Great leaders are interesting. They captivate, fascinate and intrigue us. It’s the interesting people with whom we want to engage, as they’re the ones who inspire and motivate us. The simple truth is few of us desire to be led by those whom we don’t find interesting. So my question is this: Are you interesting? In the text that follows I’ll share my thoughts on how anyone can become more interesting.

Most people I know think of themselves as being interesting people. That’s all well and good, but the real litmus test is whether or not others find you interesting. Are others desirous of having you be part of their inner circle, or do you constantly find yourself on the outside looking in? Do people seek you out for advice and counsel, or do they ignore you and just simply tolerate your presence? The real question is, do people hunger to be led by you?

While many find themselves in a position of leadership, few understand their role as a leader, and regrettably, fewer yet actually lead. These struggling leaders attempt to control people by imposing their will on others (not interesting), as opposed to attracting those who desire to be a part of their team and then creating an environment which frees them to innovate (very interesting).

It’s a very noisy world, and with more and more people adding to the chatter each and every day, it has become quite difficult to stand above the noise and be heard — this is particularly true if you bore people. Here’s the thing — you can have all the answers, but if people don’t want to hear them what good is all your brilliance? Perhaps the main benefit of being interesting is when you interest people they’ll seek you out — you won’t have to chase them down. When you do engage, they’ll listen.

These five items will help anyone become more interesting and, at the same time, will help you become a better leader.

  1. Be externally focused. You’ve heard me say it before: “Leadership isn’t about you, but what you can do for those whom you lead … it’s not about how much you can get out of your people, but rather how much leverage you can create FOR your people.” Leaders who are purposed about making those around them better will always be interesting and relevant. If you want to be interesting to others, be interested in others.
  2. Stay ahead of the curve. If what you offer (skills, knowledge, etc.) is dated, you simply won’t be interesting or effective. Interesting people are voracious learners and unlearners. They are passionate about both personal and professional development. Interesting people are in constant pursuit of betterment in all they do. They are intellectually, philosophically and emotionally curious. They’re rarely interested in best practices, but they are like heat-seeking missiles in search of next practices. You cannot be interesting if you’re not growing.
  3. Add value. Think about the most interesting people you know, and you’ll find they’re givers not takers. They add value to those they cross paths with. Interesting people aren’t just joiners, they’re contributors. If you want to be interesting, learn to add value in your roles, relationships, and interactions.
  4. Always leave them wanting more. A little mystique goes a long way to making you more interesting. Let me be clear — I’m not talking about playing games, but simply becoming astute in your interactions. Interesting people don’t conduct monologues — they participate in dialogues. You probably don’t like to be lectured, so what makes you think others want to be lectured by you? Interesting people spend far less time talking and much more time asking questions. If you want to be more interesting always leave them wanting more.
  5. More humility and less hubris. Think of humility as an attraction magnet and think of arrogance as a relationship repellent. The reality is people love authentic humility and they detest displays of arrogance. While you don’t have to be liked to be a leader, it certainly helps. Interesting people are slow to take credit, but quick to give it. Because interesting people rarely shine the light upon themselves, others are all too happy to make sure they receive the attention they so clearly deserve. If you want to be more interesting try exercising more humility.

There’s no denying it’s the interesting people we want have as friends, leaders, co-workers and associates. Smart leaders have long understood the key to relevance and influence in found in how interesting they are to others — do you?

About the author: Mike Myatt is a leadership adviser to CEOs and boards, author of “Leadership Matters,” a Forbes contributor and managing director at N2growth, where he authors the N2growth Blog. Follow Myatt on Twitter @MikeMyatt.

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4 responses to “5 steps to becoming more interesting — and a better leader”

  1. pagecole says:

    I think #2 is a critical factor in noting the difference between managers and leaders… managers maintain, keep the status quo, with an occasion tweak or coat of paint to give the appearance of growth. On the other hand, leaders MUST stay ahead of the curve; so far ahead, that when everyone else rounds the curve the leader is still out of site onto new territory.

    It's challenging to instill that quality in people we lead, I think, for several reasons:
    1) We've all been burnt by people that we challenged and gave the latitude to stretch and explore;
    2) It's easy to convince ourselves that WE are the leader, therefore WE need to be ahead of the curve, so there's no need for us to push others out there too;
    3) There is enough busyness in our business to keep us distracted, so there barely seems enough time for us to stretch and grow ourselves, let alone to instill that attitude, or provide those opportunities for others….

    Regardless of those excuses (and they are excuses), I think it's mission critical for any organization that wants to grow and succeed in an excellent manner to make "staying ahead of the curve" a priority for it's leaders and members.

    Thanks for the advice and encouragement!

  2. I always witness these qualities in action when I meet charismatic leaders. It's even funnier to see people that have these qualities and DON'T WANT to be leaders. In the end, they don't lead, people just follow them…
    Thank you for the clear summary :)

  3. Excellent article, much appreciated; the only thing that I would add, it is inferred in some of your point, but not clearly stated and that is: lead by example, don't ask others to do something that you wouldn't be willing to do yourself.

  4. Very thought-provoking! I specialize in coaching virtual team leaders, and I plan to build on your points with specifics as to how virtual leaders can be interesting. (If they're not, then everyone's doing email and otherwise tuning out!) Would also like to expand your ideas by offering specific "how-to" tips for people who lead virtual cross-cultural teams. Thanks for the inspiration! I will certainly attribute your ideas to my readers.