Leadership: The Best 11 Steps to Become a Leader

Editor’s note: This article is dedicated to my friends — the hardworking faculty and students in the post graduate studies in Education and Business Management at Southern Mindanao Colleges at Pagadian City in the Philippines. 

Whether you aspire to become a leader or want to get better at leading people, it’s certainly a huge job.

A good friend of mine, widely acclaimed consultant Joey Tamer, says there are 10 characteristics of a successful CEO:

  1. Domain expertise (technology or other)
  2. Leadership & personal power
  3. Financial savvy
  4. Ability to pitch and close
  5. Honor
  6. Realism
  7. Perseverance
  8. Patience
  9. Perspective on the larger scheme of things
  10. Courage to move forward, or stop, and to know when to do either one.

Whew, she’s right. Leading an organization in an ethically, effective way is tough.

But you can do this. How?

Firstly, understand you have to be mindful of The Peter Principle. The Peter Principle is a widely accepted management theory advanced by Laurence Peter.

In 1969, the educator theorized many people are appointed to a higher position based solely on their performance — not their potential qualities to succeed in their new role.

Such people don’t understand the big picture and aren’t effective in solving the issues confronting their organization and industry.

Therefore, they rise to their level of incompetence, which means they ultimately fail.

To avoid the stigma of The Peter Principle and to be competent at a higher level, you have to lay a personal foundation of values for professional growth.

Building a foundation enables you to stand tall with confidence before you seek a leadership job. It will give you the necessary underpinning as a leader.

You’ll also be confident in your decisions so you won’t engage in self-doubt after making your decisions.

Here are 11 steps:

1. Learn what you don’t know

— Learn the Principle of Contrary Action. Many people make the mistake of thinking they’re open-minded. But they’re limited by their limited experience and their biases – they unknowingly have biases, which lead to poor decisions.

Learn how to have an open mind, by practicing the Principle of Contrary Action.

The Principle of Contrary Action entails keeping a mental or written record of all your daily activities, and then try to plan and do things differently each time you do them.

Take for example, when you go grocery shopping. As much as possible, each time take a different route, park your car in a different parking spot, enter a different door and walk down a different aisle each time you enter a store. Over time, your creativity will soar.

— Thoroughly study your organization, your marketplace and your industry. Effective bosses have antennas to alert them over looming challenges.

It’s important to develop an antenna – to be alert to challenges before they worsen. When you’re in front of problems, you’ll avoid unnecessary deadlines, which are a huge waste of time and a drain on your energy.

Also, learn how to motivate employees when your organization is facing adversity.

— Learn how to think like an entrepreneur. Leaders think and act like entrepreneurs because they’re independent-minded and fearless.

You must stay on an even keel emotionally, despite all the negative surprises. Develop habits that make certain your attitude is contagious – an attitude worth catching — to prepare for daily success.

Winning entrepreneurs have five morning habits.

— Get a great mentor. With a mentor so you won’t be alone in making career decisions to guide you. Ask questions and get continuous feedback to accelerate your career.

— Read voraciously. Read relevant journals, and autobiographies and biographies of successful people, especially learn why they’re successful and the lessons they learned.

Note: Focus on concepts and principles. Even if you’re reading about someone in a different profession than you, you’ll learn principles that are applicable and transferable to your situation.

— Learn about management of people. Start with strategies to succeed as a new nanager, management theories and the prerequisites needed to succeed in managing people. That ranges from avoiding legal problems and motivating employees to retaining your talented workers.

— Learn about effective delegation of employees. Delegation is a fundamental driver of organizational growth. Managers who are effective in delegation show leadership.

Save yourself time and develop your staff for the welfare of your organization. Use best practices in employee delegation.

— Study how to manage money. Learn finance. To lead an organization, you must understand the numbers and what they mean for you personally and for the organization.

— Make technology a priority. In particular, you’ll need to know how to guard against cyber threats and to prevent and recover from ransomware.

Overall, there are four important strategies every boss should know.

— Study marketing and sales. To lead, you must know about marketing and sales, and negotiating tactics. Even nonprofit leaders have to know these concepts.

Become a great communicator. Leaders write and speak well so they can be informative and persuasive. There are many benefits if you become a great public speaker.

— Do a personal inventory. Now that you have an overview of what’s needed in leadership, perform a comprehensive self-study of your personal and professional strengths and weaknesses.

That includes evaluating your soft skills and listening skills – your ability for relating to others. So, make certain you have emotional intelligence (EI) to evaluate, understand and control your emotions. Learn how grow your EI for leadership success.

If you tend to procrastinate or lack courage when facing adversity, learn what you need to know about being courageous, a critical characteristic of effective managers. It’s a learned behavior.

As Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said: “Courage doesn’t come by doing what everybody else says.”

Note: These are important steps before you even think about marketing and selling yourself to a leadership position. Hopefully, you’re developing a vision of what you must do for yourself.

2. Write a strategic plan for yourself 

A personal strategic plan is an investment in you. Decide what you must do to achieve your objective.

Write it as an action plan – list the steps you plan to take and when you will take them. You can do this on a single page.

3. Stay fit in every way possible

Closely monitor and journal your personal and company’s finances and cut unnecessary expenses.

Focus on fitness – physically, mentally and emotionally. This helps you with the acumen and energy that are needed to succeed.

Take the time to recharge. Stay close to your family.

Read to stay current, continually develop your intellect and spirituality. Make it a habit to learn something new each day. The famous Michelangelo once revealed his personal lifetime motto, “I am still learning.”

4. Prioritize your relationships and engagement with others

It can’t be understated – soft skills and communication with stakeholders are all of paramount importance in leading people.

In your speech and writings, don’t lead with the pronoun I. Avoid using the word, mine. Use our, we and us. Remember to write or say thank you and please whenever possible.

5. Demonstrate maturity

Leaders are poised and mindful of the success of others. They don’t resent it. They congratulate others when they’re successful. They continue to do it after they get into the corner office.

6. Master your craft

Know your responsibilities and technical-skill requirements. Ask questions if you don’t. Perform every task at the highest-possible performance.

By excelling in your duties above expectations, you’ll demonstrate leadership potential after going above and beyond your boss’s expectation of you.

7. Be proactive and become the go-to person

Be alert to opportunities to solve problems. Bring solutions to problems.

Take on extra tasks outside your responsibilities.

Help others. Not only is it the right thing to do, it demonstrates you’re able to do your own work and are management material.

8. Demonstrate resourcefulness

You’ll demonstrate your cleverness if perform your own tasks, but also take the initiative in developing or improving processes that benefit your business.

9. Volunteer for leadership roles

As situations arise, seize the initiative and volunteer. Volunteering helps cement your case that you’re ready for more responsibilities.

10. Take ownership of your work

If you continually perform well and demonstrate pride in your work, you’ll demonstrate you’re on track for a greater role in your organization.

11. Take responsibility

You’ll earn respect, if you take responsibility for the performance of your team, and your decisions and actions.

If you make a mistake, apologize to the appropriate people. Use best practices to make apologies.


OK, so that’s the overview in understanding what’s truly needed for leadership. These strategies will enable you to stand tall on your new foundation.

It will enable you as a leader to be confident in your decisions, and you will not engage in self-doubt after making decisions.

Strive for high performance and demonstrate that you have skills needed for success. 

Continue to hone your skills. Demonstrate that you have those skills.

And when you’re ready, boost your career with self-promotion so that higher-ups become aware that you’re ready for upward mobility. Do these things, and you’ll be successful.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related leadership strategies:

Habits of Leaders Who Have Positive Workplace Cultures — The Digital Age and global economy are demanding. Texting and emails are the norm. Face-to-face communication is minimal. This can hurt workplace cultures. Here’s what leaders do about it.

To Become a Leader, Develop Strategic-Planning Skills in 5 Steps — A salient characteristic of leadership is strategic thinking. If you’re ambitious, the ability to be a strategic planner is critical for your success. Here are five ways to achieve your goal.

10 Execution Values to Guarantee Your Strategic Plan Works — Many companies devote resources to devise a great strategic plan. But they fail in their objectives because they don’t link their strategy to execution. So, here’s how.

Leadership: 4 Strategies Dealing with Incompetent People — Yes, incompetent employees – whether they have difficult personalities or they simply under-perform – can be aggravating. But they don’t have to be.

5 Top Leadership Philosophies in Business Management — Top managers show leadership by coaching their teams to success. They accomplish goals with five habitual philosophies.

Leadership: How Leaders Employ 11 Strengths to Grow Businesses — Ascension to the C-suite doesn’t automatically qualify an executive as a leader. Leaders have 11 strengths that enable them to manage their companies for greater effectiveness and elasticity despite a fast-changing marketplace.

“Live, learn, and always do right.”

-Charles Talley


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.