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6 Small Things Great Leaders Do Differently

6 Small Things Great Leaders Do Differently

It’s easy to notice the big things separating great leaders from average ones. Great leaders tend to be good public speakers. They tend to be engaging and interesting. They tend to be driven, curious, and persistent.

[Related: 5 Ways Women Can Maximize Their Leadership Skills]

But the little things that differentiate great leaders from the rest of us? Those aren’t so obvious. These six habits are subtle but powerful—and you’ll want to pick them up immediately.

1. They Use the Word We

Replacing “I”and “me” with “we”and “us”in your workplace vocabulary has a huge impact on how likely (and willing) people are to follow you. Consider the difference in these two statements:

“I’ll definitely have time to resolve the issue by the next meeting with the client.”

“We’ll definitely have time to resolve the issue by the next meeting with the client.”

The first implies you’re a one-person show; the second assumes that you and your coworkers will work together to fix the problem—motivating them to jump in and work with you.

Since great leaders share both the workload and the glory, make sure that when you give credit, you also use “we”and “us.”For example:

“Our team figured out why the vendor was having issues, and fortunately, fixed everything in time for the order to ship on Monday.”

2. They Remember Small Details

Great leaders are typically very charismatic. After all, it’s far more natural to follow someone you like and look up to than someone you don’t.

One of the simplest ways to become more charming—without being disingenuous—is to remember and recognize the little things about your colleagues, including birthdays, work anniversaries, accomplishments, vacation plans, hobbies, and so on.

Demonstrating a consistent interest in their lives will definitely boost your office likability.

For a practical way to implement this strategy, set aside 10 minutes every morning for browsing LinkedIn, Facebook, and the other social media sites your coworkers use. Note what they’ve got coming up. Then, when you see them at work, you’ll have no problem saying, “Hey! Looking forward to your trip to South Africa?”

3. They Are Present

Another thing great leaders do differently? When they’re with someone, they’re with them. You usually won’t find a natural leader acting distracted or bored while they’re with their team members—on the contrary, they seem interested and focused no matter whom they’re with.

When people receive your full attention, not only do they feel flattered (unfortunately, that’s how rare paying attention has become) but they also give you more. That means more information, more help, more support—many of the things you need to take your performance to the next level.

Focusing on whom you’re talking to (and nothing else) can be difficult. Check out this article for some in-depth advice.

4. They Are Calm in a Crisis

During emergencies, have you ever noticed to whom control of the situation goes by default? Hint: it’s not the person yelling or getting emotional. It’s the person who stays calm.

Even if you’re freaking out on the inside, projecting an unruffled exterior will make others perceive you as competent and trustworthy.

That means your coworkers will automatically look to you for a solution—giving you the perfect opportunity to step into a leadership role without having to maneuver for power.

So the next time something stressful happens at work, resist the urge to react. (If you’re worried that you’ll lose your cool, step into an empty conference room or the bathroom for a couple seconds to clear your head.)

5. They Pay Attention to the LIPs (Least Important People)

There are a couple reasons why true leaders go out of their way to acknowledge the “least important”people in the room (whether that’s the junior assistant, two-week-old employee, or intern).

First, you never know who will become influential in the future. Treating people well when they’re just starting out guarantees you’ll be repaid later down the line.

Second, you’ll cultivate great relationships with the employees who work hard and have plenty of talent but often don’t see their efforts recognized.

Third, your awareness of what’s going on in the office—at all levels—will increase.

Every time you’re in a room of people, figure out who the LIP is and treat him or her as you would a boss or respected peer: ask for his or her feedback, make eye contact with him or her as you present, and treat his or her contributions seriously.

6. They Adapt to the Situation

Most of us just have one communication style—but great leaders have many, and they’re capable to quickly find the ideal one for the person and scenario.

For example, if they notice one coworker always takes forever to respond to emails, they’ll stop sending him emails and start dropping by his desk instead. Or if another coworker never voices her concerns until after meetings, when it’s too late, they’ll start requesting her feedback beforehand.

To become a better leader, start actively looking for methods of communication to which each colleague best responds (meaning with the most information, in the quickest span of time, with the least resistance, etc.).

By adapting, you’ll become one of the rare (and extremely valuable) professionals who can have effective relationships with everyone, not just a couple people.

Yes, great leaders are born—but they’re also made. With these six simple but powerful changes, authority and respect are within your grasp.


Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

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Nicole Robideau

This is such a great reminder of the qualities you should continue to poses as a great leader. Thanks for the article!

August 1, 2018

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Alyssa Kubishak

Thank you for sharing!

July 3, 2018

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Liz Miller

Great, practical tips! Thanks!

April 4, 2018

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Kerry Cordero

Great article! Especially like the tip to pay attention to the least important people. Often they are the ones who have insights that unusual and interesting and great to consider while making a change.

March 28, 2018

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Karen Bass

Really loved this article...will now focus on LIP concept...so important. Thank you!

December 19, 2017

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Bianca Boranda, FRM

Love this article. Thanks for sharing.

August 7, 2017

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Karan Sampson, CAIA

Great article! thanks!

February 3, 2017