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The 5 Secrets of Strong Leaders That No One Ever Told You

Businesses can sink or swim depending on decisions made by executives and other leaders. Small startups and massive corporations can buckle at the knees behind poor leadership or thrive because of forward thinking and proper management.

Strong leaders often aren't close-minded and authoritarian. Employees and clients want charismatic, approachable managers and executives. Having said that, successful businesses must also be true to a defined mission and holdfast to potentially risky choices.

Effective leadership, therefore, entails a balancing act between being firm and being adaptive. Not everyone currently in a position of power has what it takes to be a great leader, but for anyone looking to become better at managing staff or a business, here are some tips that can help transform anyone into a strong, dependable leader.

1. Make valuable connections
Business leaders are often successful because they are social and inviting in all the right ways. Confidence and gregariousness are important for anyone interested in moving into a position of power, but often being a socialite isn't enough to become a strong leader. Actively engaging in building meaningful connections and an expanded network is essential for executives and other bosses. 

According to Forbes, the best leaders have a good relationship with the people they work with. Accessible, relatable executives and bosses make employees feel valued and more invested in a business. Likewise, a company is made more dynamic when management and regular staff members are engaged and friendly. This doesn't suggest that the best leaders are buddies with employees, but rather that having a professional but in-depth relationship is important for office morale and culture.

Strong leaders also make valuable connections with people within an industry and beyond. A professional network full of powerful, well-connected and, above all else, trustworthy peers is important for any business. Successful collaborations and partnerships are often brought about by leaders who have taken the time to cultivate strong professional relationships or friendships. While this may feel like an intangible skill, strong leaders work hard to make sure they manage a good network rather than rely on good social graces.

2. Tell a story
Although it is important for companies to be adaptive and responsive depending on market research and the latest industry trends, it is critical for a business of any size to stay true to a specific mission and vision. 

Inc. magazine stated that even the Founding Fathers understood the importance of a narrative. Telling a story with your business will provide structure and clarity to your work as situations change. This includes simple things like identifying milestones and benchmarks, as well as larger issues pertaining to perspective during adversity.

Identifying with a specific mission or goal allows leaders to become rooted in concrete ideologies and principles. Flaky leaders are hard to trust, whereas focused, determined bosses and executives are inspiring and productive. Staying true to a story or set of goals is an effective way to add a framework to operate within and for leaders to stay tied to what is important.

3. Smile
According to Business Insider, Max Levchin, one of the co-founders of PayPal, says that the most important goal of a leader should be to maximize the potential of others. And getting the most out of your staff starts with a smile. 

Happy employees are often the most productive, and as a role model and leader of your business, your attitude and outlook has a strong effect on your staff. Strong leaders are energized and excited by challenges, and expressing those feelings with a visible smile is a way to project to your company that the work you are doing is meaningful and enriching.

Leadership comes with tough decisions, and for that reason, slapping on a smile is not the answer. Find joy in your work so exuberance and joy come naturally, and from there your staff will be able to do the same.

4. Lead by example
If getting the best out of employees is a core responsibility of leadership, being honorable and dependable goes a long way toward that end. Leaders who betray company rules or values can alienate staff members or clients and undermine the credibility and purity of a business's mission.

It is expected that management and executives have different perks and rhythms than the rest of a company's staff, but certain protocols and expectations must be met to keep a company focused and driven. 

This also extends to the industry at large. Being a thought leader in a specific community is important for any business that is seeking recognition and clout. Great leaders have successful businesses not just because they lead by example in virtue of employees and staff, but in the industry that they serve. Being a strong leader in this way may include being innovative and cutting-edge or it may come about by being principled and vocal about an important issue or trend.

Employees and peers look to executives who are exemplary employees and members of the community. Strong leaders are relatable in a sense, and are respected for being high-character and hard-working, even with the longer vacations or private offices.

5. Listen
Effective leaders find inspiration in others, and according to Business Insider, good ideas aren't confined to management or executives. Integrating different perspectives and input into a business plan is a way for leaders to bring about change and innovation. Likewise, leaders must listen to feedback from partners and clients to grow.

Listening is also a way to earn trust and confidence with employees. Engaging your staff is a way to show respect and appreciation, and grievances and suggestions alike can inform a business's future when handled constructively. Strong leaders make good connections with employees and inspire staff members with hard work and a smile, but the simplest, most direct way to build meaningful relationships is to give your undivided attention and be open to criticism and new ideas.

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