Jeff Boss is an executive coach, author of Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty in Uncertain Situations, Managing The Mental Game and former Navy SEAL; so he knows a bit about leadership. Here is his article as featured in Forbes.

There are certain leadership characteristics that define a leader. A quick search of leadership characteristics by the oracle known as Google GOOGL +0.10% spits back 308,000,000 results. Three hundred and eight million! Does the leader whom you admire possess all those characteristics? Now, of course this isn’t the total number of leadership characteristics that exist but it does highlight the question, “What do I value in a leader?”

Being a leader means different things to different people. I once asked a healthcare exec his definition of leadership, to which he replied, “leadership means being liked.” No. Social acceptance is not the metric of effective leadership—it may be a byproduct, but it’s certainly not a driver.

So, where along the line of career development does the memo on effective leadership come out? Are you still waiting for it? I thought so. Leadership stems from judgment and judgment comes from experience. Actually, it was Mark Twain (or Will Rogers depending on which search engine you use) who said, “Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.” However, if you want to be proactive and lead your way into leadership, try the following three actions and see what happens:


As mentioned above, leadership comes from judgment. However, the very act of experimentation is a display of leadership in itself. Too often people in positions of authority (who aren’t necessarily leaders but rather holders of authority) are overly risk averse in making decisions because they don’t know the outcome. But making decisions in uncertainty is the very act of leading! Making the decision to face the unknown and run into the fray without the comfort of proof or data to support your decision is exactly what leaders do. Cheryl Pinter-Veal, director of Partner Matters at Deloitte Services LP, expressed leadership experimentation this way, “Leadership is an R&D pilot all the time. You have to have the mindset that this is a laboratory and that all of these challenging experiences are opportunities to experiment. It can be a little scary—and it should. If you don’t have butterflies, you’re not learning.”

I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, but what if I’m wrong with my decision?” Hey, it happens. Get over it and move on. When others see you experimenting they also see your confident enough to experiment—a hallmark leadership characteristic.

Watch your words.

Everything you say and don’t say has meaning, to include those little words with an apostrophe at the end known as contractions. Here’s another tip to convey you’re ready for greater leadership responsibility: remove contractions from your verbiage. Words such as “can’t” and “won’t” (and even “not”) do nothing for progress. If you think about it, all three of these words either A) put the brakes on progress or B) set progress in reverse; they place a roadblock between you and achieving the task at hand. Additionally, the opposite of a negative is a positive (that’s a little dose of “obvious” for you) and a statement without a contraction infers assertion. Here’s an example. Which of these sentences sounds more leader-like:

“I won’t meet project XYZ’s deadline because it’s too soon” Or “I want to ensure project XYZ is delivered optimally which means I want to extend the deadline.” Notice the difference?

Choose your partners.

I’m not talking about life partners here but rather those in your immediate circle of influence—those who influence you. If you surround yourself with idiots, guess what? You’re guilty by association. Surround yourself with experience, with those who push back on your thinking and challenge you to grow more. Nobody gets smarter having the same level of conversations.

By removing these words you explore your potential because you see things in a different light and express accountability through. The only way to enhance your leadership capacity and make it known that you’re ready for the next level, is to lead.