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How to Become a More Gracious Leader

Today’s business environment demands people to step up and be aggressive, strong leaders who will push forward and drive their companies and careers to their greatest potential. In that powerful march to success, there is often so much focus on being assertive that people forget the more human side, which acknowledges the thoughts and feelings of those who support them.

Here are 12 leadership qualities, each paired with a gracious counterpart. I’ll leave it to you to find the combination that works in your world so others can perceive and respect you as a gracious individual. 

1. Be Confident and Show Empathy

People will follow you if you express that you know what you’re doing and where you are going. But not everyone sees things your way or can travel at your pace. See the road from their perspective and help them find the path. 

2. Be Punctual and Show Forgiveness

Good leaders manage their time well and are respectful of other people’s minutes. But everyone gets overly busy or distracted at some point. When someone is late, assess the root of the faux pas before assuming disrespect. Then simply make the point and move on. 

3. Be Proud and Show Humility

You should take pride in your accomplishments and push for achievement. But people most admire those leaders whose accomplishments speak for themselves and who show the greatest pride in the success of their followers. 

4. Be Disciplined and Show Humanity

Serious, focused discipline is what gets most jobs done efficiently and effectively. But not everyone can go nonstop like a robot. Let people be people. They need to relax and recharge. Show them you can have fun as well. A little humor goes a long way to connect and show your human side. 

5. Be Recognized and Show Recognition

One should openly accept accolades when they are bestowed. False modesty is not becoming. But hogging the limelight won’t inspire your followers. Share the spotlight and the journey. Help everyone participate and enjoy the rewards of accomplishment. 

6. Be Bold and Show Discretion

Great leaders step out to the front and charge the action forward. But not every conflict is a full-on battle requiring big resources and heavy artillery. Determine the appropriate amount of time and energy for the situation, then apply it deftly. You’ll keep your team fresh, alert, and ready for the big battles ahead. 

7. Be Spontaneous and Show Thoughtfulness

Being ready for anything is a virtue, and a strong leader knows how to leverage excitement and shake things up. But people also gain strength from a certain level of thoroughness and predictability. They value leaders who take the time to consider all options before venturing off into the unknown. 

8. Be Directed and Show Consideration

You’re successful because you know how to drive your own success. But people need to follow because they believe, and simply telling them your way is the right way is not always enough for them to buy in. Lead by example. Demonstrate how the choices you’ve made will have the same positive affect on their performance. Consider that their life experience is different than yours and help them comprehend the appropriate interpretation. 

9. Be Firm and Show Compassion

Most great leaders are likeable not because they are lax. They provide structure for success and make sure boundaries are clearly marked. If too many ignore the barriers, all hell can break loose. But people are naturally well intended. Failure must be approached with compassionate correction and learning. Kindly help transgressors find their way to happiness and success either in or out of your organization. 

10. Be Generous and Show Gratitude

Leaders must give of themselves constantly. They give their time, knowledge, energy, motivation, and insights. They know the more they give, the more success the team will achieve, and often they do so selflessly. But followers give as well. To feel worthwhile the team needs to know the leader appreciates how the team has gone above and beyond. A grateful leader has a loyal following. 

11. Be a Listener and Show Appreciation

Thoughtful listening is important, but often leaders may have to rightly dismiss what was expressed. Listening is not always demonstrated through acceptance. Sometimes the answer must be no. But artful leaders are capable of making followers feel appreciated for simply having the opportunity to share their point of view. Then, even the skeptics will buy in to the vision and commit their all. 

12. Be a Leader and Show Compliance

Simply put, the most gracious and powerful leaders are the ones who understand when to step back as a follower and let the most appropriate person lead.


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Kevin Daum is an award winning and bestselling author of 5 books. He is a marketer, speaker, and columnist for Inc.com and Smart Business Magazine. As an Inc. 500 entrepreneur, his sales and marketing techniques resulted in more than $1 billion in sales. Drawing on his background in theatre and business, Kevin is a compelling speaker who has engaged and inspired audiences around the globe. Kevin is a graduate of the MIT Entrepreneurial Masters program and has received the Global Learning Award 3 times from the Entrepreneur’s Organization, where he held several board positions. Kevin has designed, produced, and led award-winning executive training programs and events for C-level executives and entrepreneurs on four continents. Previously, Kevin was named one of the 40 people to watch under 40 in San Francisco by the Business Times and in 2006 was named Distinguished Alum of the Year by his alma mater, Humboldt State University.