Ten Secrets Of Inspiring Leaders
1. Exploit The Power Of Nothingness.
Elon Musk and Bill Gates are not the first original thinkers to understand that doing nothing is essential if you want to think more creatively. Musk, I am told, takes long solitary showers. Gates, it is reported, spends up to a month at a time alone in a cabin.
Huge breakthroughs in science, technology, and the arts, it seems, have come to people who were in the bath (Archimedes) or on a walk (Tesla.) Even Leonardo da Vinci, who took more than ten years to complete the Mona Lisa, clearly benefited greatly from what some of us might dismiss as procrastination.
It makes sense. When you recall the last time you had a flash of insight, was your brow furrowed in concentration or were you, in fact, busy with something else?
It has been proven that our brain’s capacity for generation increases exponentially when our pre-frontal cortex is relaxed. The latest cranial imaging backs this up, supporting the validity of “Eureka” moments, associated with bursts of high-frequency activity in the brain’s right temporal lobe. These bursts are preceded by a “brain blink” which signifies that the individual has been less aware of the environment around them. Crucially, these patterns are not seen during analytic thinking.
For me, mindless meandering is induced when I’m driving or doing chores. For some people, it’s when they’re running. For others, it’s when they’re working in the garden. Being outdoors in nature seems to help all of our conscious brains switch off, allowing the necessary space for original thought.
Be clear about you goal, commit it to paper, focus on it, and then put it away and forget about it. You can never be sure when your creative brain will come up with a breakthrough idea or novel solution. But if you want more Eureka moments in your life, you’ll need to start by clearing your diary to take time out. Garden, hike, tidy. Do whatever helps you to meander mindlessly. And if you want more original thought from your teams, don’t bring them in for “a brainstorm.” Lead them out on a wordless walk in the park.
When it comes to allowing space and time in nothingness to allow new ideas to come into being, how do you rate your own performance on a scale of 1 to 10?
2. Committed Not Attached
Think of a situation at work where you found your sense of playfulness and ease being challenged -perhaps you were stressed by an exchange or exhausted by trying to perfect a task. In any case, it got you wound up. You felt stressed, tight in your chest possibly.
I’m willing to bet that you were making whatever the situation was about – all about you.
There may be some part of you that believes that delivering a positive outcome will mean you are not a loser. In other words, you are attached.
If you’ve ever had the mindset of ‘I am this project/relationship. If it succeeds then I succeed, if it fails, I have failed, You are attached. But you don’t have to make the outcome all about you. There is another way.
If you can say: ‘This project is my responsibility and I commit fully to a positive outcome, but whether it succeeds or fails will not impact who I am or how I see myself,’ this is being committed without being attached.
This will help you with success and with failure. If you make your own failures personal, or if you make the failures of your team or your company personal, it has a ripple effect that will pull you down.
Now, it is very hard not to make failure all about you, especially if you’re accustomed to making every success about you – and I respect that. There is, however, another way.
As a leader you are ultimately responsible for every project that comes out of your company. And you should always take full responsibility, whether or not you were intimately responsible for it, or not. If it fails or if it succeeds, you are responsible. But that’s very different from making it about you.
You can be 100% responsible but not at all to blame.
When it comes to being committed but NOT attached, how do you rate your own performance on a scale of 1 to 10?
3. Clear About Values
The most inspiring leaders understand that we’re much more drawn to people whose values resonate with our own, so they clearly message what (or who) they stand for.
You may feel, “My company’s been around for years without being a stand for anything. We’ve lasted this long without having a value statement. Why do we need one now? Won’t it look like we’re coming to this too late? Wouldn’t it have been better for us to have done this at launch?”
There is a Chinese Proverb: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”
Perhaps your clients and colleagues don’t already know that you care deeply about the environment, but your friends and family know. By saying, we give a percentage of our profits to environmental causes, you’re just letting co-workers and buyers know what people who are close to you know already. In the process, you and your company will start to stand out from the crowd.
You may worry that by saying “Our company is all about nurturing young talent” that will scare away employees, advisers or clients who are not from young. In fact, it will help you attract a much higher caliber employees, advisers, clients and eventually even a buyer. Because it will attract employees, advisers and clients whose own values resonate with yours. They may not be young themselves, but they respect and admire the ambition to nurture evolving talent.
When it comes to clearly communicating your company’s values, how do you rate your own performance on a scale of 1 to 10?
4, Hire Gen Z
Inspiring leaders, and the only ones with a future understand that Gen Z are the future, the demographic everyone wants. By the end of next year, Generation Z will be the largest group of consumers globally.
Media companies require high levels of cooperation, involving an ability to submerge your own concerns for the good of the team. This is incompatible with Gen Z.
Yet unless you only want to hire entry-level people over 30 and produce content Gen Z will never consume, this challenging generation is an important part of your company’s future. Forget trying to change or manage them. If you don’t want to fade away into irrelevance, you need to understand them.
When it comes to hiring Gen-Z, how do you rate your own performance on a scale of 1 to 10?
5. Don’t Think They’re Too Old
A study, conducted by professors from MIT and Northwestern, together with the principal economist from the Census Bureau, found that even in consumer-facing high tech industries, the average age of leaders falls in the early forties. In other industries such as oil and gas or biotechnology, the average age is closer to 47.
When you look at the most successful startups, the average age of the founder (at launch) goes up, not down. Empirical evidence shows that successful entrepreneurs tend to be middle-aged, not young.
The study’s findings point to entrepreneurial performance rising sharply with age before peaking in the late fifties.
Greater access to financial resources and deeper social networks may contribute. Work experience certainly plays a critical role. “Relative to leaders with no relevant experience, those with at least three years of prior work experience in the same narrow industry as their startup were 85% more likely to launch a highly successful start-up.”
I have found that when it comes to how we see ourselves, and others, we nearly always assume the perspective of 20 years ago. So, at 45 we judge ourselves as our 25-year-old self would have done. We tell ourselves we’re tired and past it. At 65 years we see ourselves as ready to retire because that’s the perspective we had about being 65 when we were 45.
This problem is made worse by the fact that so many of our ideas were shaped when we were in our teens and early twenties, when our grandparents were in their 50s or 60s and anyone past the age of 40 seemed ancient.
That’s why it can be so helpful to check in with your future self and have a chat with yourself from the perspective of 20 years in the future. If you are 45, your 65-year-old self will doubtless urge you not to squander the energy and vitality you currently have. If you’re 65, your 85-year-old self will be even more encouraging. And if you’re only 25 and think you’re too old to launch a new business, your 45-year-old self will hopefully give you the kind of slap which this reality check from Harvard suggests you deserve.
When it comes to seeing yourself as vital, how do you rate your own performance on a scale of 1 to 10?
6. Great At Giving Or Receiving Feedback
We Hear Feedback As Criticism – Which We Are Hard-Wired To Reject Feedback is a word deliberately chosen for its neutrality. It’s intended to be neither positive nor negative; neither criticism nor praise. Just feedback. Yet, no matter how it is delivered, feedback has come to be understood as “criticism.”
Inspiring leaders don’t Wait for feedback – actively ask for it. Rather than waiting for feedback, I solicit it from my clients with three very simple questions:
What are you getting from me that you want more of?
What are you getting from me that you want less of?
What are you not getting from me that you want?
Let it sink In. Spend a day or two evaluating the feedback you’ve been given. Does the criticism seem true? Does it describe limitations which other people may have pointed out before?
Just say “Thank You.” Even if you’re certain you’re right and the feedback is wrong, being defensive could shut down future criticism or, worse, get you labeled as “un-coachable” by your colleagues. The only response to constructive criticism is to say “Thank you.”
Inspiring leaders are safe in the knowledge that the honesty of team mates and their own ability to hear it will make the experience of working together way more enriching for both team mate and leader.
When it comes to giving and receiving feedback, how do you rate your own performance on a scale of 1 to 10?
7. Don’t Try To Do Everything
Let’s be clear. When you started out you probably did everything on your own – because you had to, because no one else was there to support you, because you could. You could answer emails, get the phone, make coffee, write proposals, look over contracts, take meetings, interview staff, meet the bank manager, design the website, send out a press release. Sure, it was a bit exhausting, but also fun – and you got to be in charge of everything which is one reason a lot of us started a company in the first place.
But these days, there is ONE job only you can do – and that’s being a leader. When it comes to “being you” no one else can stand in. Clients, stakeholders and the press only want to meet the founder, key employees need to meet the ultimate boss. You cannot delegate the kind of leadership that only you can bring.
In order to create space for you to lead you have to delegate all the rest. The legals, the accounting, the drafting, the designing, the press-releases and all those other endless meetings, everything else can and should be done by other people.
hen it comes to ensuring you give yourself time and space to an inspiring leader, how do you rate your own performance on a scale of 1 to 10?
8. Don’t Allow Past Failure To Dictate The Future
inspiring leaders don’t allow their fear of failure to hold them back.
Raised in a world that puts such a high value on success, it’s only to be expected that we would grow up fearing failure. But here’s the thing: Stuck in a fear of failure you will never drive your business to great success.
Let me ask you: Does it seem to you as though failure is the opposite of success? I promise you, it is NOT. Trying and failing multiple times is necessary to your business’s success.
I would encourage you to think of all your failures, breakdowns, aborted attempts in the past, as the necessary stepping stones to your future success
When we’re succeeding in meeting our own goals and everything’s going ‘right’, it can be very hard to explain quite how it happened. Success is very hard to learn from or repeat.
Failure on the other hand, well, we can usually identify the various factors that made something go wrong.
Failure means I made a commitment which I did not keep, or listed a goal that I did not achieve.
The only sure-fire way I know to completely avoid failure is to never make commitments, never set intentions and never state your goals. A life without failure is a life without striving.
Of course, no one knowingly aims for failure. We hope for success. But, unless what we’re striving for is so easily within our grasp that reaching for it wouldn’t qualify as striving, we inevitably need to fail multiple times in order to succeed. This is true of every area of endeavour, from learning a new skill to launching a new company; from committing to being a good friend to becoming an inspiring leader.
The thing is, when you don’t fail, you don’t allow yourself to become stronger in that process, resulting in the kind of resilience that is universally understood to be core to being a successful leader.
When you protect yourself from failing, you stop taking risks. Yet risk taking and experimentation are vital to your success.
When it comes to embracing your failures, learning from them and moving on, how do you rate your own performance on a scale of 1 to 10?
9. Ask For Help
done everything on your own. And you may have some very negative feelings about being helped.
So here’s a thought: You probably DON’T NEED any help. Your business can probably chug a long, just as it has been. But ithe most inspiring leaders are great at enrolling others, and asking for support and guidance.
Ask yourself these questions:
• Did I get where I got on my own?
• How good am I at enrolling other people?
• How much support and guidance from others do I have?
• Do I seek advice?
• If I offered am practical support, advice or connections, how would I react?
When it comes to giving and receiving feedback, how do you rate your own performance for each, on a scale of 1 to 10?
10. Don’t Pretend To Be Perfect
inspiring leaders don’t pretend to be perfect. Instead of trying to be the best, they strive to simply do their own personal best.