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4 Ways to Distinguish Yourself as a Leader

By Maxwell Leadership | September 12, 2023
4 Ways to Distinguish Yourself as a Leader

It’s said that an aid group in South Africa once wrote to missionary and explorer David Livingstone asking, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other men to join you.”

Livingstone replied, “If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come even if there is no road at all.”

Becoming an Outstanding Leader

In today’s culture climate, there are millions of people trying to lead – and many, yielding few results. That’s because effective leadership asks a lot of those who seek to fill the role. It isn’t confined to a job description, doesn’t take the easy route, and doesn’t seek recognition for itself. But leaders who are willing to do what others won’t, will initiate true transformation.

If you want to distinguish yourself as a leader, consider these 4 approaches:


The ability to accomplish difficult tasks earns others’ respect very quickly. In Developing the Leader Within You, leadership expert John Maxwell points out that one of the quickest ways to gain influence is problem solving.

Problems continually occur at work, at home, and in life in general. My observation is that people don’t like problems, weary of them quickly, and will do almost anything to get away from them. This climate makes others place the reins of leadership into your hands – if you are willing and able to either tackle their problems or train them to solve them. Your problem-solving skills will always be needed because people always have problems.

Not only does taking on tough jobs earn you respect, but it also helps you become a better leader. You learn resilience and tenacity during tough assignments, not easy ones. When tough choices have to be made and results are difficult to achieve, leaders are forged.


Former U.S. senator Sam Nunn said, “You have to pay the price. You will find that everything in life exacts a price, and you will have to decide whether the price is worth the prize.”

To become a standout leader, you will have to pay a price. You will have to give up other opportunities in order to lead. You will have to sacrifice some personal goals for the sake of others. You will have to get out of your comfort zone and do things you’ve never done before. You will have to keep learning and growing when you don’t feel like it. You will have to repeatedly put others ahead of yourself. And if you desire to be a really good leader, you will have to do these things without fanfare or complaint.

But remember, as NFL legend George Halas said, “Nobody who ever gave their best ever regretted it.”


Yes – it does seem counterintuitive to distinguish oneself by working behind the scenes, but as English novelist and poet Emily Bronte said, “If I could I would always work in silence and obscurity, and let my efforts be known by their results.”

Not everyone wants to be out of the spotlight as she did. But it’s important for a leader to learn to work in obscurity because it is a test of personal integrity. The key is being willing to do something because it matters, not because it will get you noticed.


Leaders with the humility to admit their mistakes earn the good will of their leaders and their followers. But there’s a big difference between admitting a fault and making an excuse: taking, or escaping, responsibility. We can learn from faults we know we have; we cannot learn from excuses we make. When we can learn, we can grow, which ultimately shapes our results for the better.

Steven Brown, president of the Fortune Group, summed up this issue: “Essentially there are two actions in life: Performance and excuses. Make a decision as to which you will accept from yourself.”


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