How to Set Yourself Apart as a Leader

By Alex Vann

Jun, 2022

There are leaders everywhere. But, there aren’t great leaders everywhere. A great leader doesn’t need recognition or reward to be considered great. What a great leader needs is simply great effectiveness. Great effectiveness comes from great accountability which comes from the drive from a leader to set themselves apart from who they were in light of who they can become.

Leadership is not equal, because effectiveness is not equal. What you see in sports is simply that one leader can get something out of players that another did not or one leader sees something in a player that another leader missed. All too often, a coach comes in and replaces a truly effective leader only to not get any where near the same results. The solution is suddenly to get new players. Then, those players don’t get the results the coach or manager wants then the coach is sacked. Then, the cycle of effectiveness starts over. If you truly want to measure leadership, then measure effectiveness. Don’t measure effectiveness of promise, but effectiveness of production. What you produce is ultimately the measure of how you lead.

There are several ways to set yourself apart as a leader.

1) Out work every one else. Hard work in our society used to be the norm. That is no longer the case. A work ethic is taught and modeled. Work ethic starts in childhood. Children who aren’t made to work will not grow up to be adults who love hard work. Children who have parents who don’t model working hard rarely grow up to be hard working adults. But, work ethic is the measure of energy given to complete a task combined with the values one holds while completing that task. If you want to set yourself apart, out work everyone else. Simply, arrive earlier and stay later. Put the work in outside the actual job to become more effective at your job.

2) Be your own toughest critic. Most humans don’t like criticism especially when it involves what they are producing. But, if you want to set yourself apart from others, then learn to be hard on yourself. Don’t give yourself passes, excuses or liberties. Learn to be tough on yourself, so when others criticize you or your work, you can accept it as merely objective, learn from it and move on.

3) Have impeccable integrity. Integrity is the measure of authenticity in your life. Today our world is filled with duplicity and deception. Great integrity ultimately means great trustworthiness. The most effective leader ever, Jesus, said, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.” Simply, be a leader whose word means something, who is incredibly consistent and who doesn’t flip flop when communicating direction or decision. Impeccable integrity creates great bonds of trust.

4) Get out of your feelings. Emotion clouds an effective leader from making the best decisions. I am not advocating to never have or show emotion, but a truly effective leader must learn to master their emotions. This means you must learn to control your emotion. Every emotion you have is not the right emotion at the right time. Just because something feels right doesn’t make it right. Leaders who lead by feeling will discount their effectiveness because allowing your feelings to lead means feelings are first and others are second. Feelings will always rise to the top until you push them to the bottom. I have seen many developing leaders leave the organization because they couldn’t get past their own feelings of superiority, inferiority and not feeling appreciated.

5) Have the best attitude. Negativity is a stench that no one wears well. The problem with negativity is that humans are by nature drawn towards the negative. The average person has to work not to be negative. To really separate yourself from your peers or increase your leadership influence, then have the best attitude. I am not advocating blind positivity, but rather measured and consistent positivity. The best attitude is a combination of where a calm spirit meets an energetic soul. When things get difficult remain positive. Don’t pollute the air with negative speech or negative talk. When you hear negativity in your environment cut it off. Negativity spreads but so does positivity, but there are fewer positive people around so it constantly seems like a battle with negativity. However, it is more likely that teams will follow a positive leader than will ever follow a negative one.

6) Take the blame, share the credit. Ineffective leaders always want to be recognized and get credit for what they are doing. But, effective leaders have learned to take the blame and share the credit. Taking the blame as a leader is not just the noble thing to do, but the right thing to do. A leader has elevated responsibility and elevated accountability. Today, many leaders just want the responsibility without the accountability. A leader is not only known by the results they get, but also the people that they produce. If you want to increase effectiveness, then share the credit when things go well and they by-product is you will increase your loyalty among those you work with. To share credit, you have to give credit. Find those on your team who deserve some recognition and give them the credit.

7) Be the most appreciative. In a self-centered world, very few people express gratitude. Gratitude is thankfulness and to be thankful you have to actually do something that reveals you are thankful. This means you actually say ‘thank you’ to those around you, you write a ‘thank you’ note or send a ‘thank you’ text. To be thankful, you have to actually train yourself to see what is positive, what is helpful and who is putting forth the effort. It is important to tell those who you are leading that you appreciate them. It is not enough for you to just think “Well, they know I am thankful.” To increase your effectiveness as a leader, you must show them that you are actually thankful.

8) Wear humility well. No one wears pride well. Arrogance like a bad attitude stinks. But humility is a fragrance that everyone wears well. Most leaders struggle with pride. It’s part of what has helped them succeed. However, their drive and passion, can easily be replaced by self-assurance and arrogance, which is distasteful and ineffective. Humility on the other hand is a beautiful trait that leaders must discipline themselves to practice at all times and in all situations. Humble leaders serve better, lead better and look better than proud leaders. A humble leader has learned to get their own ego out of the way so they can see others and see decisions with greater clarity, which increases their overall effectiveness. Humility also means if you fall you are much closer to the ground and it a much less painful drop.

9) Be a life-long learner. Never feel like you have arrived. Always take the attitude of one who is just starting out. When you get some praise or acclaim push it away and drive yourself to continue to learn. It is easy to have to learn when you are starting out. But, as you gain more leadership influence and leadership ground it requires much greater intentionality to continue to learn. Taking the attitude of a student, puts the leader in a position to be a better listener. Good learners are good listeners. Leaders who are poor listeners decrease their effectiveness. Leaders who are good listeners make better decisions and can read people and situations better. Students also study. It is important to do not do what you think is best, but study your organization and learn what success looks like in your organization, but what you think it looks like.

10) Get really good at the details. Too many leaders skip over the details because they are focused on “the bigger picture.” This is a mistake if you want to increase your effectiveness. Excellence is found in the details. It’s the small things that determine the consistency of the big things. Too many leaders see themselves as visionaries and “big picture” people, yet they have never disciplined themselves to know the details and uphold them. Vision is important, but vision is not the key to excellence. Desire is also not the key to excellence. Your vision and your desire may paint great dreams, but they do little to increase your effectiveness. Attention to detail is a critical trait that has immense power to multiply a leader’s effectiveness.

These ten things are not a comprehensive list, but they will most certainly increase your effectiveness as a leader if you begin to practice as many of them as possible with as much consistency as possible. Great effectiveness requires great responsibility. And great responsibility comes at a price.

“The price of greatness is responsibility” – Winston Churchill