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50 Rules for Being a Great Leader

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Becoming a great leader isn’t something that happens overnight, but it can be achieved through discipline, hard work and a commitment to improvement through experience. Great leaders aren’t born, as some people suggest; instead, they are shaped over time. And, while what makes a “great” leader in one application doesn’t always apply to others, there are some general rules that all great leaders follow.

Related: What Leadership Is -- And What It Is Not

If becoming a great leader in your own business or organization is your goal, these 50 rules are a good place to start:

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Listen to your team

Rule one. Always listen to what your team has to say, even if you don’t like it.
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Communicate as efficiently as possible

Make your expectations and feelings clear, in the appropriate medium as often as possible.
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Talk less

Sometimes saying nothing is better than saying just anything.

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Be an example

Be the type of person you want your team members to be.

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Be passionate

If you aren’t passionate about your business, you’re in the wrong business.

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Be consistent

 Be consistent in your behaviors so your team knows what to expect from you.
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Make firm decisions

Don’t leave things undecided for long, and don’t waver about a decision once you’ve made it
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Identify mentors and role models

Find people you can look up to and learn from, and follow them closely.

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Interfere only when necessary

If you trust your team to do good work, don’t interfere unless absolutely necessary.

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Know your limits

Don’t extend yourself beyond your means.

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Know your strengths

If you’re good at resolving disputes, step in and resolve them as often as possible.

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Know your weaknesses

If there’s something you’re not good at, admit it, and work on it.

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Don’t make excuses

If you make a mistake, take ownership of it and don’t pass the blame to someone or something else.

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Accept the unforeseen

You can’t control or predict everything.

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Choose your partners carefully

Work only with people you can count on and trust.

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Do good

Commit yourself to being a good person and giving back to the community when possible.

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Meet new people all the time

Take every opportunity to expand your network and expose yourself to new experiences and perspectives.

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Stay in touch with your emotions

Don’t be a robot -- let yourself feel.
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Temper your reactions

Hold back your reactions until you have a moment to clarify your internal thoughts and feelings.

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Have fun

Take the time to have fun with your team.

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Research everything

Before making a decision, know the pros and cons -- do your homework.

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Think everything through

Never exclusively trust your instincts or first reactions.

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Choose your team carefully

Hire only those you can trust to get the job done (and to get along with others, as well).

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Prioritize your team

Your team is everything. Give them whatever they need to succeed.

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Be humble.

Don’t get big-headed about your wealth, influence or position as a leader.

Related: 10 Habits of Ultra-Likable Leaders

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Forgive mistakes

Everyone makes them.

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Forgive yourself

Don’t beat yourself up too much over anything. Move on.

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Be rational

Make decisions logically.
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Be reasonable

Listen to dissenting opinions, and be fair.

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Make time for what’s important

There’s no such thing as “not having time” for what’s really important in your life. Make the time.
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Constantly learn

Read as much as you can, and take classes whenever you have the opportunity.

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Improve everything

Work on improving your approaches, your skills and your processes constantly.

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Never give up

Don’t throw in the towel when a little extra persistence could put you over the edge.

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Transform your methods when necessary

If something isn’t working, change your approach
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Cut your losses when necessary

If you’re fighting a losing battle, retreat and start again somewhere else (or in a new way).

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Learn from your mistakes

Try not to make the same mistakes twice

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Ground everything with data

Back up all your decisions, opinions and thoughts with hard, objective facts and evidence.

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Don’t ignore signs of stress

Stress is real and can interfere with your ability to lead. If it starts setting in at abnormal levels, take action to reduce or relieve it.

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Give feedback

Let your team know what they’re doing well and what needs further improvement.

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Trust, but verify

Trust your team to get things done, but always follow up to make sure the work is completed.

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Be approachable

Let people know they can trust you, and open your door to anybody who needs it.

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Treat everyone equally

Don’t play favorites; it breeds resentment and makes you appear immature as a leader.

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Don’t pursue close personal relationships with the team

Be on friendly terms, but don’t try to be best friends with everybody. You’re a leader, first and foremost.

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Get the team together

Use team-building exercises or other excuses to get your team members talking with one other and having fun together
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Return favors

If someone helps you, make it your responsibility to pay back the favor -- even if it’s years later.

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Don’t burn bridges

Never cut a contact completely out of your life.
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Stay in touch

If team members leave or change roles, stay in contact with them.

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Don’t sacrifice your personal life

Your personal life is necessary to retain your own mental health. Never sacrifice it for the sake of leadership or professional responsibilities.

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Enjoy leadership

Try not to stress too much about being a leader. Instead, enjoy all the benefits it offers
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Take advice with a grain of salt

Even with these 50 rules! Because nobody knows everything, and no one piece of advice applies to all situations.

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Follow these rules

Follow these rules, trust your instincts and continually strive for self-improvement. Eventually, through your experiences and your efforts, you’ll become the type of leader most people only aspire to be. 

Related: 10 Behaviors of Real Leaders