5 ways to become a strong leader

A foreign journalist raises her hand to ask a question during a news conference with Jiang Weixin, minister and secretary of the CPC Leadership Group of the Ministry of Housing And Urban-Rural Development, during the 18th National Party Congress (NPC) in Beijing November 12, 2012. At the last congress in 2007, top officials took one-on-one interviews, overseas reporters were encouraged to ask questions on whatever subject they wished and government media handlers went out of their way to be helpful, hoping to burnish China's global image ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games. This year, while economic officials and business leaders have generally been willing to talk, provincial leaders and rising political stars have largely shunned international media, and in some cases tried to avoid talking in public at all.       REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS MEDIA)

Don't be afraid to make a difference and lead. Image: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Avery Blank
Contributor, Forbes
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A lot of people want to make a difference but few do. They may not know where to start or think it could be risky. To make an impact and lead, it starts with having the right mindset. Here are five ways you can be less afraid to make a difference and lead:

Identify your passion.

Making a difference usually requires you to go above and beyond expectations. To rise above expectations, you must have something that motivates you. Identify your passion. What is it that excites you? Is it women’s equality, criminal justice reform or education? What is it that you can’t get enough of?

Intrinsic motivation is what will drive you to make a difference and lead. You will add more value when you are working on something that excites you.

Don’t depend on other people to act.

Most people are great, and many do wonderful things. But there are many people who do nothing. They complain and expect others to fix things. Don’t be that person.

Everyone has ideas, but few do anything with them. Former venture capitalist and entrepreneur Chris Sacca says, “Ideas are cheap; execution is everything.” Leaders execute.

If you see a problem, fix it. Don’t wait for someone else to do it because that person may never come along. Bet on yourself. It’s the safest risk.

Rethink risk.

You may be thinking, “There has to be a catch, right? If most people don’t act, there must be a reason. It must be risky.” Wrong. Inaction can be more risky than action.

Making a difference often involves an issue greater than you alone. You are focused on making a difference in the life of others. That’s your opportunity.

You might then ask yourself, “So how does making a difference help to advance my career?” When you put others first, people will begin to see leadership qualities in you.

Pursue respect, not likability.

If you live your life making decisions based on what others think of you, you will not lead your own life. If you can’t lead your own life, you can’t make an impact on others.

Stop worrying about being liked by others, and start focusing on being respected. Leaders make decisions, and not all of them are well received. But they make decisions regardless because they believe it is the right thing to do. Whatever path you take, someone will be there to criticize you. You can’t live life not doing anything out of fear of disapproval. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

Know what you want people to remember you by.

If there ever was a phrase to light a fire under you and make things happen, it is a line in Megyn Kelly’s book Settle For More: “Hurry up, you’re dying.” The NBC News anchor and journalist shared with me that she even thought about making that the title of her book but concluded that “it might be a smidge too alarming.”

Sometimes you need to be startled to act. The time is now to make a difference and lead. Don’t wait. And don’t wait for permission. You will be waiting a long time. Act now, and start creating the narrative that you want people to remember about you.

Making a difference requires leadership. Understand what motivates you and act. Develop the ability to lead yourself so you can lead others and make an impact. #TimesUp on waiting. The time is now to make a difference and advance your career.

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