The One Skill That Will Make You a Successful Leader

He was a smart leader, but he wasn’t respected by many people in his organization. I was brought in to coach him and found him to be reluctant and aggressive. Our first couple of conversations were not merely unpleasant but downright hostile.

I knew if I was going to connect with this man I would have to be very straightforward. I told him, “You think you don’t need me, and I hear you—but if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll be out of a job within six months.”

He was silent. I continued, “A leader needs followers, and right now no one wants to work for you or with you.”

My frankness surprised him. And then he surprised me by quietly asking, “What do I have to do to become a leader that people follow?”

We started with the one leadership skill that’s often overlooked but fundamental to success. It’s a simple principle, especially when it comes to leadership—to be open no matter what. Here’s what it looks like in action:

When people speak to you, listen to understand. Everyone worries about being well spoken, but few people truly listen. Learn how to focus in and listen.

When people say something, express curiosity. Approached with a new idea, most leaders are quick to give their thoughts or opinions. But great leaders pause and want to know more. They’re curious enough to always be open to something new.

When people make statements, ask questions. Move in a level deeper and ask lots of questions. You’ll be more informed and build stronger connections.

When people share ideas, show interest. It’s amazing how much people will value you for the simple act of being interested and attentive to their ideas.

When people say something you disagree with, don’t judge. We all have biases. If you catch yourself judging something out of hand, stop and open up enough to examine what’s really being said and what lies beneath it.

When others are prideful, be humble. We all know people who are egotistical and prideful of what they do, who seek attention wherever they go. Let them be who they are, but remember for yourself that humility and modesty demonstrate respect for others and will take you far.

When people feel discouraged, empower them. Instead of further demoralizing your team when they’re down, give them back their power. Make them feel they are capable of doing the impossible and let them know you believe in them.

When people go the extra mile, recognize them. Sometimes even extraordinary effort goes unnoticed. Make sure you recognize not only successes but also perseverance and imagination and courage.

When people work hard, be appreciative. Most people genuinely want to please their leaders, and there are many who work quietly but do more than their colleagues standing closer to the spotlight. Public appreciation and praise will go far toward keeping anyone motivated.

If you want to succeed, you must put this skill to work. For my client, that meant challenging himself and turning it into a habit, so for the next 30 days he worked on making sure that every interaction led people to feel good about themselves.

Thirty days later he was a leader with a purpose, committed to staying open, because he saw a change in himself and in how others treated him.

He had become a leader with followers—followers who were now learning to respect him

Lead from within: There are many leadership skills, but there is one that can lead you to be the leader you want to become. Staying open can have a huge impact, not only on yourself but also on those you lead.



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The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness


After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

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