The Secret to Becoming a Great Leader

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The following was an article I wrote over on the secret to becoming a great leader, over at Great Leadership By Dan, a leadership and management development blog powered by Dan McCarthy.

It’s disappeared down the internet rabbit hole, so I’m re-posting here.

Want to avoid being a leader—or friend, family member, lover—that others secretly hate? Give it a read below.

“What’s the secret to becoming a great leader?”‘

That is not a question reserved for the gated playgrounds of MBA students or empty suits struggling to justify big paychecks. The concept of “Leadership” is a fixture in our daily lives that dictates the experiences we share with others.

Let’s start by defining terms.

Leadership: The ability to encourage others to accept an idea. 

That’s what leadership is, in plain terms. I’m all about challenging orthodoxy, so you won’t find any platitudes and buzzwords here.

You may not realize it, but the impact of leadership is evident in every corner of your life, no matter what your background. It’s how you spend free time with friends and family; How you convince your boss to give you a raise;The reason why you watch certain televisions shows and flip away from others;it’s all there, peeking from beneath the covers of your daily existence.

So, what’s the secret to becoming an effective leader, a (wo)man who enjoys support and fulfillment in one’s social and professional life?

The secret to great leadership is Empathy.

A willingness and ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. A sensitivity to the needs of others and the skill to address them.

Like a great point guard, good leaders have mastered the game within the game and know how to position each player so they can shine. They take care of their people and make sure everybody gets fed.

Successful leadhrship assumes many forms. Great businesses have already mastered this, weaving carefully-crafted messages that draw in target audiences. They go beyond identifying market needs and demographics, establishing rallying points around issues that touch the lives of millions.

Take Planet Fitness, for example.

On its face, Planet Fitness offers a simple proposition: Gym membership for a low monthly fee.

But let’s look a little deeper.

We’re all moved by basic motivations, emotions like the desire for acceptance and a desire to raise a family. Those motivations dictate our life choices and purchase decisions.

Women don’t buy a particular dress because it’s made by a noted designer. They purchase that dress because they want to be the envy of every other woman in the room when they go to their high school reunion.

Take a little time to consider the desires, interests, and fears of the people you want to lead and you’ll start making headway.

That’s where we find the genius in Planet Fitness’ leadership model.

To many Americans, gym membership is just a means for assuaging guilt. Signing up allows a person to feel like they’re doing something right, striving for an ideal and dedicating themselves to good health practices. Whether they actually break a sweat when they step in to the facility is of secondary importance.

It’s like people who buy Priuses just so they can say they’re environmentally-conscious; Whether they’re actually advancing the cause is of little consequence.

Planet Fitness knows their market and has a perfect pitch for their customers: Come here, check off the “workout” box, and go home.

They maintain a relaxed atmosphere, even hosting regular pizza and bagel days, where members can indulge in the very foods that pack on pounds in a hurry.

(Pizza and treadmills? An unholy alliance, if we’ve ever heard one, but Planet Fitness is riding it to the bank.)

Cultivating the right membership base is a priority for Planet Fitness as well.They actively-alienate members who exhibit too much workout intensity, outfitting their gyms with “Lunk Alarms” that sound when a lifter makes too much noise and revoking memberships of anyone who appears even the least bit intimidating.

Planet Fitness is the bane of serious workout warriors everywhere, but you can’t knock their results.

Leadership isn’t a one-size-fits-all exercise, with one right answer to the question. There are multiple styles that can get the job done. Brandishing an iron fist never falls out of flavor and history is replete with autocrats who effected change through fear and intimidation; they held a firm grasp of human nature.

Not to say that their effectiveness is attributable to emotional intelligence. Historical figures were savvy politicians who know certain levers light a fire under all of us.They did an end-run around empathy, but got the job done just the same.

As long as you hone in on the base motivations lurking below the surface, you’re walking down the right path. What’s the driving force behind a decision and what do you have to offer them?

Again, you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

You can reverse engineer the process by starting with the end in mind. Consider what the people around you would want, what they need to get them moving in your direction. And then, deliver it.

Instead of whining that friends aren’t listening to you or leering at the new guy in your office who has caught the eye of management, look inward. Is there more you can do to encourage others to align with your way of thinking? A commitment to self-development is a best practice in everything you do and a reputation for effective leadership pays big dividends.

A few here-and-now examples you can put in to practice:

–Want your emails answered? Send short emails with descriptive headers instead of tomes that go nowhere.

–Tired of how you spend your Saturday night with friends? Take the lead and give everyone two specific options to choose from, which will guide the group towards choices you’re comfortable with.

You’ll get a less-frustrating experience than asking, “What does everybody want to do tonight?”

The overarching idea is that great leaders solve problems without planting new roadblocks for constituents to leap over. Effective leaders make it easy for people to do what they want them to do.

The world doesn’t revolve around you.

Drill this in to your head and you’ll be able to adapt to any environment you’re thrown in to. Effective leadership is all about speaking to your fellow man in his language. Master that skill and the rest falls in to place.

Need help with a problem or goal?  Click here to learn more.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *