Leadership is a funny thing. Often times when we think of the word leadership, we think of people. For example, the President of a country, the coach of a professional team, or a CEO of a major company. I challenge you to rethink the word leadership and who you would designate as a leader. Not that those people aren't leaders, but I see leadership each time I step out of my small Chicago apartment into the Windy City. Whether it is stepping off the El train, shopping on the Magnificent Mile, or taking a walk along the Lakefront Path, leadership is everywhere. Despite common belief, a leader is a parent, a teammate, a sibling, and even a coworker.

After all, aren't you the leader of your own life?

So if we are in charge of our own life, how can we increase leadership for not only ourselves, but those around us?

Well, let's begin.......

1. Positivity is seriously contagious. Seriously. 

This may sound very simple, but often times extremely difficult. Have you ever let a bad morning ruin the rest of your day? I have. Try to find a reason to be positive each and every day. You would be surprised just how much positivity can not only boost your mood, but also your confidence. Questions to ask yourself at the beginning of the day: How am I going to make a difference today? What is one thing that I can get better at today? Also, give compliments out. Have you ever received an unexpected compliment from someone you barely know? It makes you feel great. Spread this type of positivity on to others and I guarantee they will not only think highly of you, but also be more inclined to talk or listen to you in the future.


2. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

There is nothing more aggravating than not knowing what you are supposed to be doing, where, and when. Be the person that is known as the communicator. Whether that is being the loudest voice on the baseball or soccer field or the one instructing people during a fire alarm drill, you can be important. If you communicate your needs and wants to those around you, then respect will soon follow. Think about a boss that you might have had in the past that expected you to get a job done, but never told you how to it. Or a complicated set of directions with no solution in sight that left you with a bunch of pieces and no time to complete the puzzle of parts. If you want to be leader to those around you, you must communicate. Being clear and concise with your expectations will take you much farther than you may realize.           


3. Never stop learning.

Have you ever heard the quote “Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching” or heard people say “If I only knew then, what I know now”? Sometimes we can take learning for granted. After all, we are forced into schooling for years upon years with no end in sight. But what happens when it does end? Does our learning end? My advice is to not let it. Great leaders never stop trying to expand their knowledge in not only their specialties, but also other fields. If you don’t understand something, try to find out the answer. If that doesn’t work, ask someone you trust. If you are known as the person with all the answers (in a good way), then you will be respected and sought out. Gain wisdom from life experiences and learn from mistakes. Be someone else’s mentor. Find a mentor to look up to. Learning is hard, but it also creates a pretty reliable and knowledgeable leader.


4. Be true to your values.

Find what you believe in and stick to it. If you look up the word leadership in the dictionary it will tell you that a leader is someone who gives direction or guidance. You cannot possibly possess these attributes if you do not know what or who you stand for. Whether this is instilling respect and manners in your kids, or communication and trust in your teammates, values are vital. Find the values that you stand for, believe in, and live by. Take these values and spread them to those around you whether they are your family, coworkers, or team. A strong trait of a leader is someone who is stable and reliable. If people know that you are not flip-flopping on your values and ideals, they will be more likely to seek you out and know what to expect.           


5. Reinforce positive leadership behavior.

Every great leader knows that the team comes before the individual. Every single time, no exceptions. The ability to highlight other people’s strengths and successes is the foundation of being a good leader. I have seen way too many examples of coaches trying to teach a skill by showing what NOT to do. When in reality, people tend to learn the most by showing what works or what is proven to succeed. Next time you are upset with someone, point out something they did well, then something they could improve, followed by a reinforcement statement of how they have proven to do well in the past. This method does not kill their self-esteem and gives them motivation to continue striving to do better in the future. It will entice them to want to prove to themselves that they can live up to higher expectations. Point out greatness, don’t point out or draw attention to negativity or failures.

 Ready, Set, Go Lead!


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