Tips for Thought

Leading is like being the captain of a ship. You’re in charge, guiding everyone through calm seas and stormy weather. But sometimes, leadership teaches us lessons we never expected. These unexpected lessons can transform your approach, making you a more resilient and empathetic leader.

Here are some surprising insights that can help anyone become a better leader.

1. Listening is More Powerful Than Speaking

We often think leaders are the ones doing all the talking. But great leaders know that listening is their secret weapon. By truly hearing what others have to say, you can understand their needs, spot problems early, and come up with better solutions. Listening makes people feel valued, and that builds trust and loyalty in your team.

Imagine a team leader at a tech startup who regularly holds meetings where team members discuss their progress and challenges. One day, a usually quiet developer shares an innovative idea for improving the app’s user interface. Instead of immediately jumping in with his own thoughts, the leader listens intently, asks clarifying questions, and encourages the developer to elaborate. This approach not only boosts the developer’s confidence but also leads to the implementation of a feature that significantly enhances the app’s user experience. By prioritizing listening, the leader fosters a culture of open communication and innovation.

2. Vulnerability is a Strength

Leaders are supposed to be strong, right? Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t show their human side. Admitting when you’re wrong or don’t know something makes you more relatable. It shows you’re open to learning and growing, and that encourages your team to do the same.

Consider a project manager who is leading a team through a high-stakes project. Halfway through, she realizes that her initial plan is flawed and might not lead to the desired outcome. Instead of hiding this fact, she openly admits the mistake in a team meeting, explains the situation, and seeks input from the team for a new strategy. Her vulnerability in admitting the error and willingness to collaborate on a solution strengthens the team’s trust in her and encourages a more cooperative and solution-oriented work environment.

3. Change is Your Friend

Change can be scary, but it’s also where growth happens. As a leader, embracing change means you’re always looking for ways to improve and adapt. This keeps your team dynamic and innovative. Remember, if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.

Imagine a restaurant owner who has been running a successful business for years. When a pandemic hits, dine-in services are no longer feasible. Instead of resisting change, the owner quickly adapts by shifting to a takeout and delivery model, utilizing social media for marketing, and introducing new menu items suitable for delivery. By embracing change and being flexible, the owner not only keeps the business afloat but also reaches new customers and learns valuable lessons for future growth.

4. Small Acts Can Make a Big Impact

Leadership isn’t just about grand gestures. Sometimes, it’s the little things that count. A simple thank-you, a moment of encouragement, or a small act of kindness can boost morale and motivate your team more than you might think.

Think about a high school principal who makes it a point to greet students by name as they arrive each morning. This small gesture might seem insignificant, but it creates a welcoming atmosphere and helps students feel recognized and valued. Over time, this can lead to improved student morale, stronger relationships between the principal and students, and a more positive school culture overall.

5. Everyone Has Something to Teach You

As a leader, you might be used to being the one with all the answers. But everyone, no matter their role or experience, has something valuable to share. By staying humble and open-minded, you can learn from those around you and become a wiser leader.

A marketing director at a large corporation decides to mentor a group of interns. Initially, she sees it as a chance to impart her knowledge to the next generation. However, as the internship progresses, she finds that the interns’ fresh perspectives and digital savviness provide her with new insights into social media trends and innovative marketing strategies. This experience reminds her that learning is a two-way street, and even seasoned professionals can learn from those just starting in their careers.

6. Success is Not Just About the End Result

We often judge leadership by outcomes: Did the project succeed? Did the company make a profit? But true leadership is also about how you get there. It’s about the journey, the lessons learned, and the growth experienced along the way.

An entrepreneur starts a small business that ultimately fails to take off despite her best efforts. While the business didn’t succeed in the traditional sense, the entrepreneur views the experience as a valuable learning opportunity. She reflects on the skills she developed, the network she built, and the lessons learned about resilience and adaptability. This growth mindset helps her approach future ventures with more wisdom and confidence.

7. Your Personal Life Matters

Leadership doesn’t stop when you leave the office. How you manage your personal life can have a big impact on your professional one. Taking care of your health, nurturing relationships, and finding time for relaxation and hobbies can make you a more balanced and effective leader.

A busy corporate executive realizes that her work-life balance is skewed heavily towards work, leading to stress and burnout. She decides to make her personal life a priority by setting boundaries for work hours, dedicating time for exercise, pursuing a long-neglected hobby, and spending quality time with family and friends. As a result, she finds that she is more energized, creative, and effective in her professional role, proving that taking care of one’s personal life is crucial for sustained success in leadership.


Leadership is a journey filled with unexpected lessons. By embracing these insights, you can become a more effective, empathetic, and dynamic leader. Remember, great leadership isn’t just about guiding others; it’s also about growing and learning yourself.