10 Things You Can Do to Become an Inspiring Leader Like Madam Secretary Secretary Elizabeth sets a high bar, but we can all reach it in our own lives
Posted on Feb 28, 2015 05:15pm

It's no surprise that you don't get to be Secretary of State without some serious diplomatic skills, but what impresses us most about Madam Secretary is her leadership skills. Will they be enough to see her through the rest of the season? We'll have to wait to find out, but in the meantime, let's look at just how Secretary McCord has led the way... and how we can, too.

Pay Attention
This isn't just relevant to high-level government officials and CIA operatives. You can't lead if you don't know what's going on around you, whether that means what your co-workers are up to, what your employers are up to, or what the people on the other side of the table are up to. Take the time to listen, watch, and learn — you never know when you'll pick something up that could save the day.

Be Flexible
Planning is an important part of leading a team, but it's even more important to be flexible about your plans. Situations can — and often do — change, and a plan won't last unless it can change with them. Don't get frustrated by the new status quo: work with it instead.

Turn Bad Days Into Good Days
The old adage about turning lemons into lemonade is still relevant to modern leaders. Just because a situation has changed — and not in your favor — doesn't mean you have to accept it. What we just said about being flexible really applies here: you need to be ready to pivot and take advantage of the opportunities that arise even in failure. There's always a silver lining, so be sure you're looking for it.

Don't Play the Blame Game
If something goes wrong, you may be tempted to start tossing around blame. But while blaming someone may feel satisfying, it's not likely to solve your problem. Instead of spinning your wheels deciding whose fault it is, focus your energy on finding a solution to the problem — otherwise you could be stuck playing the blame game while your problem only gets worse.

Failure Builds Character
Instead of seeing failure as a black mark, look on it as a learning experience. We're not talking about the previously mentioned "blame game," but instead taking the time to analyze your — and your team's — failures. Look at what went wrong and use it to learn what you can do right in the future.

Don't Stress About Being Perfect
No one's perfect, but when you're in a leadership role, you may feel like you have to be. But beware of the perfection trap where you're laser-focused on not doing anything wrong — which means you may miss opportunities to do things right. Instead of aiming for perfection, try doing your best instead. Sure, you may make mistakes along the way (remember, failures aren't always a bad thing), but that's only human — and so long as you keep working to do your best, your team will understand.

Be Willing to Compromise
Compromise isn't a dirty word: it's a must to help people with differing interests and backgrounds work together. To lead, you need to be able to reach across the table despite the differences you may have with the people sitting on the other side of it. Though compromise often means that not everyone gets everything they want, refusing to compromise can mean no one gets what they want — and no forward progress is made. Be willing to compromise and meet in the middle to work things out.

Be Passionate About What You Do
Though this is a hard trait to simply turn on or off, one of the best leadership skills you can have is simply caring about the work you're doing. It can be difficult to overcome hurdles if you're not passionate about what you're working on. Worse still, your teammates will often pick up on your attitude — if your work isn't important to you, why should it be important to them? Instead, let them take cues from the passion you for your work

Have a Sense of Humor
If you're in a leadership role, your attitude can set the mood for your entire team. Though you probably don't want to be the office prankster, you also don't want to be so serious as to put your teammates on edge. The ability of humor to lighten a mood and put the people around you at ease simply can't be underestimated — so don't be afraid to joke around, even when the situation may seem bleak.

Delegate Responsibility
One person simply can't do everything: to be a leader, you're going to have to delegate responsibilities to other members of your team and trust them to do the work you can't. Sometimes it's hard to let things go, but if you're not delegating properly, not only are you not finishing the things you need to get done — you're also not doing a lot of leading. Trust your team and delegate.

Make the Decisions
Even when you're delegating responsibilities to others, it's still down to you to make the big decisions. Leading a team isn't a democracy, and while you can and should accept their help and input, but when it comes down to it, you have to make the final call. Don't delay too much on making important decisions, because if you aren't leading, then your team may be heading off in different directions.

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