If you search Mer­ri­am-Web­ster for the mean­ing of “leader,” you will find some inter­est­ing definitions:

  1. Some­thing that leads: such as some­thing that ranks first
  2. A per­son who leads: such as a per­son who has com­mand­ing author­i­ty or influence

Now, think of those in lead­er­ship in your life. Do they line up with these def­i­n­i­tions of a leader? What about you? Would oth­ers say you lined up with these descrip­tions? Effec­tive lead­er­ship is achiev­able when you work at build­ing the leader-mus­cles in you. Here’s a quick list of the traits that lead­ers pos­sess so you can begin exer­cis­ing these mus­cles in your next lead­er­ship workout:

  1. Self-man­age: Make a list in your plan­ner or phone that out­lines your goals for the week and how you plan to achieve them. You can­not man­age oth­ers if you can­not man­age yourself.
  2. Good com­mu­ni­ca­tion: Many of us have heard the phrase “You have two ears and one mouth so you can lis­ten twice as much as you talk.” An effec­tive leader “knows when to talk and when to lis­ten.” Lead­ers can com­mu­ni­cate com­pa­ny goals and tasks to all lev­els in the orga­ni­za­tion and can gath­er infor­ma­tion from all lev­els by listening.
  3. Account­abil­i­ty: A suc­cess­ful man­ag­er gives cred­it where it is due and is not afraid to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for mis­takes made by them or the team. Shift­ing blame does noth­ing more than under­mine your team. Tak­ing all the praise does the same thing. Lead­ers even­ly dis­trib­ute both in a respect­ful manner.
  4. Pro­mote team­work: When build­ing a team it is impor­tant for the leader to cre­ate a cul­ture of team­work. This is beyond the task of shar­ing work­load, it is also the leader’s skill of team-led prob­lem-solv­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and reliability.
  5. Set clear goals with vision: Good employ­ees can fol­low instruc­tions and com­plete tasks. Good lead­ers share vision and good employ­ees are moti­vat­ed by it. “Vision can be defined as a pic­ture in the lead­er’s imag­i­na­tion that moti­vates peo­ple to action when com­mu­ni­cat­ed com­pelling­ly, pas­sion­ate­ly and clearly.”

Just as you can­not build strong mus­cles in your body by occa­sion­al­ly going to the gym, you can­not shape lead­er­ship mus­cles by spo­rad­i­cal­ly flex­ing these traits—you have to work them out dai­ly. This means you are doing the hard work of lead­ing a team at all times and as you build your team’s cul­ture of respect and coop­er­a­tion, you will prove your­self to be effective.