5 Secret Skills Every Great Leader Must Discover
July 9, 2015

5 Secret Skills Every Great Leader Must Discover

by Brian de Haaff

I once had a boss that made life miserable. Every day he seemed to go out of his way to change my priorities and present my ideas and work as his own. I was trapped in his world of lack of vision, deep uncertainty, and lack of confidence. I did my best to stay on track and productive, but ultimately found a new job. I learned many lessons from him — for that I am thankful.

Many leaders begin with the best intentions, but allow the position to go to their head. They start to make their decisions based on something other than what is right — pride, greed, or flimsy morals. Or worse, fear of being found out as an imposter. Sound familiar?

The world needs more examples of leaders to learn from. We certainly have enough bad ones.

I have good news for you if you are reading this and nodding in agreement. Great leaders are out there. You just do not hear about them because they are rare, stay out of trouble, and avoid the spotlight. The lessons that make them who they are today are rarely shared.

I have been fortunate to learn from both lousy managers and some incredible product managers in my life. Wisdom that I otherwise would be blind too. After spending time with them and watching how they lead others, I discovered that they share a few hidden traits.

Let me share them with you today, because I make a point to apply these lessons as the CEO of Aha! (which is product roadmap software) each and every day with our team.

Work hard

Being elevated to a position of leadership does not mean that you get to relax and let others do all the heavy lifting. Be prepared to work even harder than before, especially now that others are counting on you.

Be kind

Kindness is a core value of our company. I know from experience that it makes work more worthwhile and enjoyable. That does not mean that you avoid having difficult conversations with team members when you need to — you say what you need to say but consider your words and your delivery carefully. Kindness makes a big difference.

Set an example

If you are a leader then you set an example just be being in your role — a good example or bad one. You show future leaders within your organization how they should behave. That means you should know where the organization is headed and clearly communicate your strategy transparently. Be open and honest about where you are leading the team and a positive force as you help the team get there.

Keep learning

The most important thing I have learned about leading others is that you are never done learning yourself. When you think you know everything — that is when you are really in trouble! You can learn something new about leadership every day if you are open to receiving it and applying it. Challenge yourself to always keep growing.

Stay humble

Leaders must constantly guard against allowing their position to go their heads. Give praise and encouragement to others, and remind yourself that you cannot do everything on your own. Be your greatest critic and laugh at yourself when things go wrong.

The world would be a better place if more leaders started thinking of their role in these terms, and realizing the positive or negative impact they can choose to have on others.

Do not take this responsibility lightly. Do not squander the opportunity to become the best leader that you can be. Great leaders do not have time to waste worrying about their image. They focus on the work at hand and discover the secrets of leadership that make their teams great.

What have you discovered about being a leader?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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