Leadership isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes grit, hard work and passion. Oh, and people skills—a lot of people skills. But guess what? Inspiring a team to follow you and do their absolute best isn’t about money or control—it’s all about leadership done the right way. So how can you learn how to be a good leader? Here are 20 guiding principles that will help you step up your leadership skills without stepping on people to get there.
20 Ways to Be a Good Leader
1. Love Your Team
Your team members aren’t units of production or cogs in a machine. They’re people who all have hopes, dreams, fears and struggles. Every single person deserves to be treated with respect, dignity and a caring heart. “Love your team well,” Dave Ramsey says. “Treat them like family, and they will act like family.”
2. Give Praise
Start making a habit of catching people doing something right—and let them know about it. A sincere compliment or a smile showing your approval will go a long way to boost their morale. So make a point each week to walk around your company and find a team member doing something awesome. Or take a few minutes and write a personal note to someone on your team who has been killing it week after week. While you’re at it, why not recognize them in front of their peers? It’ll make their day!
3. Be a Leader, Not a Boss
A boss has an iron grip on the team, expecting every team member to immediately jump at their command. They have more rules than Stalin. Workers know “the boss” holds all the cards and will make sure mandates are followed. Disobey and you could be gone in an instant.
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A leader, however, realizes the only power they can use is persuasion. Where a good leader goes, people follow—not out of obligation but out of genuine desire. Don’t boss people around. Instead, explain why you do what you do. As Dave says, “If you want employees, boss them around. If you want team members, explain why you do what you do. Don’t lead with threats and fear.”
4. Surround Yourself With Rock Stars
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to fill a minimum-wage job or find a new leader for your company—hold out for the perfect person for the role. Having the right people in the right seat on the bus allows you to do your best work. Take your time, set your standards high, and keep crazy out of the building.
So how do you find the right people? Make sure to do multiple interviews for the role, including one with their spouse. Maybe even have them take a personality test to make sure their style fits with the job and your company. And one of the best ways to recruit awesome new team members is through your current team. Let them know you’re looking for new hires and to only send their rock-star friends your way. You can even offer a cash bounty for each referral that leads to a successful hire.
5. Cast Your Vision
If you work for something bigger than yourself, you work much harder and smarter. And the same holds true for your team. They work harder because there’s a sense of calling.
So how do you let your team know they’re doing something important? Tell them what they’re working for and why—and then keep repeating it. You can start with an email to send to everyone. But keep it short and sweet (no one wants to read a novel at work). Then, share your vision and your heart as often as you can with your team.
6. Treat People the Way You Would Want to Be Treated
Being a good leader means you know how to treat others. If you want a team that’s loyal, creative and willing to follow you to the ends of the earth, use the golden rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31 NIV). It’s simple, really—just put yourself in their shoes. When you would expect to be praised, give praise. If there’s a problem you would want help with, lend a hand. If you would expect a pay raise, give it. No matter the situation, stop and think, How would I like someone to treat me?
7. Start With the Person in the Mirror
Dave admits that when he first started his company, he wouldn’t have won any awards for his leadership skills. It wasn’t until he realized the one thing holding him back was staring at him in the mirror—himself. Your organization can’t grow beyond your own leadership qualities. Luckily, there’s a fix. “You can decide who you want to be and then get about the business of becoming that person,” Dave says.
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8. Over Communicate
What’s the best way to kill morale and boost discontentment and anger? Failure to communicate. Always let your team know what’s going on, both good and bad. Intentionally creating a culture of open communication will help you quickly see the rewards. As we say around Ramsey, “To be unclear is to be unkind.” So lean into conflict, dig into the details, and face the brutal facts that you need to in order to have healthy communication.
9. Lead by Example
Do you want people to change their actions? Then you need to guide and inspire them through the way you carry yourself. Set the example by what you say, do, and how you react toward others. Your team will follow your lead.
10. Be Genuine in Your Interactions With Others
Authentic people attract other authentic people. Don’t be afraid to be a genuine person—one who’s transparent about their strengths and weaknesses. And don’t be afraid to face them either.
11. Be Confident Yet Humble
Is that an oxymoron? Nope. It’s possible to be confident and be armed with humility at the same time. Be sure of yourself and your abilities without acting like the world revolves around you. You don’t have to walk around looking like you just received an unexpected award. You can learn to practice genuine humility when praise is given to you.
12. Have Strong Character and Integrity
One of the most basic building blocks of how to be a good leader is possessing strong character and integrity at all times—not just when someone is looking. Integrity runs deep. It should be at the core of who you are and be the driving force for the decisions you make.
13. Act Professional
This one might go without saying when it comes to leadership qualities, but remember to act in a professional way in your communication and interaction with others. It’s pretty tough to expect respect from others when you don’t even carry yourself well (aka Michael Scott from The Office).
14. Be Trustworthy and Learn to Trust Others
Leaders should have the full trust of their team—but in order to get it, you need to behave in a trustworthy way too. You want your team to know you have their back and will support them no matter what. So follow through on your promises and mean what you say. Be a trustworthy leader they can count on. And if you feel like you can’t trust someone, don’t hire them to be on your team to begin with. Only hire team members you know will get the work done with honesty and integrity.
15. Empower Others
Great leaders lift others up. They equip them to take on the task at hand and trust they can rise to the occasion. Despite what people might think, being a good leader doesn’t include micromanagement—sorry.
16. Be Loyal
In a world where people change jobs quicker than NBA players switch teams, loyalty has become a lost art. And many leaders expect complete loyalty from those they work with, but it’s a two-way street. If you want to learn how to be a good leader, put loyalty at the top of your list. You need to be loyal to your team members and your mission as a whole.
17. Act With Courage
It’s true, being a leader often comes with carrying the burden of making the tough decisions. Being the only one who makes those decisions requires you to tap into a level of bravery others don’t have to during their nine-to-five. You have to be decisive and have the courage to take risks when they’re needed.
18. Generate Results
Leaders are more than capable of getting the job done. You can count on a great leader to follow through and execute the plan. They show strong leadership qualities by always working hard and not throwing in the towel when the going gets tough. There are no excuses, no one to pass the buck to, and no one to throw under the bus when something doesn’t get done. Leaders own it.
19. Accept Change
Any good leader knows change will happen within an organization. The ebb and flow of a company over time is part of the natural process. A great leader knows how to adjust to changes, when to accept changes, and the right way to react to changes.
20. Be a Servant Leader
Being a servant leader doesn’t mean you wait on other people hand and foot. It means you serve your team and enable them to become great at what they do. It’s asking the bigger questions like: How would I want to be treated in this situation? How would I want someone to support me? Being a servant leader is all about going above and beyond to simply treat people like they matter. Because they do.
When it all boils down to it, the key to being a good leader is serving your team and everyone around you by putting them first. If you do, you’ll be paid back in full with loyalty, hard work and killer results. Want more tips for how to grow your business, take care of your people, and stretch yourself as a leader? Dave Ramsey’s bestselling book EntreLeadership is our playbook for how to run a business the Ramsey way.