone at home!

John Maxwell wrote that “a great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” You have to be ready to ignore your haughty title and be strictly motivated by your love for what you and your company are doing. When you operate from a standpoint of enthusiastic dedication, you won’t have to work at being a great leader.