Effective leadership is vital to a productive, satisfying career and personal life. But what makes a good leader?

Merriam-Webster defines leadership as “a position as a leader of a group.” Yes, a leader can be the CEO of an organization or the president of a country. However, true leadership is so much more than that. A leader can be an employee who leads a project or oversees a team. A leader can also create change within a community on a specific issue. A leader might also lead through public office. The common thread is that great leaders are focused, passionate and create results through inspiration, persuasion and personal connections.

Recently, Jodi Low, CEO & founder of U & Improved, was the featured keynote speaker at the Chamber’s Breakfast Institute, where she shared the secrets to what makes the best leaders rise above the rest. Low also shared best practices and strategies to produce dynamic results and provided insight on how to develop core characteristics of an effective leader.

“My passion is heart-based leadership,” Low said. “The one thing that determines success is our mindset. It’s how we create our destiny.”

In an engaging presentation that included audience participation, Low covered the key traits of leadership that are vital for any leader regardless of industry, company size or number of direct reports.

Leaders understand self awareness. It’s the single most important factor in achieving success. With self awareness, we are better able to understand our strengths, weaknesses, motives and areas of needed improvement to make ourselves that much better. Leaders don’t just lead in their professional roles. They also lead outside of work and shine in all areas of their lives.

Leaders focus on “We” instead of “Me.” It’s the opposite of ego. Leaders are not focused on selfies, but rather “us-ies.” It’s about empowering teams. Leaders develop a vision about the success of the team, rather than merely focusing on individuals.

Leaders know their emotional triggers. We all have the choice to react or respond. We can react with a rude response, but rarely does that accomplish anything productive. Leaders choose their words and respond with thought.

Leaders embrace their intuition. Often times, we do things because we are told to, even when our instincts tell us it’s not really right. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. The more you trust yourself, the better leader you will be.

Leaders are constantly growing. Getting through day-to-day tasks can sometimes feel like a monumental feat. Leaders take care of themselves. They have boundaries and know when to say no. They make time for family, friends, children and a personal life. Life’s responsibilities are a balancing act with lots of ebbs and flows. Yes, leaders make tough decisions sometimes. But they actively seek opportunities to grow.

Leaders relax. Referred to as “CEO time” by Low, leaders take time to relax and rewind, whether it’s relaxing in the pool, reading a book or taking a nap. Leaders carve out time for creativity and to recharge.

True leaders are authentic and proactively connect. Leaders understand that when they invest in themselves and their team in a genuine way, they make a positive impact. Effective leaders are good listeners. They connect with others in a meaningful way to foster relationships and build a business.

Leaders take action. Leaders don’t wait on the sidelines for things to happen. They make tough decisions on what they are passionate about. Leaders show enthusiasm, confidence and passion that resonates throughout the organization.

Low provided a few additional words of wisdom: Create opportunities for your team and your organization to learn, grow and improve. Nurture the culture or your organization. Empower people.

Low concluded, “We all have a vision for ourselves. You have the power to change the course of your personal and professional life. By elevating your leadership skills, you will improve your business, your relationships and your life.”

Breakfast Institute is a biannual event of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce that features a successful leader or subject matter expert who presents insightful topics for personal or professional improvement. Attendees learn valuable business advice, network and get inspired! Contact Debbie Drotar, director of business development at the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, to find out more about the next Breakfast Institute event.

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