The skills of a great leader

Back to the Firewalker’s Guide to Leadership

When you think of a leader, who do you imagine? Is it a CEO? Political leader? Top-performing athlete? If it’s anyone other than yourself, you’re doing yourself a major disservice.

The thing about leading is, at some point or another, we’re all given the opportunity to do it. And yet, some people live through their lives thinking of themselves as having little or no leadership skills, say or power with respect to the direction of their own life.

Whether you’re the head of a major corporation, the pastor of a local church, a parent or you’re flying solo and trying to figure out your next move, you have ample opportunities to improve leadership skills and become a great leader each and every day.

That said, if you don’t have a strong idea of the leadership skills that constitute a great leader, then you’ll be forced to follow in any direction the current takes you rather than forging your own path and leading the type of life that maximizes your full potential.

You need to focus on developing proven leadership skills and keep track of your progress. Getting more familiar with the qualities and skills that make a good leader can help you develop your own plan for greatness.

After more than three decades of working with the top leaders on the planet, Tony Robbins has uncovered four skills of extraordinary leaders.

That said, if you don’t have a strong idea of the leadership skills that constitute a great leader, then you’ll be forced to follow in any direction the current takes you rather than forging your own path and leading the type of life that maximizes your full potential.

So, let’s examine the core abilities of a good leader so you can practice cultivating them and begin applying them today.

Leadership skill #1: Decisiveness

Decision-making is one of the top leadership skills and the force that shapes destiny. Your power as a leader comes from your ability to be decisive and having the guts to make the right decisions – even in a crisis. While many people waste precious time wondering what the right decision is, a leader must be willing to draw a line in the sand and make decisions no one else is willing to make. When you do, you can positively shape your life and the lives of people around you.

“Stormin’ Normin” Schwarzkopf, who in 1991 commanded the U.S. Military during Operation Desert Storm, likes to tell a story about an early mentor of his in the military. At the time, the Army had been embroiled in a 10-year decision-making process that would determine its direction and structure, and there was no end in sight. Unable to commit to a solution, the leadership team turned to a general who up to then had not been involved in the program.

Looking at them, the general said, “The answer is obvious, gentlemen.” He gave them the answer.

Panicking, because there was no way that general had read all the relevant material to the decision, Schwarzkopf – of relatively low rank, at the time – confronted him, and asked, “There is so much information here, there’s so much to consider, no one’s really going to know for sure. How the hell could you just make that decision like that?”

In a moment of brilliance, the general responded, “This has been a decision that no one’s been willing to make for 10 years. The best minds have been on it and they can’t decide, so you know what? We need to pick one and do it. Decisions are power and I’m here to make them. That’s what I’m in this position for. That’s why I’m a leader.

This experience would shape Schwarzkopf’s life.

There might be no leadership skill more critical for a strong leader than the ability to make important decisions. What makes decision-making so hard for some people is that for any given problem, there are infinite paths one can take toward a solution. How do you know that the path you choose will be viable? How do you know that the decision you’re making isn’t going to cause serious setbacks? How do you know this choice won’t have a negative impact on your team?

You don’t.

You’ll never know the answer to those questions until the decision is actually made. It takes true leadership skills to make that decision. Dwelling on infinite possibilities is paralysis by analysis. You could spend day after day contemplating option after option, but you’ll never know what’s right until you execute. If it turns out you made the wrong decision (and at some point you will make a wrong decision, because we all do), then guess what? You now have a new opportunity to lead in a different direction with a new decision that will keep you moving forward. Had you not decided on anything, you’d still be stagnant with no momentum, no new knowledge and no change. Though you can use these four rules to making a good decision, you’ll never truly know if it was the best one – and that’s okay. So when you’re put in charge, take command. Good leadership skills are about being able to take the reins when necessary, even if you’re unsure of what the outcome may be.

Leadership skill #2: Resourcefulness

When people fail to achieve, they often say they are missing resources like time, money, people and so on. Yet the top leaders in the world know resources are never the problem. The real problem is a lack of resourcefulness. When you develop your leadership skills, you can always get the resources you need as a leader. The truth is this: the ultimate resource is resourcefulness.

Have you ever said the words, “I don’t have time” or “I don’t know the right people to do that” or “I don’t have enough money to make that happen?” Then you’re not utilizing all of the resources at your disposal. When you master leadership skills like owning your own time and developing the right team of people, you show resourcefulness.

Years ago, before Apple wasn’t the giant influencer that it is today, it was at a high risk of going under. The company was running out of money, new technology and options, so they threw a Hail Mary to Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was given a salary of $1 and the challenge to restart the company.

What did Jobs do? What leadership skills did he tap into?

He didn’t upgrade the technology because the technology wasn’t there yet. He didn’t throw a bunch of money into branding because they didn’t have the money to do so yet. Instead, he honed in on his resource of creativity and made one simple change: He ordered the computers to be redesigned and repackaged in candy-coated colors. He already knew that Apple was selling an incredible product, so his challenge was simply to make people view Apple products in a different way. And just like that, his leadership skills set Apple on the path to becoming the champion of innovation it’s known as today.

If you have clarity around the outcome you seek to achieve and you’re focused on it, you will find the resources to succeed. They may already be right in front of you – you just need to put yourself in the right emotional state to see them.

Leadership skills #3: Higher purpose

The greatest leaders in history are purpose-driven; they serve something more than themselves. If your motive as a leader is to simply get someone to do something for you, you may be able to strategize a way to do it – but it’s when you serve a greater good that you create a legacy of leadership that lasts beyond your lifetime.

If you’ve set your goals, honed your focus and are taking massive action and getting better and better at executing, then there’s only one leadership skill you need to get whatever you want: grace. Whether you think of grace as God, the universe, luck or something else, it doesn’t matter – the point is that your grace gives you a reason and a purpose to keep doing what you’re doing.

Those with this set of leadership skills are doing what they’re doing in order to serve something greater than themselves – whether it’s the planet, their family or a higher calling. They know what they believe and they follow those beliefs with laser-sharp focus.

Leadership skill #4: Influence

Leaders are masters of influence; they know how to propel themselves and others to move forward in life. That’s why influence is one of the most vital leadership skills. Great leaders know who they are, what their brand is and who they are to others. As a result, they influence others to set a new standard for themselves that those people live by even when the leader is not present. When you master the leadership skill of influence, you control the ultimate force for giving, creating, sharing and contributing more.

In order to influence someone, you need to know what already influences them, what influences you and let those values inform your actions. You must also make a commitment to listening deeply so you can truly connect with and get through to someone. When you master the leadership skill of influential leadership, you’ll be able to create a team that works hard for you while still experiencing fulfillment and purpose.

Leadership skills aren’t something people are born with – they’re developed and strengthened over time like a muscle. If you commit to finding your purpose, honing good leadership skills and turning to others who you regard as incredible leaders for guidance, you’ll learn how to lead, too.

Take the next step toward developing vital leadership skills by attending Tony Robbins’ Leadership Academy in a city near you.