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Leadership

9 Ways to Recognize a Real Leader

Look closely and you'll see who they really are.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Leadership is a trait many are quick to claim but few truly deserve.

To be a leader does not mean wearing the title of "leader." It's not something you choose to be one minute and then choose not to be the next. A leader is not a leader simply because he or she has been promoted. And a leader is not someone who sits in a position of management.

None of those things are what truly make a real leader. Here are the things that do:

9 Ways to Recognize a Real Leader

1. A real leader listens firsts and acts second

Someone who jumps to conclusions without first seeking to understand has made a fatal error—for themselves and their team. In order to lead people effectively, you have to take the time to listen and see things from their perspective. You have to put yourself in their shoes and fully understand the situation. 

Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

9 Ways to Recognize a Real Leader

2. A real leader doesn't make decisions in the heat of the moment

You know those bosses that get all riled up and then start rapid-firing people? That's not a leader. That's a trigger-happy manager on a power trip—and there's a difference. A leader waits until the heat of the moment has passed so that he or she can give solid thought to the situation before coming to a conclusion.

9 Ways to Recognize a Real Leader

3. A real leader knows what they don't know

It's dangerous when someone claims to "know everything." A good leader is ok with not having all the answers, and knowing that they will find the people who do. They don't see it as a weakness—because it's not. It's merely part of the process.

9 Ways to Recognize a Real Leader

4. A real leader never wants to be the smartest person in the room

If someone hires people or surrounds themselves with people less qualified than themselves simply to remain in a position of power, then they feel threatened. You never want to be the smartest person in the room—and if you are, you're in the wrong room. Great leaders know this and seek to surround themselves with masters of their crafts. The leader's job, then, is to "play the orchestra."

Related: 5 Keys to Inspiring Leadership, No Matter Your Style

9 Ways to Recognize a Real Leader

5. A real leader celebrates the process as much as the rewards

True leaders know that greatness is not something that happens immediately. Greatness is the result of hours, days, weeks of diligent practice and effort. They celebrate the process and the day-to-day hustle as much as they do the big grand finale. 

9 Ways to Recognize a Real Leader

6. A real leader gives constructive, not negative, feedback.

There is a difference between "constructive criticism" and plain negativity. People who spew negativity aren't doing anything to help anyone. A great leader looks for ways they can help, not ways they can tear others down in the process.

9 Ways to Recognize a Real Leader

7. A real leader does what has to be done

Anyone who says, "That's not my job," isn't leading by example. Yes, people need to stay their lane and be responsible for their own work, but when there's a fire and it's all hands on deck, a leader doesn't step back and say, "All right everyone, go figure it out." They get right to work with them.

Related: Stop Using These 5 Words Now

9 Ways to Recognize a Real Leader

8. A real leader cultivates a positive culture

Being results-driven is great, but a culture that produces results has to be healthy in some way, shape, or form. And creating that culture takes hard work. A great leader knows that they are not the center of attention, and what's more important is creating an environment where others feel empowered to succeed, bring ideas to the table, and think for themselves. 

9 Ways to Recognize a Real Leader

9. A real leader always finds a way

Anyone that says, "It's impossible. We can't," isn't fit to lead. A true leader knows that there is always a way. It might not be the way anyone had originally planned for, but it's a way nonetheless. Great leaders find the roads less traveled, and do whatever needs to be done in order to get the collective over the obstacle ahead.