The Path to Leadership

Published: Apr 08, 2019
Modified: Mar 24, 2020

By James Dawson

How can you become the kind of leader people look up to, turn to and go the extra mile for? Research shows that leadership can be learned. You can make a conscious effort to master the habits, characteristics and attitudes shared by successful leaders. One way is to identify the leaders you admire and make them your role models. Figure out what key characteristics they have in common and then make their habits your own.

The Importance of Personal Power

The most effective leaders have personal power. That means they are masters of their own fate and embrace specific behaviors and attitudes that, as a natural consequence, attract the people, talent and opportunities they need to succeed.

Developing your personal power is a life-long commitment. But every triumph along the way will bring you greater satisfaction, additional opportunity and a step closer to becoming the best leader you can be.

The following five behaviors are guaranteed to “P.O.W.E.R.” up your leadership abilities. 

  •  Positive approach—in thought, word, emotion, expression and posture. Maintaining a positive approach energizes you, keeps you ready for new challenges and strengthens your ability to manage change. 
  • Openness—to new ideas and people. Engaging with a diverse network of people and philosophies keeps you versatile and open to new possibilities. 
  • Willingness—to do things differently, to persevere, to help others, to do what's right, to learn new skills and to acknowledge greatness in others. This attitude expands your ability to influence and empower the people around you.
  • Employing—tact, common courtesies, sincerity, tolerance, humor, hope and patience. This earns people’s respect and increases your ability to attract the right people at the right time. 
  • Remembering—your purpose. Knowing yourself, being honest with yourself, doing your best and believing in who you are enhances your ability to inspire higher performance in others.

Effective leaders:

  • Build trust by doing what they say they will do
  • Build loyalty by being of service to those they lead and follow 
  • Solicit the input of people who have the skills and knowledge they may lack 
  • Stand by their decisions 
  • Have a sense of urgency 
  • Use authority sparingly—only as a backup

Successful leaders embrace these qualities: 

  • Creating and holding vision. People need to understand the “why,“ as well as the “what,“ "when," "where" and "how" behind a decision. A leader communicates the "why" in a way that engages the passions of others and compels them to take up the charge. 
  • Developing people. A leader is a catalyst for releasing human potential by encouraging others, setting an example and celebrating individual and team accomplishments. As a result, those they lead show more initiative, take greater responsibility and become more productive.
  • Motivating others. A leader has good interpersonal skills the ability to adapt to different people and situations and to recognize and address political and interpersonal sensitivities. He or she is a team player, listens to suggestions and tries to make work enjoyable for the people in the organization.
  • Taking responsibility. A leader treats people with respect, does not shift blame to others, show favoritism or prejudices or carry a grudge. 
  • Planning for the future. Taking the time to establish a course of action while looking for potential problems, then handling them proactively, with good judgment, and as opportunities rather than irritations, are hallmarks of an effective leader. 
  • Establishing structure. A leader has the ability to create an organizational structure that allows people to work effectively in teams.
  • Sharing knowledge and experience. Leaders never hesitate to share what they know for fear that others might use that knowledge to threaten their leadership position. In fact, a good leader ensures that others can take the lead whenever necessary.
  • Following direction. Leadership isn’t just about setting a course. Knowing how to take direction and then communicating the information in a manner that gains group consensus and encourages creative thinking is a leader's trump card. 
  • Making the boss look good. A leader consistently does a good job and finds ways to make his or her boss's life easier. It is good business sense, it’s profitable for the organization and it creates more potential for advancement up and down the line.

The time to act is now: 

  • Read books and attend workshops on leadership and communication development. 
  • List the qualities of leadership that are important to you and make an effort to embody them. 
  • Ask leaders you know and respect for guidance

Ask yourself:
"Why do I want to be a leader?”
"Who are my coaches and mentors?”
"What are my goals and objectives?"
"When will I take the first steps?”
"Where will I be in three years; in five years?”
"How will I measure my effectiveness?”

And finally, ask yourself every day, “Do I do what good leaders do?” When your answer is "yes" on a regular basis, you will find yourself on the way to more exciting leadership roles and greater personal power.

About the Author(s)

James Dawson is a managing partner of ADI Performance. Contact him at
770-640-0840 or [email protected]