How Do I Become A Leader

Congratulations for having the interest in taking on a leadership role in your business, organization or community. I have no doubt that this experience will be one of the greatest learning opportunities of your life.  It is my hope that these leadership tips will help and support you in answering the question, "How Do I Become A Leader"?

This section of Millennial Coaching presents a number of important tips and techniques for addressing the less tangible side of becoming a leader that goes beyond knowledge and skills. It also focuses on the difference between supervision, management and leadership. Click here for my view on the difference between management and leadershipThis section has been prepared to ensure you are aware of how to discover, grow and use your influence as a leader.

To keep the language simple, I am going to use the generic term “Team” to represent the organizational elements to which you may belong. Also, rather than fill the pages with he/she, his/her etc., I will use the male pronouns with the understanding that the reference is generic and equally applicable to both men and women.

One of the key things to recognize about being a leader is that it is both a “doing” and “being” role. The "doing" part is fairly straightforward (although not necessarily easy). It is about getting things done and doing things well.

The "being" part is a bit more intangible. The being part is about your character, your presence, your value systems and how people “see” you in the world. The "being" part of being a leader is largely a function of personal discovery. In other words, "knowing who you are, accepting who you are and being who you are".  See my approach to coaching for more info on that.

Authenticity: The Most Important Attribute

If you take anything away from this site on becoming a leader, I hope it is this point: To be a leader, you must be yourself. To help you know yourself better, please consider taking the free Core Values Index (CVI) assessment by clicking here.

I know this sounds a bit odd, but often when people first step into a leadership role, they are a bit intimidated, uncertain and even frightened. This is to be expected - it is a new experience and one that comes with both risk and responsibility.

Unfortunately, when we are nervous and worried about failure, we often put on a "mask" and start to behave in a way that we "think we should" or in a way that we "think leaders should" behave. This is disastrous! Trust me - no one wants to work for someone who is acting, posing or pretending. They want to follow a real human being.

In this sense, it is absolutely imperative that you have the confidence to be you. You will be imperfect, you will make mistakes but you will not have committed a fatal leadership sin - that of pretending to be someone you are not. Just be yourself!

Once you have internalized this need - and it is not easy - then we can start to look at some of the other areas you can explore as a leader to develop, grow and use your influence. Communication for example is a key skill to have as a leader. However, without authenticity as a foundation, any credibility you have built up will always be at risk of falling a part. You must be yourself.

The Currency of Credibility

Throughout this section on leadership I am going to be talking about the currency of credibility. It is helpful for you to think about this as an imaginary bank account where your objective is to maintain a healthy balance. Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, uses this concept in a lot of his work.

Throughout your leadership career and indeed your life, you will find opportunities to enhance your credibility account and unfortunately, times when you must spend from that account, i.e. when you make a mistake. It isn’t always easy to determine exactly how much you have in the account at any one time but you will definitely have a sense of when you are making a deposit and growing your credibility or spending it, i.e. making a withdrawal!

The more credibility you have in your account the more errors you can make or failures you can experience without being written off, i.e. people will “cut you some slack”. This error tolerance also allows you to take more frequent and larger risks, thus potentially accomplishing a lot more in your role, your career and your life.

Quite simply, the more credibility you have, the bigger risks you can take and the more successful you will become. Growing your credibility early in your career is thus very important.

Leadership Direction: Where are you taking us?

One of the key things people often look for in those they are willing to follow is a sense of direction. Often this can be referred to as a "vision" although it seems this term is grossly over used these days.

My belief is that this sense of direction is very important to people and yet at the same time, it need not be complicated. In my own leadership experience I have found that the most effective "leadership vision" consists of three elements. The first of these is fundamental purpose. In other words, why does your team exist?

The second thing that people tend to rally around is some sort of inspiring "objective" or clear mission. And the third thing to create is a "team culture " which can also be defined as a set of "core values" or "team norms". In essence these set the implied rules for how the team functions together.

The benefit of structuring a "direction" in this manner is that it appeals to those people who are inspired by purpose as well as those that are goal oriented (mission). By providing people with a set of rules or guidelines to which they have all contributed and agreed to (culture), the leader (you) do not need to spend much of your credibility to keep things moving along. In essence, you just need to regularly come back to three questions, namely:

  • Is this aligned with our purpose?
  • Will this contribute to accomplishing the mission?
  • Are we acting in accordance with our agreed culture?

Of course you will also need the courage to ask these questions even when the energy is high and the differences of opinion are huge. I said it was simple. It is anything but easy!


Another key element in the leadership role is to be aware (or at least as aware as possible) about what it is you don't know. In its most basic form, this can be referred to as embracing your ignorance. This allows you to ask "stupid questions" and really get to the bottom of what is going on, what the issues are and where the opportunities lie.

It is much more difficult to be curious about something that you are unaware of. In other words, not knowing what questions to ask! To help you in becoming more aware of what you may not know, I have created a page called "thoughts on leadership". I hope this will help you become curious about a number of things that you may not yet be aware of.

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