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Are You Wired to Be a Good Leader?

Lindsay Olson

Good leaders are born. Or maybe they're made. Whatever stance you take on the subject, there is evidence that some people are simply better at leading than others. But what about you? Are you wired to be a good leader? Here are three signs that Andrew Graham, president and CEO of Forum Corp., says indicate that you are a good leader.

1. You're a level-headed strategist. Graham says if you're great at forming and executing strategies, you may be a good leader. Since strategy is a basic building block of solid leadership, mastering this skill will easily help you keep the big picture in mind.

Running a business or a department requires not only managing the minutiae, but also seeing where you want to take the company or your team in the coming years. Not everyone is able to do both simultaneously, but if you're wired as a leader, you can balance the two:

"You are able to balance your thinking brain (prefrontal cortex) and emotional brain (amygdale) to stay focused on the task at hand, even in the face of anxiety," says Graham, "You are able to focus on the problem, look at things in entirely different ways and devise effective solutions."

If strategy doesn't come naturally for you, try setting aside time each week to think about the big picture and where you want to take your team. After a while, this practice may become second nature.

2. You learn from your mistakes. None of us like making mistakes, let alone owning up to them. But as a leader, trying to look perfect will only work against you. Mistakes are okay, as long as you learn from them. Graham says that good leaders look at their mistakes and realize that they need to take a different path to reach end results.

Good leaders also accept that their employees make mistakes. Rather than berate them, they help their staff understand why they were made, and help them find the best course of action from that mistake.

The next time you make a mistake, don't be shy about owning it. Figure out what you can learn from it so that you don't make it again.

3. You are a connector. If you loved connect the dot drawings as a kid, you were already well on your way to becoming a fabulous leader. Taking seemingly disparate pieces of data and synthesizing them to create a complete picture, says Graham, is key in strong leadership skills.

Many managers and leaders make the mistake of focusing on one area rather than how it's connected to other areas. This causes a lot to slip through the cracks.

Strong connector skills also mean that as a leader you can create relationships and connect people. This makes it easier when managing a team to create harmony and efficiency among your staff.

If you find yourself focusing on one thing rather than the big picture, try asking yourself what else is at play. You might discover ways to connect it to other areas of business.

Don't have all these skills right now? Graham says you shouldn't worry.

"If you do not see these signs in yourself, fear not - neuroscientists have identified several techniques to improve the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, or the part of the brain that connects with the anxiety brain. By diminishing anxiety, you enable the thinking brain to work more effectively. It is all about getting yourself in a better frame of mind and looking at the bigger picture to get you over the neurological hurdles that hold you back from being a good leader."

In the meantime, pay attention to how others at your company lead. What do you like about their style? What do they do that fit these three characteristics of a good leader? Don't be shy about asking what techniques they use to improve your own. Remember, strong leaders have the ability to admit weakness and work to self-improve.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.

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