When you look back to the leaders who made the greatest impact on you, what was it that held your attention, caused you to wonder how they did what they did?   These are the leaders I call “badass”.  They’re not necessarily a Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon), but the ones in my camp were generally quiet, focused, thoughtful, with an underlying strength that defied expectations. 

What makes a badass leader?  Are you born with the qualities or can you develop them?  It’s a little bit of both and it doesn’t happen quickly.  You should shoot for it though, because badass leaders are the ones that the world, whether you define the world as the globe, or your own little business corner, looks to for inspiration and guidance.  So here are some steps to becoming badass, however you define it:

  1. Find your competence and expand it. Most of us are competent at something.  If you’re in the cannabis business no doubt you have some knowledge of mj and mj products.  But are you an expert?  If not, become one.  Learn as much as you can, whether it be self-study, mentoring or some combination of both.  You’re also in business, so learn all you can about business (let’s hope that’s why you’re reading this).  Many successful business people don’t have MBAs; many didn’t finish college.  They read, studied and became experts.  Think Michael Dell.
  2. Be open to being wrong. Send the message, through your demeanor and your actions, that you’re not afraid to be wrong, and understand that you often are.  If you screw up, admit to it.  When you state something that you’re not 100% sure is true, add to that statement that you might be mistaken.  It makes you seem more vulnerable to those around you, but also that you are more like them, far from perfect.
  3. Build trust with others. The first rule here is to fulfill promises.  If you agree to do something, do it or if you can’t, let those that are counting on you know that you can’t.  It’s easy to get caught on this one because most of us have to work within various kinds of deadlines and we just won’t meet all of them.  The second rule here is to keep a secret.  Admittedly this is a pet peeve of mine.  If an employee confides in you and asks you not to say anything to anyone, then don’t.  It’s that simple.  Or if you can’t keep it a secret, because it has a larger effect on the organization that must be addressed, let them know that you have to share it and why.
  4. Make those around you feel valued. Use every opportunity to build people up, especially if you can do it in front of others.  At your staff meetings, make it a point to highlight something amazing that someone at the meeting did.  Have impromptu celebrations of the achievements of others.  One on one, a simple pat on the back or “way to go”, is memorable to the person on the receiving end.  Make people feel good about themselves and the work they do.
  5. Be the person you want others to be.  If you want your coworkers and staff to be productive, stay focused, and have fun, then mimic that behavior yourself.  A badass leader will be copied by those around him/her.  It works in the negative too.  If you are late to meetings, distracted or idle, others will see that as allowable behavior, and may decide it’s okay for them to be that way too. Set the example of what you want to see around you.
  6. Take some risks. Don’t be afraid to try something new, or stand up for someone else, even when it may not be popular.  This is tricky because you may find yourself in a tough situation, especially if your partners have a problem with what you have done.  If you act from your core beliefs, doing what you think is right regardless of the consequences, most of the time you will come out on top.  And for those occasions where you don’t, take solace in the fact that you stood up for your beliefs or for someone else.

 In doing research for this article, I ran across a quote whose source is unknown that I thought was a good way to summarize what I consider a “badass” leader,

Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.

There are huge benefits to becoming a leader, among them being able to accomplish your goals, build up those around you, bring people together, and celebrate wins.  It’s hard work but the payoff is a sense that you have made a difference, that things wouldn’t function quite as well without you.  Do the work and be that leader whose absence would be felt.