5 Simple Leadership Hacks That Produce More Than You Think

Sometimes leadership can seem so overwhelming.

In reality, though, leadership is simpler than it first appears.

In many ways, great leaders master some very basic things that other people miss. The advice in this post is so simple you might be thinking “well, my mother used to tell me to do that”.

Maybe that’s the point.

You can have a Ph.D. in leadership and read everything there is on leadership and still not be effective.

And yet there are leaders who have little formal education but who lead powerfully and effectively every day.

Often, these leaders gain influence because they’ve mastered a few basic skills others miss.

Here are 5 of my absolute favorite basic leadership skills that are far too easy to overlook. Some you can start today (as in right now), while one or two may take some time.

Still, these deliver far more than you’d think they would. Own them, and you’ll become a much more effective leader.

1. Make someone else the hero

Few of us have a healthy relationship with ourselves.

The narcissists make it all about them.

Insecure people focus on themselves because they can’t bear to give anyone else air time.

And even people who lack confidence can end up being selfish because their lack of self-esteem means no one else gets attention.

How do you escape the trap of narcissism, insecurity or low self-confidence?

Just make someone else the hero.

I learned this years ago from my friend Reggie Joiner (who does an exceptional job of pushing other people into the spotlight). Recently, Dave Ferguson released an incredible book called Hero Maker. Believe it or not, the key to becoming a reproducing church and creating a generation of leaders behind you is making someone else the hero.

Bottom line? Push other people into the spotlight, and you’ll create leaders, not followers.

This has other applications too. If you’re a preacher, like me, make sure you point to God, not to yourself when you speak. Worry more about whether people connect with God than whether they connect with you.

What else does this principle look like?

Well, if you’re a writer, make your reader the hero. The filter through which I try to run every post I write on this blog is what I call a “helpful” filter. I want the post to help you as a reader. I want you to win.

Think about it. You and I love leaders who point beyond themselves to someone else. Why not be that leader?

So when you struggle with narcissism, insecurity or low self-confidence (and we all do…me too), step aside and make someone else the hero.

It works. Every time.

2. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it

If there’s one piece of advice I want my sons to remember, other than everything I taught them about Jesus, it’s this:

Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.

It puts you ahead of about 99% of the planet.

Think back on your last week. Who frustrated you most? Probably the people who didn’t do what they said they were going to do when they said they were going to do it.

Now picture the people you lead. Who are you most likely to promote, reward or even want to hang out with? The people who do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it.

Doing what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it is the basis of trust. It’s also the basis for confidence.

Hey…sometimes I’m still the guy who didn’t do what he said he was going to do when he said he was going to do it. But I try so hard not to be that guy.

So what do you do if you struggle in this area? Just stop promising and start delivering.

When your walk catches up to what your talk would have been, reintroduce your talk.

3. Focus on outcomes

Also in the ‘please stop driving me nuts’ category are people who focus on process, not outcomes.

I realize it’s axiomatic these days to say the journey is more important than the destination. But not always. Really. Come on. What fun is the journey if you end up nowhere with any meaning?

It’s frustrating when you ask someone if something is done and they tell you

Well, I emailed him.

She never got back to me.

I’ve called 5 times.

I think they must have changed their address or something.

And they feel like the project is complete because they tried.

Trying isn’t the same as doing.

Often, I feel like saying “You didn’t hear the question. The questions is Is it done?

A few years ago, I started encouraging the leaders I work with to stop focusing on process, and start focusing on outcomes.

When you focus on outcomes, you eventually stop emailing someone who never returns emails and you text them instead, or call them, or go to their office, or release them and find someone who will help you get the project done.

If you focus on outcomes, you’ll also have a shot at mastering #2. If you don’t, you never will.

And getting things done actually makes the journey more enjoyable, at least in my view.

4. Look people in the eye

Sure, this is an “I don’t need a blog post to remind me of this”. (So is the next point, by the way.)

But do you ever notice how hard it is to actually look someone in the eye—to make them the sole focus on your attention?

I’m pretty sure I’m ADD and it’s so hard for me not to focus on shiny objects, moving parts or anything else in the room. Or my phone for that matter.

But the most effective leaders always look someone in the eye.

Sometimes I’m in a conversation with someone and I’ll create a voice in my head that just keeps repeating “Look them in the eye…look them in the eye.” It helps.

I’ll even position myself in a restaurant or coffee shop so I face a blank wall, not the door or a TV. Otherwise, I just instinctively look at whatever is moving.

Watch for it…the very best leaders look you in the eye and make you the sole focus of their attention.

Practice that this week.

5. Smile

Everyone has a default expression. It’s hard to know what yours is because you never see yourself as others see you.

I learned years ago that my default facial expression is…uptight. If I’m having a good time, I apparently forgot to tell my face.  I’m also a fast walker, so I tend to look uptight and annoyed.

How’s that for a guy who’s leading you?

People have given me very helpful advice like walk slowly across the room and smile. 

I know that’s so basic, but remember, you’re programming against your default here, so it’s not easy.

I have to remind myself to smile when I teach, to smile when I greet people and to smile in conversations.

It makes a huge difference.

Apparently Michael Hyatt has a similar issue and in this post outlined 5 positive impacts of smiling more as a leader.

So smile. 🙂

What Would You Add?

So that’s my short list of ultra simple leadership hacks. What are some you’d add to the list?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Simple Leadership Hacks That Produce More Than You Think


  1. FAB FOUR! | on July 27, 2018 at 12:27 am

    […] 5 simple leadership hacks you don’t want to […]

  2. […] 5 Simple Leadership Hacks That Produce More Than You Think by Carey Nieuwhof. This post is so application oriented! #3 might just change your world. […]

  3. Bridget on March 23, 2018 at 4:52 am

    Thank people often, and specifically.

  4. Silas Ntia on March 23, 2018 at 2:23 am

    I Love this.
    Leadership is not for the past but for the Future.
    Leader’s Producing More Leaders.

  5. Olaniran Michael on March 22, 2018 at 11:55 pm

    Taking Responsibilities as a leader to the flaws and Error of those around you. Teaches them a great deal and next time makes them to do it better

  6. Aaron Kane Sriskandarajah on March 22, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    This is GOLD! Please talk more on Make Someone Else The Hero. Need more clarity around it.

  7. Doug Bartlett on March 22, 2018 at 10:11 am

    I would add COMMUNICATE!

  8. Pablo Suarez on March 22, 2018 at 10:00 am

    muchas gracias! You talk about simples things that our parents teach us and we forgot!
    God Bless You!

  9. Eric on March 22, 2018 at 9:47 am

    I spent a few years in Student Admissions, recruiting potential students at a seminary. One of the things we were told by our boss was “smile when you are taking on the telephone.” It’s amazing the difference it makes in tone!

    • Gill on March 22, 2018 at 11:08 am

      I was told “smile to the point of a grin before you pick up the phone.” Sure, you feel like an idiot, but it comes across in your voice!

      • Eric North on April 1, 2018 at 9:08 am

        I worked at a call center for a while enrolling employees at various companies in their next years health benefits. We were told when we take a call to smile as we’re doing the enrollment. It really does work.

  10. Kevin on March 22, 2018 at 9:43 am

    These are great principles for anyone at any level of leadership. Thanks for making others the hero, Carey!

  11. david.bratlie on March 22, 2018 at 9:35 am

    I’m not good at this, but… LEARN THEIR NAME! There is no more important word in the English language than our own names. While meeting someone for the first time, get their name, ask for clarification if it is difficult to pronounce and make sure you get this right, then repeat their name to them in the conversation and also in your head while listening to them.

    If I focus on the name AND listening to what they are seeing, I pay them a HUGE compliment the next time we meet and I greet them by name, especially if their name is difficult to pronounce and I get it right. Nothing shows value and respect more than remembering their name.

    • Garry Kolb on March 23, 2018 at 9:17 am

      David, I so agree with this. Remembering a name is huge in making people feel a part and welcome. Thanks again David.

  12. Carol on March 22, 2018 at 9:26 am

    These are very practical things that I can certainly work on.

    Thank you!

    • peter on March 23, 2018 at 5:45 am

      Am blessed. They may seem to be simple as you put it,but they are powerful and biblical.For example John the Baptist made Jesus the Hero. Jesus later declared there is no greater prophet than John! Thanks for sharing this wealth with us.Am practicing.
      God bless you.

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