Becoming a great leader isn’t something that happens overnight, but it can be achieved through discipline, hard work and a commitment to improvement through experience. Great leaders aren’t born, as some people suggest; instead, they are shaped over time. And, while what makes a “great” leader in one application doesn’t always apply to others, there are some general rules that all great leaders follow.
If becoming a great leader in your own business or organization is your goal, these 50 rules are a good place to start:
1. Listen to your team. Rule one. Always listen to what your team has to say, even if you don’t like it.
2. Communicate as efficiently as possible. Make your expectations and feelings clear, in the appropriate medium as often as possible.
3. Talk less. Sometimes saying nothing is better than saying just anything.
4. Be an example. Be the type of person you want your team members to be.
5. Be passionate. If you aren’t passionate about your business, you’re in the wrong business.
6. Be consistent. Be consistent in your behaviors so your team knows what to expect from you.
7. Make firm decisions. Don’t leave things undecided for long, and don’t waver about a decision once you’ve made it.
8. Identify mentors and role models. Find people you can look up to and learn from, and follow them closely.
9. Interfere only when necessary. If you trust your team to do good work, don’t interfere unless absolutely necessary.
10. Know your limits. Don’t extend yourself beyond your means.
11. Know your strengths. If you’re good at resolving disputes, step in and resolve them as often as possible.
12. Know your weaknesses. If there’s something you’re not good at, admit it, and work on it.
13. Don’t make excuses. If you make a mistake, take ownership of it and don’t pass the blame to someone or something else.
14. Accept the unforeseen. You can’t control or predict everything.
15. Choose your partners carefully. Work only with people you can count on and trust.
16. Do good. Commit yourself to being a good person and giving back to the community when possible.
17. Meet new people all the time. Take every opportunity to expand your network and expose yourself to new experiences and perspectives.
18. Stay in touch with your emotions. Don’t be a robot -- let yourself feel.
19. Temper your reactions. Hold back your reactions until you have a moment to clarify your internal thoughts and feelings.
20. Have fun. Take the time to have fun with your team.
21. Research everything. Before making a decision, know the pros and cons -- do your homework.
22. Think everything through. Never exclusively trust your instincts or first reactions.
23. Choose your team carefully. Hire only those you can trust to get the job done (and to get along with others, as well).
24. Prioritize your team. Your team is everything. Give them whatever they need to succeed.
25. Be humble. Don’t get big-headed about your wealth, influence or position as a leader.
Related: 10 Habits of Ultra-Likable Leaders
26. Forgive mistakes. Everyone makes them.
27. Forgive yourself. Don’t beat yourself up too much over anything. Move on.
28. Be rational. Make decisions logically.
29. Be reasonable. Listen to dissenting opinions, and be fair.
30. Make time for what’s important. There’s no such thing as “not having time” for what’s really important in your life. Make the time.
31. Constantly learn. Read as much as you can, and take classes whenever you have the opportunity.
32. Improve everything. Work on improving your approaches, your skills and your processes constantly.
33. Never give up. Don’t throw in the towel when a little extra persistence could put you over the edge.
34. Transform your methods when necessary. If something isn’t working, change your approach.
35. Cut your losses when necessary. If you’re fighting a losing battle, retreat and start again somewhere else (or in a new way).
36. Learn from your mistakes. Try not to make the same mistakes twice.
37. Ground everything with data. Back up all your decisions, opinions and thoughts with hard, objective facts and evidence.
38. Don’t ignore signs of stress. Stress is real and can interfere with your ability to lead. If it starts setting in at abnormal levels, take action to reduce or relieve it.
39. Give feedback. Let your team know what they’re doing well and what needs further improvement.
40. Trust, but verify. Trust your team to get things done, but always follow up to make sure the work is completed.
41. Be approachable. Let people know they can trust you, and open your door to anybody who needs it.
42. Treat everyone equally. Don’t play favorites; it breeds resentment and makes you appear immature as a leader.
43. Don’t pursue close personal relationships with the team. Be on friendly terms, but don’t try to be best friends with everybody. You’re a leader, first and foremost.
44. Get the team together. Use team-building exercises or other excuses to get your team members talking with one other and having fun together.
45. Return favors. If someone helps you, make it your responsibility to pay back the favor -- even if it’s years later.
46. Don’t burn bridges. Never cut a contact completely out of your life.
47. Stay in touch. If team members leave or change roles, stay in contact with them.
48. Don’t sacrifice your personal life. Your personal life is necessary to retain your own mental health. Never sacrifice it for the sake of leadership or professional responsibilities.
49. Enjoy leadership. Try not to stress too much about being a leader. Instead, enjoy all the benefits it offers.
50. Take advice with a grain of salt. Even with these 50 rules! Because nobody knows everything, and no one piece of advice applies to all situations.
Follow these rules, trust your instincts and continually strive for self-improvement. Eventually, through your experiences and your efforts, you’ll become the type of leader most people only aspire to be.
Related: 10 Behaviors of Real Leaders