The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide


If you are starting your first leadership role, then the Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide will be invaluable to you.

It takes you through theories of leadership, explaining the difference between leadership and management, and introduces the concept of leadership styles.

Providing the tools to help you work out your leadership, it then offers a step-by-step program for development, including some essential hints for strengthening your own leadership style.

Whether you’re a first-time leader or just wanting to brush up on your leadership skills, The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide sets you up with best practices while saving you from blunders.

The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide will help you understand the characteristics of great leaders, how to predict leadership potential, and how to develop your own leadership skills day in, day out.

Talked enough, let’s start!

Table of Contents

The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide


It seems there has been an explosion of articles and books about leadership and what to do to be a great leader. Their suggestions can seem so broad and wide-ranging that it can be difficult to know just what to do next when trying to lead.

Sometimes leadership and management are used almost interchangeably, but there is an important difference between them.

Leadership is about establishing a direction and influencing others to follow. Management is about successfully administering the many complex details involved in a business’s operations. Leadership pursues change and challenges the status quo, whereas management seeks to control and provide stability within the existing circumstances.

Leadership is about change. True leaders are almost always made by circumstances.

It’s about helping the organization define its vision, one that can take advantage of opportunities and avoid oncoming threats. It’s about challenging people to grow and to unleash their yet untapped potential. It’s about inspiring people to step into uncharted territory.

A great leader can discover what is universal and capitalize on it by motivating the employees towards a better future.

In addition, it is worth noting that not all leadership is based on official position. That is, the title and official role of an individual within an organization do not always correspond to his actual leadership influence. There are individuals who do not have such positions but who do exhibit leadership qualities and practices. They help create the company vision with innovative ideas, and they inspire and motivate their coworkers.

Simply put, the best definition of a leader is someone who has followers.

Start small. You will only need one follower to start your leadership journey. Then think big.


Why leadership matters

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.

Most organizations have the intellectual horsepower, knowledge and internal processes required to thrive. It’s the ability to integrate these elements that is the missing link. Powerful teamwork can only take place in a culture where people willingly tune their individual agenda to common goals. Creating such an environment is a call for leadership.

Leadership is required to skyrocket your business and make it fly.

Leadership is critical to providing staff with a frame of reference for what a company stands for. No matter how good you are, if you don’t have effective leaders around you to support the vision and drive accountability, you won’t achieve your goals. Additionally, striving for the same goals across the business is key to improving organizational culture and increasing overall performance.

Leadership is the secret sauce of high performing organizations.

People are looking for meaning and purpose. They are looking to know someone cares. They want to belong. People desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. Leadership provides each of these.

Leadership matters because people matter.

Back to basics

Misconceptions about leadership can be harmful for a variety of reasons. When new leaders take on responsibilities without being developed for a new role properly, they fall back on common misconceptions and fallacies about what it means to lead. Their people become disenchanted and disengaged.

These myths are quite commonly believed, and have retained their hold on the minds of many leaders around the world, despite being debunked. If you want to base your leadership on proven concepts and approaches that actually drive engagement upward, you first need to avoid subscribing to these leadership misconceptions.

Put the work in

garfield comic strip back to work
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Hard work pays off

There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.

Some people get into leadership because they believe being the boss means living on Easy Street.

The truth is that every leader experiences a dynamic range of realities on the job. Yes, leaders get to enjoy certain perks and benefits that come with their prominent positions. But that doesn’t mean the work is easy, or that anyone should enter the leadership track because it promises an easier life.

Leadership can be incredibly difficult and demanding.

The title of leader doesn’t magically bestow special powers upon anyone. Being made a leader is really just the beginning. It’s what happens next that determines how people will respond to you. People will challenge you and your authority; they will question your wisdom and decision-making abilities. This is the time for you to prove your mettle and show others that you deserve the title you have been given.

Leaders don’t automatically receive more respect or deference from people. They have to earn it.

You don’t become a leader via a PowerPoint presentation on leadership theory, or whatever model you plan to use. Some people will say you just need to find the right combination of leadership models, mix them up a bit, add your own secret sauce, and that’s it, you have your own style.

The truth is that learning leadership is just a stepping stone to your leadership journey.

You’ve got to know thyself and put into practice what you have learned every single day. Let’s face it: Leadership is hard work, and it’s getting harder. To truly excel, to truly be a great leader over the long term, you must have the courage and persistence to do the hard work of leadership.

Sure, leadership can be easy if you’re satisfied with mediocrity. But that’s not what the leadership contract is all about.

📚 Additional reading

People come first

The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Put people first

The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.

Some approach leadership by managing to performance — to them it’s all about the bottom line. However, if you put the numbers first you risk having disconnected employees who feel their job is sucking the life out of them, and you set the tone for a culture of distrust and resentment.

Leadership is about connecting with people’s hearts and providing the direction and support they need to thrive.

As a leader, it’s an awesome and humbling responsibility to be in charge of a group of people. Your actions and the words you say carry enormous weight. Decisions you make have a deep impact on the people you serve. Focusing on serving others forms the foundation of effective leadership.

Leaders must transition from being responsible for the job, to being responsible for the people who are responsible for the job.

If you think leadership is about you, your ego has led you astray. Leadership has little to do with you and everything to do with those you lead. If you think leadership is about the bottom line, think again; it’s about the people. Without people, there is no bottom line.

Leadership is about people. Period. Great leadership is about inspiring people, serving people, caring for people, and caring about people. Tell them you care.

To crack the leadership code, you’ve got to care about people, you’ve got to be interested in people. Once you can genuinely be interested in people then developing leadership skills will follow. You need to care about people. And show up as the best version of yourself.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are, or what your title is, if you want to succeed as a leader, take care of your people.

It starts with you

The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Know thyself

If you want to be a leader, the first person you must lead is yourself.

We often think that leadership is just about managing other people and getting them to do certain things and ultimately to move up the leadership ladder. However, leadership is way more complex than that. For Leaders to have an impact on other people, they need to lead themselves first to understand how they show up and create inspiration and motivation. 

Leadership starts from the inside out. You have to start by leading and understanding yourself first.

Before you can lead others you must start by leading yourself. Self-leadership qualifies you to lead others. True leadership is born when a leader, driven by a passion, pursues his or her vision intently and in doing so, inspires others to join him or her in this great journey.

Leadership starts with taking an active role in how you direct your own life.

When people talk about leadership, they talk about it from a north-to-south position. In other words, they speak about it from a standpoint of leading those under them. But, effective leadership begins first on the inside. Until a person can learn to lead his or her self effectively, they will never be able to lead others effectively.

To become the maker of your own life, you must know you.

Stepping into the inner quest to unravel what it means to be a leader, involves understanding who you are, what you care about and above all why you do what you do. It begins with rediscovering you. Your values, beliefs, strengths and your unique DNA that creates the blueprint for others.

It starts with YOU. Lead yourself well, and leading others gets a whole lot easier.

Own your failures

garfield comics failure option
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Failures are our best teachers

Success is often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable.

As a leader, it is critical to own your mistakes and to be sincere. This is true not only for disasters that affect people’s personal lives but also for our everyday, run of the mill mistakes. The more practice you get owning your small mistakes, the easier it will be to own the big ones.

Be sincere and own your failures.

Owning your failures helps you get ahead. Accountability encourages risk-taking and says it’s okay when you make mistakes if you own them, learn from them, and build better systems as a result. Every leader wants to be successful. Nobody goes into a leadership position to fail. But, to truly find deep, long-lasting success, you must learn to both anticipate failure and own it when it happens.

Shifting your thinking to be able to learn from failure is one of the hardest lessons, but it’s also one of the most essential.

Rather than dwelling on your mistakes and getting mired in negative thoughts, you have to learn to turn a mistake into a powerful asset that sets you up for future success. Don’t let your mistakes get you down. Learning from failure can help you consistently improve as a leader.

Don’t let yourself fall into a slump. The sooner you jump back in, the sooner you can put those valuable lessons to work.

The road isn’t always smooth and the sky isn’t always blue. When challenges present themselves, lessons gleaned from previous failures can help leaders avoid making the same mistake twice or making the wrong decisions. Making mistakes — or failing — are part of taking healthy risk. They provide us with new ways of thinking and give us new insights into how we can improve as leaders.

When failure comes, as it will, learn from it and give yourself the grace to get back on the road again.

Think different

garfield comic strip see the future
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - The world is yours

Be creative. Use unconventional thinking. And have the guts to carry it out.

Unconventional leaders are setting the example of how it can unleash creativity and flexibility, and as a result they beat the competition repeatedly. You can achieve similar results and win. It can be done, but you must be willing to modify your own thinking and your organization’s culture. You have to take the risks associated with change.

Conformity and conventional thinking impede innovation.

They prevent the creation of new products, services and ventures that could make the world a better place. They are frustrating and limit the potential of workers and organizations. On the opposite, an unconventional leader has the potential to create significant competitive advantage based on innovation, flexibility, and risk-taking.

Unconventional leaders are unconventional thinkers.

Their ideas are an amalgamation of ideas from a wide range of areas. They often use bits and pieces of very simple concepts in unique combinations to create new solutions to new or old problems. Their unique thinking is often reflected in their eclectic mix of interests and people with whom they form relationships.

Conventional leadership can turn a team of A-players into an unmotivated mess.

Great leadership can help the same group improve, grow, and reach higher levels of performance. It means pointing to the horizon and staying calm when things get difficult. And it means constantly looking for new unconventional leadership techniques to support and improve the performance of your team.

Don’t try to mimic others; you’ll only play second fiddle. Carve out your own niche.

One size does not fit all

garfield comic strip hard work unpopular
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - One size doesn't fit all

There is no 'one-size-fits-all' way to build an audience.

In successful organizations, the job of a leader is to make sure a variety of people in different roles pull in the same direction. There is no single best style of leadership when organizations are in different stages of growth, competitiveness and are staffed with employees with varying skills, personalities, motivations, experiences and cultural backgrounds.

The truth is all leadership styles can be good choices — in the right situation. Conversely, none of them work all the time.

Instead of trying to become something you are not, we suggest leaders find the leadership style that they are most comfortable with — then look for opportunities to stretch their style when the situation calls for it. This can feel uncomfortable, but it’s the best way to see how different styles deliver different results.

Stop trying to figure out what kind of leader you should be, and focus on what kind of leader your people need.

Leadership is foremost about knowing your people, and then using that knowledge to put them in the best position to succeed. Once you begin to do that, the logical extension is every individual you lead is going to need something different from you. Embrace it, use it to build a culture that honors and celebrates diversity of backgrounds, approaches and experiences.

Versatility is the key to effective leadership in the 21st century!

Leading others starts from within. Every single person in your team is unique. You don’t have to be one way, all the way, all the time. Consider using various, adaptable styles to fit the situation or person. This approach should help you influence, inspire, and motivate others to perform at higher levels.

As a leader, the payoff to customizing your style to each employee is a more engaged workforce.

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Putting leaders on the couch

Leadership has been endlessly dissected and ultimately even with the advent of technology the fundamentals of leadership has not changed. Leaders should have the ability to inspire others to action. It is getting people to do things which they normally would not have done without the leader’s intervention.

Leaders inspire others to follow a certain path in life.

This is important because human nature requires that certain people need to take charge and help others. Without leaders, it’s very difficult to manage large groups of people, set unified goals, and make progress. There will be the good times, stressful ones, and even terrible times. However, leaders are always able to lead masses to success, regardless of the situation that they are facing.

There’s no tried and true, black and white formula for being a flawless leader.

Leaders truly come in all shapes and sizes. With that said, though the style, traits and specific skills of leaders are different, the anatomy is the same. There are some recognizable patterns that separate the great leaders from the not so great ones. While there may not an exhaustive and definitive list, we believe that every leader should exhibit these core leadership attributes.

So what makes a good leader? What are the genuine building blocks of a great leader?

Leadership core values

To add value to others, one must first value others.

Why are values important in leadership? What are the core leadership values? I often asked myself these questions early in my career. It always seemed to me I needed some magical force to figure out how to become a better leader, as I thought core leadership values are complex.

It took me a while to realize that we intertwine leadership beliefs and values with personal values.

Values are the guiding principles in our lives. Leadership occurs within the context of core values. Values inform the application of leadership qualities as the competencies of leadership are activated — learned, developed, and practiced — within the set of core values.

Great leaders know what they value.

They also recognize the importance of ethical behavior. The best leaders exhibit both their core values and their ethics in their leadership style and actions. Your leadership ethics and values should be visible because you live them in your actions every single day.

When your values become clear, making decisions becomes easier.

Values guide your thought patterns, your words, and, ultimately, your actions as a leader. Values provide the direction necessary to chart the course of your days and the choices you make. They bring clarity, focus and alignment for the entire organization — synchronizing your time, effort and energy towards what you want to achieve as a company.

Your core values help you keep your feet on the ground and see things clearly whenever you’re in doubt.

Humble crumble

garfield comic strip humility
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Don't be cocky, don't be flashy!

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.

Most people wouldn’t immediately associate humility with leadership. To them, an ideal leader looks more like a superhero — strong and brimming with confidence. Of course, confidence is a requisite of leadership, but humility and confidence are not mutually exclusive. Humility holds a silent power.

Being humble isn’t about being meek or powerless; it’s actually a source of great strength.

The lack of arrogance in the humble leader doesn’t mean there is a lack of drive in achieving goals — quite the contrary. Humble leaders keep their egos in check and put the strength and success of the team ahead the desire for a personal spotlight. Humility is also sometimes mistaken for acquiescence or consent without objection, compliance. Humble leaders are not shy to ask for help from others as the ego stands aside. They can show to others they care by getting them involved in decision making too.

Showboats are more of a turn-off than a turn-on when it comes to leadership.

People are generally most inspired by leaders who show exceptional character, who take pride in who they are and in what they have accomplished. Humble leaders use their skills, knowledge and experience to bring people together to  increase sales, strive for excellence, and give back to the community. Leaders who come from humility use their success for the greater good, rather than for self-aggrandizement.

As a leader, the sooner you come to grips with your humility the better leader you’ll become.

The whole hole

The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Integrity has no need of rules.

It is true that integrity alone won't make you a leader, but without integrity, you will never be one.

When you look at leaders you admire, the singular trait that stands tall is integrity. A person with integrity is solid and whole. They are not flaky or double-faced — what you see is what you get will with them. Integrity is one of the most respectable aspects of human behavior.

A leader with integrity is one who is whole and complete. One who lives their word completely, 100% of the time.

The leaders who live with integrity inspire followers by bringing all of who they are to their work, and the positive effects are felt by everyone around them. It is not surprising, that the leader’s integrity has a huge impact on an organization’s culture.

Integrity is one of the top attributes of a great leader.

It is a concept of consistency of actions, values, principles, expectations and outcomes. It connotes a deep commitment to do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of the circumstances. People who live with integrity are incorruptible and incapable of breaking the trust of those who have confided in them. Choosing the right, regardless of the consequence, is the hallmark of integrity.

People with integrity aspire to the highest ethical standards and expect the same behavior of others.

They conduct themselves honorably in any situation that may arise. They treat every person with respect and fairness. They are straightforward and forthright, expressing themselves with clarity, so that others always understand what is being communicated. They approach their work with honesty, and having made a commitment, keep their word.

Trust is earned through, among other things, integrity.

Deference over preference

The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - I demand respect!

Respect is a two-way street, if you want to get it, you've got to give it.

Respect and leadership go hand in hand. It’s a fundamental principle: To lead others, you first have to earn their respect. But it goes much deeper. Great leadership creates a climate of respect, an environment that sets high standards and supports everyone in doing their best.

To get respect, you’ve got to show respect. Without respect, leaders become tyrants.

Many times, employees do not respect their leaders because they feel disregarded by them in the first place — managers do not respect their workload, their contributions to the company and their time. The more employees feel respected by leaders, the more motivated and engaged they became, which should be a signal to leaders to be observant of everything they do to ensure they do not accidentally slight employees.

Respect is not a one-way street. Without respect, relationships falter.

Mutual respect should be at the core of any true principle-based leader. It is the recognition that two or more individuals have valuable contributions to make in a relationship. It not only improves productivity, it also bolsters influence and can lead to a healthier work environment.

Without respect, employee morale plunges.

Employees want to work hard for people that respect them. When they feel respected and valued, they’ll view management in a more positive light and be more than willing to put in the extra effort and go above and beyond when the time comes. When employees feel disrespected and disconnected from management or the organization, their attitude towards work can change quickly. It only takes one soured leader-employee relationship for employees to lose morale.

Respectful leaders have the potential of becoming highly influential.

Bold hold

garfield comic strip diet
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Boldness, be my friend.

Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount.

Bold, courageous leadership can help drive organizations forward and create growth, something that’s undeniably positive. Courageous leaders lead their organizations in authentic and sustainable ways. They stick to their principles, are willing to innovate, take risks, make changes and won’t walk away when times get tough or things are difficult.

As leadership values go, courage is the big one.

It comes from facing and overcoming fear. And the reward for that effort couldn’t be bigger. Every time you face a fear, you build confidence and courage. No matter the outcome, it’s never as bad as your fear makes it out to be. That’s what makes the get back up on the horse metaphor so powerful.

 Courage means doing something despite the risk that it holds.

And of course, courage is the thing we need if we are going to overcome our fears and push forward, doing more, trying new things, experimenting and experiencing what business can really be like and what it can give us. Without courage, business isn’t possible. You can start, but you won’t end happily ever after; you’ll be too afraid to try.

Bold leaders move toward obstacles and do not let hesitation or doubt impede their progress.

Bold leaders are not pushy, loud, or bossy. They do voice their opinion, take charge, and energize the rest of the team.  They have a fire within them that won’t die down, they are passionate about achieving their vision. In fact their boldness keeps on growing and as it does it becomes magnetic and causes others to follow.

If you want to make a dent in the universe, you must lead boldly!

Dare to care

The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Who care?

The best leaders have a high consideration factor. They really care about their people.

While cut-throat cultures may succeed in the short term, caring creates long-term success. By setting a positive tone, leaders can bolster their employees’ well-being, teamwork, and engagement, as well as overall organizational performance.

People don’t quit organizations, they quit their bosses.

One of the easiest things you can do as a leader to increase the morale and effectiveness of your employees is to demonstrate that you care about them. Caring leaders who believe in nurturing relationships and helping people grow in organizations, do things very differently from conventional leaders.

Leadership is not a right that entitles you to treat people in the hierarchy below you, as you please.

Nor is it something that entitles you to put yourself completely out of your people’s reach and leave them guessing on what exactly is happening! Caring leaders carve out time for other people regardless of how busy they are. They are open to their team member’s ideas and accord due weightage to other people’s opinions. More importantly they treat others the way they expect to be treated themselves!

There’s no substitute for empathy; so make sure you create a warm, human connection.

People will support and reciprocate your care when they like you and enjoy interacting with you. The more people experience their leader as someone who is caring and supportive, the deeper the trust. Caring leaders cultivate trust with their people by supporting and developing them. When a leader genuinely cares about the people they lead and shows it, barriers of fear are removed and progress is allowed to flow and surge, allowing the team to accomplish great things while having joy in the journey.

Take care of your team. In turn, they will take care of your long-term success!

For your sake, don't fake

garfield comic strip authenticity
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Opacity is a conspiracy.

Authentic leadership is about leading from the core of who we are to inspire each of us to our best contribution toward a shared mission.

An authentic leader is able to inspire loyalty and trust in his employees by consistently displaying who he really is as a person, and how he feels about his employees’ performance. Authentic leadership is the single strongest predictor of an employee’s job satisfaction.

Authentic leaders are self-actualized individuals who are aware of their strengths, their limitations, and their emotions. 

They also show their real selves to their followers. They do not act one way in private and another in public; they don’t hide their mistakes or weaknesses out of fear of looking weak. They also realize that being self-actualized is an endless journey, never complete.

Authentic leadership is a value that emphasizes a leader’s transparency, genuineness and honesty.

This way, such leaders can build strong and honest relationships in which the team members trust and follow them. Authentic leaders can typically inspire trust and motivation in their teams as a result of a consistent and authentic presentation of their own leadership. People are more willing to be open about problems, which means that those problems are more likely to get fixed, instead of being ignored.

Authentic leaders inspire those they lead because they stay true to their own values.

When people work alongside a truly authentic leader, they’ll often give their whole hearts and minds to the cause. In these situations, a spirit of teamwork and loyalty can spread throughout an organization, resulting in high morale and producing extraordinary results.

Authentic leaders lead with their hearts. And feel free to show their emotions to their followers.

Crack a smile

garfield comic strip enthusiasm
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - More smiling, less worrying.

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results.

If you are wondering if it is possible for one person to change the attitude or environment in an organization, and therefore have a true impact, remember this: Enthusiasm is contagious, and someone must inject that energy into a group, team or organization in order for it to grow.

Positive attitude and energy are attractive. The best leaders know this and that is a major reason they lead successfully.

If you want to be a more successful leader and have a bigger impact on those you lead and serve, focus on your attitude and know that as you change your thinking and your attitude, your actions will start to change your work, your team and your world. Great leadership has everything to do with your positive attitude, and the natural desire to represent yourself in the best possible way.

Think positively and positivity will be attracted to you.

Encourage your team and focus on their achievements. No matter what’s going on in your life, adopt positive energy into every mundane task and new project to get your team focused and on board. At the same time if something has happened where they might feel disappointed, show them how to learn from this and change a negative mindset into a positive one.

Your attitude is your superpower.

When you are leading with a positive attitude in a supportive climate, people will go above and beyond what is necessary. When people feel appreciated, they become more confident and productive. Positive enthusiasm is motivational — and there is virtually no downside.

Embrace what is good, right, and full of hope. And inspire others to do the same.

Trust your gut

garfield comic strip trust your gut
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - We'll survive!

Trusting your gut is like a muscle. The more you do it, the stronger it gets.

Leaders who make decisions from only their head can succumb to analysis paralysis or be completely unaware of cues before they turn into hard facts. One of the primary reasons top leaders are able to make tough decisions is because they have learned to trust their intuitive instincts. Bill Gates says, “Often you have to rely on intuition.”

Gut intelligence is our ability to make effective decisions by listening to the wisdom of our gut, heart and mind.

It seems that the best leaders have an internal wavelength or inner voice that’s able to point them in the right direction. The ability to understand this message and recognize its importance is what can separate the good decision makers from the rest. These hallmarks of an unspoken intelligence, let’s call it instinct, are supported by evidence that great leaders can look into themselves for inspiration.

Hunches and gut instincts are a comfort in the day-to-day.

Uncertainty makes your instincts and vision crucial for making decisions. Even with historical data in the driver’s seat, you’ll need to grab the wheel and apply logic and intuition to avoid potholes. Your intuition may not be measurable, nor will it ever spit out accurate data. Rather, your gut feeling will work by nudging you in the right direction.

Though there is a certain risk in intuitive leadership, but that is the nature of leadership. Who dare wins!

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Catch you on the flip side!

Behavioral patterns

Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes.

Leadership behavior is the traits and actions that make an individual effective as a leader. This behavior is the process by which a person can guide, direct and influence the work of others to meet specific goals. These actions and strategies can be learned to increase the effectiveness of those around them. Individuals use these behaviors to motivate people into action when they have a vision for an organization.

Good leadership behaviors are crucial to become someone who inspires and leads people to their highest potential.

Successful businesses need solid leadership to help them thrive, and successful leaders are defined by the behaviors they exhibit as they lead. These behaviors determine if followers are motivated and inspired by their leaders, or merely follow because they have to. Some leaders are born with a set of behaviors that make them particularly suited for greatness. But many leadership behaviors can be learned, developed, practiced over time, and used to nurture a new generation of leaders that are yet to rise to the challenge.

Keep in mind that the behaviors you display affect how people view you.

Thus, you’ve got to develop leadership behaviors that have a positive impact your employees. In truth, leadership has everything to do with behaviors. If you behave in certain ways, you can and will be a good leader.

Listen first, speak second

garfield comic strip not listening
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Listen to me!

Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.

What differentiates an average manager from a great leader? The answer often encompasses soft skills — such as active listening — which facilitate a leader’s ability to connect with employees. Listening forms the foundation of good relationships. It is also the basis of many other skills and traits that make up a leader. However, it is a tough skill to master as it requires us to be more present, attentive, engaged, open and flexible.

Great leaders are great listeners, and therefore my message today is a simple one — talk less and listen more.

The best leaders are proactive, strategic, and intuitive listeners. They recognize knowledge and wisdom are not gained by talking, but by listening. Most of us don’t think of listening as a communication skill, but it’s one of the most important.

The best leaders are very skilled at listening.

As a leader, you need as much information and as many different perspectives as possible in order to make the best decisions for your organization. Active listening encourages people to be forthcoming with that information because they know they will be heard and respected. In addition, when people feel understood, they become more aligned with your vision of winning for the business.

Listening shows respect and regard for the people you work with.

It helps to build rapport and demonstrates that you care about others and what they have to say. Listening is reciprocal, and leaders can model this behavior; when you are a good listener, people will tend to listen more carefully to you, as well. Thus, listening is a powerful tool for increasing influence and improving relationships at work.

The best listeners are frequently the biggest influencers.

Don't play the blame game

garfield comic strip blame game
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Blaming others is nothing more than excusing yourself.

Great leaders don’t rush to blame. They instinctively look for solutions.

It’s tempting, isn’t it? Take credit when things go well, deflect blame when they don’t? You’ve got to know that successful leaders don’t play the blame game. But if you have lived and operated in corporate life at all, you know the blame game is alive and well in most organizations. This generally starts from the top down.

As a leader, it’s your own duty to fight the blame game at every level.

How you as a leader deal with the dynamics of credit and blame around you has enormous impact on the success of the organization. The way credit and blame are handed out affects whether you learn and grow in your career or not. Credit and blame help determine if team members compete for credit or scapegoat others. Negative cycles of blame and credit create organizational cultures that struggle with trust and collaboration — and eventually undermine success.

Real leaders don’t play the blame game.

People play the blame game when they’re afraid. Fearful of being penalized for whatever went wrong, they search for someone to designate as the guilty party. Sadly, many leaders turn a blind eye to the blame game, preferring to let people work it out or assuming that it’s childish behavior that is beneath their professional standing.

Strong leaders know when to intervene, thus preventing the blame game in the first place.

Leadership isn’t about blaming others, but realizing any blame levied should rest solely upon the leader. The best leaders will only point the finger at one person — themselves. The truth of the matter is no victories are won by participating in the blame game.

Blame doesn’t inspire, it only breeds malcontent and discord.

Put people at ease

garfield comic strip relatable
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - What you see is what you get!

I want to speak to people directly as much as possible.

An approachable leader makes people feel comfortable and at ease. People at ease can work together, connect, and communicate without fear of retribution. It’s important to be approachable because when you put people at ease, you enable them to think and do their best in your presence. It’s an essential professional skill that only gets more important as you ascend the ladder into leadership positions and is expected of managers by their employees.

Approachability is a trait that most people believe they have but few actually do.

Approachable leaders have an advantage over those who are more difficult to talk to. If you’re a skilled conversationalist and able to keep up a good rapport with people, you’ll get the scoop earlier than those not as skilled. Employees will trust you more, and interviewees will be more likely to open up to you. You’ll have a stronger network and more loyalty from your team.

Being relatable let you forge connections with other people and create positive interactions.

It does not mean that you must be everyone’s best friend, but instead means being yourself; living an authentic, consistent life with the people you lead. If you want better relationships, you must learn the habits to be relatable. Maintaining a hard exterior may show the makings of a tough leader, however this is not leadership. This is ruling with an iron fist not leading. 

To lead you must be approachable. Open the doors to conversations.

Leaders who sit behind a closed door all day long become cut off from those they lead. When you share stories with people, you create bonds in a way that nothing else can. It’s like you open up a part of your soul and give it away. When you tell personal stories to your people, you become a relatable leader. Your people will see your authenticity, they will feel your good intention, and they will learn about and from you.

Break the ice, show people you relate to their aspirations, everyday struggles and the turbulent human journey.

Keep calm under pressure

The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - You don't calm the waters by splashing around in them.

Panic causes tunnel vision. Calm acceptance of danger allows us to more easily assess the situation and see the options.

Great leaders seldom, if ever, let a situation trigger an emotional outburst. Great leaders know that this type of behavior is not image-enhancing in the eyes of peers and subordinates. Emotional outbursts do not sow the seeds of confidence and are counterproductive to relationships. In contrast, leaders who are in control of their emotions are frequently described as having poise.

The best leaders maintain control of their emotions.

Self-control is an essential attribute that every leader with heavy responsibilities must have. It doesn’t just matter for keeping the leader calm and less stressed, it impacts the emotions of everyone they interact with, and the productivity of the organization. Profits could be on the line.

Loss of self-control that manifests itself as aggressive behavior has no place in the workplace.

Circumstances don’t make the leader; they only reveal him to himself. When facing crisis, engage your teams openly, calmly, and consistently, and you will all emerge stronger and more dedicated on the other side. You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find an incommensurable inner strength.

Effective leaders know how to regulate and manage powerful emotions.

Indeed, the ability to maintain composure and steadiness in times of crisis is a key element of so-called leadership presence. It not only has a calming effect on others but also inspires confidence. It will inspire your people to trust you more while at the same time improving your ability to make better decisions and think more clearly under pressure. And this will stand your leadership career in good stead.

As a leader, nurturing the ability to remain calm under all circumstances is a no-brainer.

Stick to your guns

The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Believe you can and you're halfway there.

Skill and confidence are an unconquered army.

Without confidence, there is no leadership. Self-confidence is the fundamental basis from which leadership grows. Trying to teach leadership without first building confidence is like building a house on a foundation of sand. It may have a nice coat of paint, but it is ultimately shaky at best.

When you build self confidence, you start to back yourself.

You start to believe that you’re capable. You start to believe that you are worth it, and that you know what you are talking about. People who are confident enough in their abilities, qualities, and decision-making skills can make the best results in their actions. A lack of confidence will stop a person from taking risks, from understanding and dealing with new challenges, and from taking their actions beyond their comfort zone.

To be able to lead your team, you must be confident in yourself and in your ability to lead.

Very few people succeed in business without a degree of confidence. The truth is leadership requires the flexibility to undertake assigned tasks and responsibilities. You must also become a people person and be able to talk through everyone into finishing what needs to be done, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

To be a leader is no easy job, so is boosting your self-esteem.

But keep in mind that without confidence, you cannot be a great leader; and it’s highly likely that your team will crumble. Everything starts with confidence. Success, respect, a dream team will follow. So, take that first step to boosting your self-confidence. Make it a commitment as part of your lifelong learning.

Confidence is the primary basis in which leadership will grow.

📚 Additional reading

Own your ship

garfield comic strip responsibility ownership
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.

Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.

We must understand accountability at its core in order to become stronger leaders. Accountability is the belief that we have control over most situations and outcomes in our everyday lives, regardless of the situation or how fair it seems.

Ownership is a driving force of accountability.

Ownership includes being decisive, solve problems, delegating, abstaining from blame, taking responsibility and regular objective reflection on events and their own actions. Being decisive is a core leadership responsibility never more so than when problem solving is needed.

Taking ownership often comes up as a mission-critical lesson that leaders need to learn.

Showing ownership is about personal actions and applies to others as well as those in a formal leadership role. There is a link between ownership and high levels of commitment and willingness to take initiative with a deep sense of responsibility. Leaders who act this way become committed to a process of learning which feeds organizational learning, producing an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future.

Leaders who accept responsibility to and for others in the organization will very quickly increase his or her influence.

Taking responsibility as a leader means accepting responsibility for developing your own character and then helping someone else develop theirs. If you don’t accept that responsibility, you won’t be able to become very successful as a leader or highly effective in any area of life for that matter.

Ownership starts with the leader and is a trusted steppingstone towards incredible personal and business growth.

📚 Additional reading

Show the way

garfield comic strip lead by example
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Make it your business to draw out the best in others by being an exemplar yourself.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

Although leaders are meant to give directions, they should know their trades well and get involved in the actual work. If you’re in a leadership position, then you know that you have a responsibility to your team. They look to you for guidance and strength; that’s part of what being a leader is. And a big part of your responsibility is to lead them with your own actions.

As a leader, you’ve got to inspire the people around you to push themselves to greatness. To do this, you must walk the talk and get your hands dirty.

Leading by example isn’t as hard as it might sound. It’s really the easiest path. If your team knows that you’ll also do whatever you expect from them, they’ll likely work hard to help you achieve your goal. Good leadership takes a firm commitment to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. This means doing what you say, when you say it. If your team can’t trust you, you’ll probably never lead them to greatness.

Leading by example means you’re guiding others through your behaviors and inspiring them to do the same as you.

When you lead by example, you provide a path to direct others down so that everyone is working toward a common goal with the same purpose. A true leader makes it natural for people to feel like they want to do the best they can for the organization they work for. When you lead by example, you can accomplish this and have a workplace that’s full of trust, confidence and purpose.

Great leaders are those whose words and actions are one in the same.

Good behavior doesn’t necessarily refer to showing up to work on time and honoring the dress code, although those things are important and should be respected. The influence of a strong leader can be felt across a variety of issues and in many different ways. It’s up to you to find out what’s more convenient according to your needs and goals.

Great leaders lead by example. Period.

Eat your words

garfield comic strip be wrong eat your words
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - It's okay to be wrong. You only have to do it right once.

The best of us must sometimes eat our words.

As a leader, people expect you to have all the answers, right? Maybe you believe that if you show any weakness they’ll lose respect for you, and you’ll lose authority. You might even fear losing your position if you do anything wrong. The problem is, of course, that we’re human. We make mistakes all the time. But the best leaders learn from them.

Great leaders admit when they’ve made mistakes.

Openly talking about your less than perfect decisions can be one of the best moves you make as a leader. Your transparency can reveal opportunities for positive action and strengthen the sense of accountability for everyone in your team. When you admit a mistake, it allows everyone to focus on finding a solution, rather than focusing on the problem. 

By being upfront, you’re cutting the blame game short.

Becoming the most effective leader requires you to take on the responsibility of dissecting both the why and the how of both your successes and your failures. Because we live in a more short-term, rapid-paced world of work — we need to be more mindful of pacing ourselves, to take the time to self-evaluate and learn from our mistakes.

By admitting to errors, you show others that you have courage — a quality essential to leadership.

By taking personal responsibility for your actions with courage and humility, you are modeling true leadership qualities and gaining the respect of those around you. And, if handled properly, mistakes can help you sharpen your leadership skills and lead to personal growth.

Admitting you’re wrong could be one of the most important things you do as a leader.

Fast is the new big

The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - You can't make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.

Fast is the new big. Perfection is the killer to production. Perfection is basically a symptom of procrastination.

Leaders in life-saving positions, such as military personnel, chose jobs where rapid and accurate decision-making is clearly critical. But in the age of digital disruption, speed in decision-making is also an expectation of other roles. Leaders across a wide range of fields are being asked to pick up the pace of the choices they make without compromising the quality of their decision-making.

As a leader your success depends on your ability to develop speed as a habit.

Making a decision that everyone likes and supports is easy. Making a decision to discontinue a product or service that people have invested time and energy into, or firing someone that is well liked in the company, are tough decisions. Leaders get paid to make tough decisions, and great leaders have the ability to make these tough decisions quickly.

Great leaders are doers, not talkers.

Everyday work routine involves taking actions. Unless a leader takes those initiatives, no team member will begin working or have a clear path ahead of him/her. A leader takes the initiative to set a direction for the others with the confidence to ensure that there are no two teams within a team.

When poor leaders cannot make a decision quickly, they make excuses.

When the team heads cannot decide, they put the work performance of their team as well as the company’s progress in jeopardy. They give the subordinates unnecessary space to indulge in workplace politics. At such times, conflicts begin to develop. When leaders are not right decision-makers, teams crumble like gingerbread houses. The morale of the workers declines. Your business ends up suffering.

The best leaders make quick decisions even in highly chaotic environments.

Grow your mind

garfield comic strip eat too much
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Never give up!

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.

A growth mindset is an attitude and belief that people have the ability to develop their talents, abilities, intelligence, and emotional intelligence. It basically means that you believe success comes from the consistent effort of working through challenges.

Leaders with a growth mindset tend to focus more on the process rather than just the outcome.

Developing growth mindset behavior, not only improves one’s ability to manage their personal growth, but also influence others around and transform oneself as a leader. Your response to challenges, difficult tasks and conflict situations within the workplace can define your true ability to adapt in an agile environment.

Success is not an accident, success is a choice.

Leaders who adopt a growth mindset will multiply their team’s potential and create a healthy culture of accountability that drives business growth. A leader with a growth mindset sees opportunities for their team, even during times of crisis. They don’t curl up in a corner believing all efforts have been wasted and they don’t look for anyone to blame. Instead, they make every effort to accelerate their team’s growth to overcome any business challenge.

The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are malleable.

Believing that our qualities can be cultivated leads to different fundamental thoughts and actions. This mindset changes the implication of failure from unworthy to opportunity. Failure becomes a minor setback and a chance to learn. This growth-oriented worldview places deep meaning in effort, learning, and reaching one’s potential.

Great leaders are governed by growth mindsets. They understand that they can continue improving and help those around them do the same.

The Best Leadership Quotes Of all Time

World history has been marked with many great leaders, and we can learn their leadership secrets through their quotes.

Whether you’re leading a huge team on a challenging project or just trying to climb the career ladder, these quotes can help provide some useful wisdom on how best to deploy your leadership strategy.

Knowledge is the new currency, isn’t it? Learning more about leadership allows you to stand on the shoulders of giants!

Leadership skills

The task of the leader is to get their people from where they are to where they have not been.

Anyone can be placed in a leadership role, but to be good and thrive in that position requires solid leadership skills. Good leadership skills top of the list of leadership competencies that recruiters need to focus on when hiring people or when managers promote leaders from within the organization. The highest ranking companies hunt for people with well-honed leadership skills to fill their most sought after executive positions.

Being a good leader isn’t about being ‘good on paper’.

Leadership is the buzziest word in the business world. If there is something we need in this world for a successful business is — true leaders. There is a never-ending race for being a leader. The ultimate purpose is to learn leadership skills, develop and flourish to set yourself apart from the crowd.

The truth is: The leaders of today require a different set of skills than the leaders of yesterday.

58 percent of all U.S. companies say their number one strategic priority is closing their current leadership skill gaps. In 2017, these companies spent $31 billion on leadership programs to achieve just that! Rather than being experts in their specific field of work, today managers must also have strong leadership skills in order to effectively manage their teams.

To make the future brighter and help filling up the leadership gap, you’ve got to take real steps to learn these skills.

Business acumen

garfield comic strip business acumen
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Love what you do or don't do it.

Sweat equity is the most valuable equity there is. Know your business and industry better than anyone else in the world. Love what you do or don't do it.

Business Acumen is one of the key competencies every leader in every organization at every level needs to be viewed as a true business partner. Today, in the VUCA world, leaders are required at all levels of the organization, with the additional requirement of an entrepreneurial spirit, a crucial part of acumen.

What do effective leaders at high-performing companies have in common?

Customers rave about their offerings, competitors endlessly try to emulate them, and their profits are sky-high. To be sure, these leaders have tremendous skills in creating visionary products, attracting and retaining top talent, and forging strong partnerships. None of them, however, would be in their current place without solid business acumen.

Business acumen is the ability to take a big picture view of a situation to weigh it up quickly and make a decision.

Never undermine your credibility as a leader by demonstrating your lack of business acumen. Learn about the numbers and speak about them in a way that demonstrates your depth of knowledge. Identify and focus on the key metrics and embrace this knowledge as a major part of your decision-making.

Effective leadership requires both interpersonal skills and business acumen.

Even the most dynamic and well-liked leaders are likely to flounder if they lack overall business sense. Because without a clear understanding of how business works, their goals are likely to ring hollow — especially when employees recognize that these goals aren’t based on a strong understanding of the marketplace.

Business acumen simply means understanding how a company makes money.

Time is gold

garfield comic strip performance review
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Get things done.

The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.

As a leader, so many things can keep you from focusing on your main roles. That’s why guarding your time and managing it well is crucial to your success. It’s not just about getting it all done — it’s also about avoiding burnout and having a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

The best leaders are proactive and purposeful about their day, every day.

Nothing can be substituted for time. Once wasted, it can never be regained. Leaders have numerous demands on their limited time — time keeps getting away and they have trouble controlling it. No matter what their position is, they cannot stop time, they cannot slow it down, nor can they speed it up. Thus, time needs to be effectively managed to be effective.

In today’s 24/7 world, leaders need to focus on ensuring their productivity.

They need to think of time management as a discipline of making wise and difficult choices — not an exercise in doing more with less. They can do this by identifying and reducing phantom workload, drawing on numerous strategies to manage time more effectively, tapping resources other than time to increase productivity and effectiveness, and engaging themselves and others in a process of changing behavior. Their lives and the lives of others depend on their ability to manage this precious resource.

Ineffective leaders spend time on issues that are neither urgent nor important. They spend the day putting out brush fires.

They’re those who are taking many unscheduled appointments and working long, late hours clearing out email. These ineffective time managers can’t find room to focus on business growth. On the contrary, effective leaders master time management so they can focus on what they are supposed to do — developing strategic goals and managing operations.

As a leader, either run the day or the day runs you.

Conflict management

The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - That won't be easy but it's worth doing!

Conflict is inevitable but combat is optional.

Conflict management is an ongoing job duty of a leader. Developing skills in managing conflict in the workplace through self-awareness, communication, respect, and appreciation for others skill set are important aspects of the leader’s role in ensuring conflict is managed and organizational goals are prioritized.

Effective leadership is caring for and supporting one another, even when there is conflict or a difference of opinion.

It is important for leaders to be tempted to become involved in nonrelated issues. Leaders must ensure they continuously communicate with their team as well as articulate a vision. The impact of conflict in the workplace can result in a disruption of the effectiveness of employees and slow the achievement of organizational goals. Leaders are often challenged with navigating seamlessly through conflict.

Leaders who use conflict management skills can provide guidance and direction towards conflict resolution.

Effective leaders know how to bring conflict situations out into the open so that all parties involved can begin to work towards a resolution that will benefit everyone. They manage conflicts in way that it is seen as an opportunity to build productive relationships.

Conflict is often a necessary step forward, and a leader’s skill at handling conflict can put him or her at a higher level of effectiveness and ensure a greater legacy. Leaders with such skills have the ability to address and resolve the contradictory interests of two or more parties in a high-emotion, low-trust environment. When conflict is managed effectively, it can bring new levels of understanding, empathy and trust between parties.

Conflict isn’t the problem, it’s the way that it’s managed in the workplace.

Team building

garfield comic strip online friends
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Many hands make light work.

Getting good players is easy. Getting them to play together is the hard part.

Team building is the constant strive to enhance the relationships between employees and help them collaborate in the most effective way possible. And leaders play a key role in this. Essentially, leaders are responsible for taking individual employees and bringing them together as a cohesive team.

It takes great leadership to build great teams.

It’s not just the production of results that makes for good leadership. Great leaders are able to deliberately inspire team members to work towards achieving a common goal. And this brings us directly to the concept of team building — for leadership and team building are necessarily inseparable.

Team-building can be a powerful way to unite a group, develop strengths, and address weaknesses.

Team building requires a keen understanding of people, and what gets them excited to work with others. It requires the management of egos and their constant demands for attention and recognition. It is both an art and a science and the leader who can consistently build high performance teams is worth their weight in gold.

No matter how efficient your team is, you can always inspire them to get better. As a leader, you’re responsible for the level of collaboration within the team. Hiring the right people and motivating them to give their best when they work together is one of the most important aspects of leadership.

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships!

Give & take

garfield comic strip negotiate
The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide - Sell or be sold!

Everything in life is a sale and everything you want is a commission.

As a leader, you will need to hone leadership negotiation skills to cope with a multitude of situations. Whether you are mediating in a difficult breakdown in communication, working on a complicated client deal, or negotiating a change in working conditions, the likelihood is that there will be some compromise needed to reach an agreeable solution.

Negotiation skills separate those who become great leaders from those who don’t.

Leaders should possess strong negotiation skills. Bargaining is not just a matter of buying and selling, it’s more about doing everything that needs to be done for your company to thrive. Sometimes, you can only achieve your goals if you’re ready to sit down and negotiate. Internal meetings for example, are common situations wherein leaders must use their negotiation skills.

Negotiation is a constant in business  — we are negotiating all the time, even when we don’t recognize it.

The skill of negotiation takes a bit of tact that not everyone possesses right out of the gate. Leaders who lack the ability to negotiate can find themselves losing deals or getting into a situation that they later regret. Negotiating with clients, employees, and even people in your personal life can help you get what you want without losing the house in the process.

Leadership and negotiation go hand in hand.

There’s nothing more powerful and compelling than the mindset of a negotiator. As a leader, you should have an authoritative attitude without taking things too far. You may be in change, but that doesn’t mean you have to abuse that power. The mindset you convey in every possible negotiation is just as significant as the strategies, tools, and tactics you’re planning to use in the process.

Negotiation experts are masters at influencing people. Leaders must have this skill as well.

To be continued...