The following is adapted from More Good Jobs: An Entrepreneur’s Action Plan to Create Change in Your Community.
Nothing of significance in this world happens without leaders. From world-changing political movements like the American Revolution to incredible businesses like Apple or Amazon, every movement starts with leaders who are willing to take a stand and get others involved.
The best business leaders are the people who not only guide the people at their companies, but who strive to create more jobs within their communities. The ideal leaders don’t take charge because it’s their job description; they do it because they possess these four traits: credibility, being a connector, humility, and having the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes.
As I’ll describe, these attributes are particularly important in leading the kind of movement our communities need to create high-quality jobs for young, educated workers.
Credibility is the one attribute above all others that is essential for leadership. Credibility begins with integrity: doing the right thing, as so many of our choices can have underpinnings on ethical and moral grounds.
But integrity also means doing what you say you are going to do. Or, more specifically, delivering on the commitments you make to other people. People respect leaders who simply deliver on the promises they make. Not just the big, public commitments but the little things that are just one person’s word to another.
It’s these kept promises that build trust within a community and forge the kind of business relationships that create jobs further down the line.
The next trait job-creating leaders share is that they’re connectors. They bring people together and forge stronger professional networks within their communities.
At its core, leadership involves connecting people. It’s about bringing people and resources together to help everyone achieve their goals. This isn’t an inborn trait or something you either have or you don’t. Rather, by applying constant effort and attention to understanding the needs of people you meet, the opportunities for how you can help connect others will always seem to emerge.
The biggest, most important part of being a connector is to do so by giving first. Don’t think about your endgame or what you want from someone you meet. Instead, ask questions to understand their goals and think of connections you can make that will lead them to job-creating business opportunities.
The third trait of job-creating leaders is humility. Humility is especially important when you’re trying to create connections and inspire others to launch companies. After all, its opposite is arrogance, and who wants to follow an arrogant leader?
As a leader, your job isn’t to have all the answers—it’s to bring together the people who have the answers, and move them toward meaningful progress. We should all understand that we don’t know everything and have the confidence to trust others along the journey.
If we as leaders find ourselves doing more talking than listening, it’s probably a clue that we’re putting too much energy on showing what we know as opposed to learning from others.
Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes
The final leadership trait I’d like to discuss is one that I don’t see mentioned often: the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes.
To succeed as a leader and foster the creative connections that create jobs, we must understand people’s thinking. Why might they say no to our request? What fears do they have? What truly matters to them, and how can what we’re doing support that?
Leading people effectively all comes down to understanding other people’s views, realizing they’re different from ours, and letting them know you hear them and care about them.
You’re Already a Leader
It’s true that leaders change the world and create the jobs that give people a livelihood—but my last piece of advice is to not overcomplicate leadership.
An entire leadership training industry exists to make you believe that you need them before you can lead, but that isn’t how leadership works. You are already a leader in certain areas of your life, whether at home, among your friends, or at your company. Becoming a job-creating leader is a natural next step.
As soon as you decide you want to build up your entrepreneurial community and find others who want to accomplish the same thing, you are a leader. Everything else, including developing the traits listed above, is just how to do that more effectively.
For more advice on transforming local economies towards growth and innovation, you can find More Good Jobs on Amazon.