Stepping Up: Becoming an Effective Leader Within, and Beyond, the Work Walls

A version of this post originally appeared in National Mortgage Professional Magazine

Many mortgage pros are taking time to reflect on how they’re tracking against their 2021 goals and how those goals might need to be adjusted. Many questions might be swirling in your mind: Are you satisfied in your current role or roles? Do you need to sharpen your technology skills or your product and program knowledge? Are you a part of an engaged team and connecting with them? How are you doing overall? Additionally, how do you feel you are performing as a leader both inside and outside of your work environment?

To keep 2021 going strong, it’s important to step back and take a look at your trajectory for the rest of the year and how you’re performing as a leader and exhibiting leadership qualities whether you’re in a managerial role, or the head of your household.

Let’s discuss what makes a leader and how you can incorporate those qualities into your daily life both at home and at work.

Manager vs. Leader

While a manager and a leader may seem synonymous, the qualities and responsibilities between the two are a bit different. Being a manager is more of a skillset and job requirement. For example, following compliance and regulatory demands, being accountable for a team and being a task manager.

As a manager, you are responsible for your own tasks as well as ensuring that your team also is completing their tasks, being diligent and abiding by company and team rules and following policies and procedures. If a ball is dropped or a deadline missed, it’s mostly left to the manager to sort out.

When it comes to being a leader, it’s about instilling strong qualities in your teammates. Leaders aspire to inspire and empower. Additionally, they’re responsible for rallying the troops and leading them to victory. For many, leadership is something that requires practice and ultimately takes time to develop. However, there are four specific leadership traits that will help elevate any leader:


Don’t get too wrapped up in the now, look toward the future, understand what the end goal is and determine how to achieve it. Whether you’re working by yourself or with your team, it’s important to have the ability to see what you’re trying to accomplish and the best way to reach the end goal.


Remove obstacles that preclude folks from contributing and build an environment rich in diversity.


Empowering others to do what is needed to achieve the end goal is critical and will not only keep morale high, but it also will instill in each team member independence and ownership over their part of the process or project.


Enlist others in your vision and goals and inspire them to be engaged and perform their duties.

Becoming a Leader Everywhere

Being a leader is not limited to the board room or where you sit on the organization chart. Leadership qualities can be exhibited in the home, PTA meetings, book clubs, your community, and more. There is a quote by Napoleon Bonaparte that particularly resonates with me in the current environment, “A leader is a dealer of hope.” We all have the power and position to make a difference. Leadership is about encouraging others and building them up. Additionally, leaders act with integrity, honesty, and respect for others, while bringing the best out of others.

Leaders like Brené Brown and Tony Robbins didn’t start at the top with all leadership skills intact. They had to work on it day in and day out, find their heroes and inspirations, and grow from there. The key to effective leadership is best described using the old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Leaders take the time to work on their skills by reading books, listening to podcasts or TED Talks, and participating in classes and webinars. LinkedIn Learning has become a popular tool among leaders to strengthen their skills.

Not everyone wants an office in the “C” suite, but remind yourself that it’s important to invest in yourself throughout the year. Expanding your occupational skill set is always beneficial to you and your organization, but also don’t be afraid to explore a passion, learn a new language or take an online cooking class. While many believe leaders are born, which may be partially true, a good leader sees no bounds to what and where they can lead. As long as they seek to empower and motivate others while continuing their own journey through education, the leadership qualities simply fall into place.

One selfless act of kindness can change someone’s life in the moment including yours. Let’s all be leaders in 2021.

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