There aren't many natural born leaders. Most leaders take responsibility for training themselves to be effective. Whether you learn from the wisdom of others or get insights from personal experience, becoming a more effective leader is about what you do, not what know.
Here are five things you can do to train yourself to be a great leader:
1. Keep promises, period.
Never make promises you're not sure you can keep. Nothing kills your credibility quicker than a breached promise or unfulfilled expectation.
Sometimes keeping promises can be challenging, if not downright painful. This commitment will develop discipline and integrity. Practice it with your kids as well as colleagues.
2. Dress to influence.
Don't dress to impress, dress to influence. That means making sure your appearance is consistent with your personal and professional brand. Begin by asking yourself how a leader with your aspirations should appear to others.
And don't limit appearance to just yourself. Apply it to your company. Butler Amusements, a Fairfield, Cal.-based carnival company, has always prided itself on having the cleanest trucks in the business and has built a brand around the slogan: "The Cleanest Show in the West."
Related: 4 Ways to Spring Clean Your Brand
3. Treat your team as you expect them to treat customers.
Asking your team to be courteous to customers and being a jerk to them is incongruent and hypocritical. Being the leader doesn't give you a free pass to indulge your base instincts. The way you treat people is a barometer to everyone on your team.
Robert Greenleaf coined the term "servant leadership" in the 1960's. It isn't about being servile, but about finding ways to support your employees so they can become successful. Periodically ask: "What can I do to help?"
Related: Tips to Go Above and Beyond With Customer Service
4. Show your commitment to personal growth.
There are ultimately only two ways to grow your business: grow yourself and grow your team. As you and your team improve, so do service levels, operational efficiency and everything else.
Suncoast Coffee Service and Vending is a small company of twenty employees based in Tampa, Florida. The founders pay employees to read books that benefit both their personal and professional lives. Through the company's reading program, called Making People Better, books are distributed to employees, along with a "read by" date. Employees have approximately one month to read the book and are given $50 after completing it. At the end of the month, employees meet to discuss the book.
5. Ask rather than wait for feedback.
Some leaders react to unsolicited feedback as criticism and miss an opportunity to learn. But waiting for your employees to become brave enough to offer you feedback is a risky proposition. Don't ask employees what they like or dislike about you. You'll get better information by asking: "In your opinion, what might I do to become a more effective leader?"
Listen for actionable behavior. If someone says you'd be more effective by communicating more clearly, ask for an example of when you haven't, so you'll understand what he or she means.
Which of these actions will you take first to train yourself to be a better leader?
Related: 3 Tips for Leading Successful Change