How do you become an adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice? How do you become a man in a world that doesn’t require courage? The test of leadership isn’t done on the couch, discussing things with internet trolls and commentators. Leadership, like philosophy, is action-based and can’t be separated from that into a purely theoretical field.

To become a leader, it isn’t enough to read about it, you need to live through it. That leads us to the first point.

1. Experience trumps theory

Theory and practice are the same in theory, but they are not the same in practice. For you to become a leader, you need to put yourself in situations which demand leadership. If you are at home trying really hard to think about situations where leadership is required and can’t find a place where that can happen, you are not thinking about the problems in your life and community.

Leadership is about going through uncertainty while showing people a better way. So any area of life where there is uncertainty is an area where there is a possibility for leadership to emerge.

You don’t have to lead a company of 10,000 employees to experience leadership, you can do it in a local community of 5 people or as I did in a leadership organization with 200 people. But leadership doesn’t start with leading other people, it starts with leading yourself.

“Leadership is practice not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.” – Harold S. Geneen

2. To lead others, you must learn to lead yourself

Telling other people what they need to do is “easy.” Showing the way yourself is a hundred times harder. Because what you do speaks so loud that people can’t hear what you’re saying. In other words, leadership is about having personal integrity and practicing what you preach. You would never follow the advice of a fat personal trainer, a broke accountant, or a real estate agent who doesn’t even own a dog house.

You either lead by example or you don’t lead at all. But the thing is that this is easier said than done. I remember when we had a crisis in our team back in 2013. Every single person from the team quit, leaving the president and me alone to fight the battle. My integrity of not quitting didn’t let me walk away and we kept pushing together.

That’s what leadership is about – you need to walk the talk. Because to lead yourself and to lead others, you need to make decisions which follow up your integrity. That leads us to the third point.

3. Leadership is about making the right, painful decisions

If you choose easy decisions, your life will be hard. If you choose hard decisions, your life will be easy. And there are numerous decisions which leaders did in the past which have been hard at the moment. But when you’re a leader, you don’t make decisions on a scale of easy-hard, you make them on a scale of right-wrong.

Firing the VP of sales is always hard. But doing it because he violated the principles of the company makes it right. It’s a trade-off 90% of people are not willing to make and I see it day in, day out. As soon as a decision becomes hard, people start doubting their values, morals, and integrity. They let the fear of uncertainty cloud their judgments and they make an easy call.

They let the VP stay because it’s the easy thing to do and with that, they seal their fate. Leadership is painful and it always was. I remember when I had to let 20 people go or fire two of my VPs. Was it hard? Of course it was. But it was the right thing to do. This doesn’t make the decision any easier, but it makes it bearable.

You know where you need to lead people and even though there is massive uncertainty, you need to be certain that you will figure out any problem that comes in front of you. Which brings us to the last point.

“Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.” – Brian Tracy

4. You need to have unyielding faith that you will prevail in the end

You don’t need to know every step of the way, but you need to know how you will react to problems. You need to be sure, absolutely, that you will deal, manage, and handle every single problem that comes your way and that your team and people who you lead are unstoppable on their way to achieving the vision.

This is unquestionable. You have no idea what will attack you, but you are certain that you will handle it. This is how you lead people through everything in life. This is how Shackleton led his expedition for 2 years on the Antarctic and how every single one of his people survived the hardships that attacked them.

Because people turn to the leader in face of trouble and that’s when you show your true face. Do you show your weak side, flounder, and run? Or do you stand strong like a supporting rock on which people can lean on?

When you deal with fire, you will learn how to defeat it without having your people get burned. You will sacrifice yourself and gain scars which don’t serve as a sign of victimhood but as a proof of courage. Are you gonna be courageous or are you gonna run away? There is only one way to find out.

Source: Success