Here’s How You Can be an Outstanding Leader

Being a leader isn’t easy.

There isn’t a leadership school most of us can go to.

Leadership isn’t something they teach us in high school or college.

So, the question young colleagues will often ask is how do I learn to be a leader.

Here are some ideas that will help you become a great leader:

  • Study good leaders
  • Read leadership books
  • Harvard Business Review
  • Read about emotional intelligence

These ideas are a summary of conversations I’ve had with leadership experts, real-life leaders and from my own experience as a CFO and leader:

Be curious

Knowledge speaks, wisdom listens.

Invite in people you agree with and disagree with.

Invite in different views and thoughts and have a conversation by asking questions and being open to the answers, without judgment.

Ask these questions

1. What’s on your mind?

2. And what else?

Ask that second question until there is no more “what else”.

This is one of the most powerful lessons from the Coaching Habit – read it.

To take it further, when someone shares with you, offer:

  • Can you tell me more
  • What do you mean by that
  • When you said this, did you mean…

Find life balance

If you aren’t enjoying your job, you will burn out.

Instead of finding work-life balance, find life balance.

Pursue a career in an area that excites you. An area that motivates you.

As Warren Buffet said:

When you are living a life of passion and obsession, there are no limits. There are no time clocks or time off, no vacations, no bosses breathing down your neck to perform, because with obsession, there is no boss, there is only you. There is only your obsession and wanting to work on it day after day as a means of perfecting it and making it fully your own. This kind of passion and obsession does not happen over night.

Find your purpose

Most of us stumble toward our purpose and find it by accident.

Our purpose is inside of us, we just need to experiment until we find it.

Observe your life. Get people to observe your life by telling them your stories and use them to find your purpose.

To find your purpose here’s a read I recommend:


Understand your dreams

Many people have a dream.

Sadly, they think they have a dream.

Some will spend years pursuing it, only to realize it was not their dream.

Experiment now to ensure you don’t waste years chasing a dream you don’t want.

Choose your identity

Do you want to run, or to be a runner?

If you want to run, put on your running shoes and run.

If you want to be a runner, understand the fundamentals, have a training program and stick to it.

Being requires more effort and planning than doing.

You can choose 2-1/2 identities

You cannot be great at everything.

You can be good at many things, but not great.

Each additional identity you want to take on will take away from others.

At most, you can likely be successful at 2-1/2 identities. Choose wisely what matters.

Be a host

As a leader, host others.

When in a meeting, ensure others are heard and feel valued.

When brainstorming, be the last to speak. The last to weigh in on the ideas being presented.

Take a servant leadership role. Engage with the thoughts of others and amplify them.

Be an energizer

Tell your team a compelling story that they want to join you on. Motivate them.

Demonstrate energy to your team through your own inner drive.

To ensure you have that energy, take care of yourself:

  • Diet
  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Mediation

Be a disruptor

Make mistakes.

Learn from the mistakes.

Prototype, test, reiterate and launch.

Every single day, ask yourself what are two or three things  I can experiment on today?

Have an advisory board that pushes you, questions you, and challenges you to be better.

Be a catalyst

Balance coaching and mentoring.

In coaching you want your team to find their answers and you can help through questions.

In mentoring, you want to provide them with advice and recommendations to help them move forward.

Find the right balance between the two.

Love and empathy

Do you care about the people you work with, and do you show it?

To be a world-class leader, you must show your team you care.

  • tell people you appreciate them
  • reward people for a job well done
  • write notes and letters of gratitude


Are you humble, and do you put others first?

Great leaders serve others, not themselves:

  • start your day with gratitude
  • give credit to people on your team
  • take the blame when things go wrong
  • ask your team how you can be more humble

Inspire followership

Does your leadership style inspire others to follow you?

If you genuinely want to inspire followership, you need to serve the people you lead.

Show your people you care about them, and give your team thoughtful, personal gestures of gratitude.

Passion and work ethic

Are you passionate about what you do?

Do you set an example in terms of work ethic?

Being a great leader requires a strong work ethic.

A great work ethic doesn’t mean long hours. It means you do what it takes to get the job done.

Continuous improvement

Good leaders never stop learning:

  • Books
  • Coaches
  • Online courses
  • Business teachers
  • They spend money to make money.

Don’t focus on the $5,000 cost. Focus on the $50,000 value.


Do people trust you?

To improve, read The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey and:

  • Listen first
  • Talk straight
  • Extend trust
  • Show loyalty
  • Confront reality
  • Keep commitments
  • Clarify expectations
  • Create transparency
  • Demonstrate respect

Vision and communication

Do you paint a clear and compelling vision of the future and communicate it to your team?

As a leader, it is our job to:

  • Imagine what’s possible
  • Believe in the vision
  • Achieve it

Paint the picture for your team and get out of their way.


Do you set goals for yourself and the team?

Do you follow up and hold the team accountable?

Do you have a track record of success?

To improve execution:

  1. Establish goals
  2. Act on lead measures
  3. Keep a clear team scorecard
  4. Create rhythms of accountability


Do you:

  • stand up for what’s right
  • have the hard conversations
  • let your team know where they stand

Have weekly 1:2:1 meetings with your team and check in on where they’re at personally and professionally.

Understand how you can help at work and in life.

Decision making

Do you make good and timely decisions?

Type 1 decisions are irreversible one-way doors.

Make them slow, deliberate, and involve consultation.

Type 2 decisions are reversible two-way doors.

Make them quick as individuals or small groups with high judgment.

Two conversations on leadership that had a significant impact on my thinking and this article are:

Becoming a Leader People Never Leave with Clint Pulver

The Leader’s List: Are You a Great Leader with Rich Huisman

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  • I am have desperately desired to learn to help my self become my best, i have read, listened to stuff and attended events but this here? Is mind blowing so simple , easy to relate with and apply. I honestly this is the best info i have come across so far and i feel my search journey ends here.

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