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Who is a leader? How do you define one?

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The term “leader” tends to get overused.

How do you define a leader?

The term “leader” tends to get overused in my opinion. People tend to use it to describe point people on a management team or those who manage to work their way up the ranks of a business or political hierarchy. In fact, leaders can lead from the bottom up, as well as from a variety of positions on a team or in a company. Being a leader is about listening, motivating, and trying to make your work move a project or idea forward without regard to your own personal benefits. Leadership is focusing on what your team knows and not on advancing what you know so that you feel personally validated. Leadership is about recognizing the efforts of others and empowering them to stretch themselves and accomplish more than they thought possible. Leaders inspire and instill confidence. Leadership is listening, learning and then leading. Good leaders are lifetime learners, and they listen twice as much as they talk. I am quite partial to the quote, “Seek first to understand and then be understood.”

What do you want to achieve as a leader?

I want to be fulfilled by the work I do for and with others. I seek to share my story and inspire others to reach their full potential, as well as to help the community I live in and serve.

Who is or would be a good minority role model?

I hear many people say that they became successful because they worked hard. Most of the people I know work very hard, but that alone doesn’t always mean they are successful. I became successful because people helped me in areas that I was not yet effective in and because I had great mentors who helped to guide me and challenged me to grow. Many times, people gave me the benefit of the doubt that I had potential, and that inspired me to work even harder. The mentors that I had are my role models, and so now I try to pay that support forward by mentoring others as well.

What is some advice you would tell your past self?

I would tell my past self not to be afraid to ask for help, as well as to ask someone to be my mentor. I would also tell my past self to have more courage to attend events and meet as many people as I could. The more people you meet the more you learn. I wish I had taken the time to learn how others faced challenges and made a difference earlier on. It’s like the quote says, “Sometimes all it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage; one moment of embarrassing bravery.”

(Rokas Beresniovas, a leader in the Washington, DC, area, is currently a Vice President at the State Bank of India (California). He serves on the boards of the Joy of Motion Dance Center, Peebles of Hope, Embassy Series, Georgetown Business Association and Global Tassels.)

More from Rokas Beresniovas:

How not to waste someone else’s time (February 1, 2016)

How to exit a less than productive conversation (January 25, 2016)

How to tell if someone is worth your time in 5 minutes or less (January 18, 2016)