It continues to grow as a buzz word in today’s culture.

Everyone wants a leader.

Everyone wants to BE a leader.

But do we really know what it takes to be a leader?

Over the past 25 years, I have had many different leaders in my life. Parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, mentors, pastors, professors, supervisors, team leaders, and co-workers.

Who were the ones that stood out as outstanding leaders and which ones do I use as reminders of what not to do when given the opportunity to lead? What qualities led them to land in the category or “good” or “bad” leader?

I found three practices and qualities that range all the roles of leaders in my life, that were factors in deciding whether or not someone was a strong or poor leader.

Factor 1: A strong leader knows her people and leans into their strengths to help them succeed.

A leader worth following is the one who knows her people, knows their motivations, their struggles, their joys, and the factors affecting their lives and she leads them through those unique qualities and circumstances.

For example, imagine that you are an employee motivated by purpose, collaboration, and methodical planning to get the job done. A strong leader would show you the bigger purpose of your work when you get discouraged. She will allow you to work with a team or ask you to brainstorm with her. She will give you clear directions and deadlines to help you do your work well. Even if this is not the way she would do the same project. Not only would that leave you feeling known, valued, and encouraged, but you would likely do your work more effectively, efficiently, and joyfully because you are in your best working environment. You are not trying to be someone you are not. You are living and working into your unique design and your leader is showing that she values these things about you.

As the leader of a team, it is important to ask yourself these questions regularly:

  • Who are the people you need to get to know better to be able to lead him/her more effectively?
  • How will you get to know them better?
  • What are the things that really motivate your team members on an individual level and as a team?
  • What things don’t you naturally do or think to do that you could do to encourage or empower your team (i.e. tell them when they do a good job, give positive feedback, spend quality time with them during a break, etc…)?

Factor 2: A strong leader will sacrifice her own needs and ambitions for those of her team.

We see time and time again in books, podcasts, movies, and real-life circumstances that real leadership is born out of a servant stance. A person who walks into a room and goes “Oh, there you are” not “Hey! Here I am!” A leader worth following is the one who does the work that no one knows about or praises for the sole purpose of moving the mission of the team forward. She doesn’t complain about or resent her team when they take away from her time or plans because she knows that her ability to sacrifice for her team not only helps them to grow and learn, but they will trust her and want to work hard to make those sacrifices worthwhile. The most successful leaders are the ones who look like they are at the top of the pyramid, but work like they are at the bottom of it.

As the leader of a team, it is important to ask yourself these questions regularly:

  • How does your team see you?
  • Do you sacrifice to help those you lead?
  • What do those sacrifices look like?
  • Are you more focused on your own praise or results that you fail to see the work of those you lead and their growth or success?

Factor 3: A strong leader has influence even if she doesn’t have the title.

Anyone can be a boss. Anyone can have the title and make people do the work. But not everyone can be a leader and have an influence in their spheres. You may have a team, but you are not the appointed boss of the team. You may have employees, but not be the top dog. A lack of title does not mean you have a lack of influence or leadership among those around you. When I think about the people I would consider leaders in my life, they are rarely those who have the title of “boss” or “leader”, but those who have influence among the group. They are the ones who can rally the troops and get them excited about the mission, even if they are not the General.

As the leader of a team, it is important to ask yourself these questions regularly:

  • What are places in your life that you can build your influence and be a leader even if you are not the boss?
  • Who are the untitled leaders on your team?
  • How can you build or grow your influence in the different spheres of your business?

In summary, a strong leader is one who has influence among her team or peers by knowing her people and being willing to serve those around her.

Who are the leaders in your life? Are you a leader or a boss?

Hannah Westfall is the founder and CEO of Frazier Marketing Strategies, a digital marketing firm working to help entrepreneurs and small businesses build their digital presence and help them succeed in their business endeavors. She is a Beautycounter consultant, advocating for better beauty in the billion dollar industry as well as Hera Hub DC’s digital marketing strategist and social media manager. Follow her on social to get to know her better!

Instagram: @mshannahwestfall

Facebook Page: Health with Han