Human resources expert Dave Ulrich urges leaders to become anthropologists of their organizations. He counsels that observing your firm from an outsider’s perspective will give you new insights.
Rose Park Advisors co-founder Whitney Johnson uses E.M. Rogers’s S-curve model to show how seven “touch points” can accelerate the business or personal disruption that leads to innovation: 1) Take smart risks, 2) leverage your strengths, 3) celebrate constraints, 4) avoid entitlement, 5) learn and grow, 6) see failure as a teacher, and 7) be flexible and improvise as necessary.
“Do not judge me by my successes…Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” (Nelson Mandela)
Patrick Lencioni, best-selling author and founder of The Table Group, advocates self-reflection. Think deeply about yourself and your personal qualities. Are these qualities what they should be? Are you a positive influence?
Executive coach Taavo Godtfredsen urges leaders to become self-aware and to focus on their impact – not their intentions. Presumably, all leaders have good intentions. If there’s a gap between your good intentions and your actions, close it.
“We want to be ourselves, to be heard, yet growth is the process of extending our views, seeking to understand the views of others, and abandoning views that no longer serve us.” (CEO Susan Scott, Fierce Inc.)
Susan Scott, the author of Fierce Conversations, argues that relationships depend on conversation. If you stop talking with someone, your relationship will wither and die. In business, relationships are your most valuable currency.
True leaders serve others.
Leadership is a noble calling based on serving others. Here, noted business experts offer their suggestions about putting your leadership into action:
- Every good leader can improve – Coaching benefits everyone by helping people become better leaders and providing valuable learning and understanding. (Jim Yong Kim, president, World Bank Group)
- Leaders have grave responsibilities– People depend on their leaders, who must be honest, act morally and protect their employees. (Margaret Heffernan, author, The Naked Truth)
- Model your leadership after the first US president, George Washington– Allan Mulally, former CEO of Ford Motor Company, embodies three principles of George Washington’s leadership style: Put your people first, pay attention to your subordinates’ advice and stay emotionally strong. (Eric Schurenberg, editor in chief and president, magazine)
- Sir Richard Branson follows Nelson Mandela’s five leadership principles– Branson defines these principles as: 1) Your mission, not your setbacks, should define you. 2) If you fail, get up, dust off and begin again. 3) Get the help you need. 4) Concentrate on what you care about most. And, 5) even though you’re not perfect, you can make a difference. (Mark C. Thompson, patron of 400-plus firm under the Virgin brand)
- Learn from the aborigines– Australia’s Pitjantjatjara aboriginal tribe believes in “dreamtime, or world-making.” Tribe members say that their ancestors “sang” their way across the primordial world, fashioning the landscape, plants and creatures. They teach that if you transform the story, you change the landscape and thus change your choices and your mind so you can change the world. (Stephanie Pace Marshall, author, The Power to Transform)
- Lead the US Marine Corps way– Many current leaders complain about the disengagement of millennials and generation Z employees. The US Marines draw from the same age cohort, but its recruits become highly engaged in response to the Marine Corps’ high expectations. Expect more from your young workers. (USMC Major General, Ret. Mel Spiese)
- Try to emulate the traits of good leaders– Principled leaders are humble, confident, assertive and accessible. They are good listeners and careful decision makers. (CEO Jack Zenger, Zenger Folkman leadership consultancy)
Life offers myriad moments that will define your identity and purpose in the years to come.
Every human life offers singular instances of insight that mold character and inspire new life journeys, as these experts explain:
- Everyone can use a little coaching – Tennis players and skiers relish instruction, but executives aren’t always open to coaching. Accept a coach’s comments as insightful feedback that can help you improve. (CEO Hubert Joly, Best Buy)
- Scope out the motifs– Themes are the understated but essential patterns that reveal how organizations work. Leaders should decipher a firm’s independent and dependent variables and differentiate between correlation and causality. (Rita McGrath, author, The End of Competitive Advantage)
- You can’t develop in your comfort zone – If you think you can’t attain certain goals, you’re limiting yourself. To grow, be brave and try new things. (Beverly Kaye, founder, Career Systems International)
- Self-protection locks away your heart– Mental walls hurt you and make it nearly impossible for you to understand the world. Blow up your walls to fully develop as a person. (Catherine Carr, project coordinator, Doctors Without Borders)
- Myopic thinking hurts companies – Leaders must avoid short-term thinking, take the long view and always think strategically. (Jeffrey S. Kuhn, educator, founding member, Strategic Management Forum)
- Your daily habits make you a success– You might be a talented competitor, but if you don’t work hard, a less-talented hard worker will always beat you. Every person has multiple choices. You can change your life. To believe change is possible, open your thinking and free yourself from the limitations of your preconceptions. (Prakash Raman, founder, Raman Consulting)
Leaders should always open doors for others.
Through their words and actions, leaders are responsible for providing new opportunities for their people:
- New knowledge generates additional new insights– In executive coaching, everything starts with a thoughtful question that leads to a useful insight, new actions and positive changes in behavior. (Michael Bungay Stanier, founder, Box of Crayons; author, The Coaching Habit)
- Business can be a noble undertaking – Handled correctly, a business can give people joy, help them put aside suffering, and provide them with tools to improve themselves and their community. (Garry Ridge, CEO, WD-40 Company)
- Many people misunderstand leadership – They think leaders are transactional and that becoming a leader is merely the by-product of hierarchy and privilege. Sadly, they believe that leaders don’t aspire to anything greater than themselves. True leaders give selfless, devoted service to their organizations and their employees. (US Army Brigadier General, Ret., Tom Kolditz, founding director, The Ann & John Doerr Institute for New Leaders, Rice University)
- How did Peter Drucker view a leader’s primary responsibility?– A leader must adequately maintain his or her energy and bring together the energy of his or her people. (Pawel Motyl, author, Labyrinth: The Art of Decision-Making)
- You can’t hold onto your best employees without a strong corporate culture– More than half of any organization’s employees want to find jobs elsewhere. Companies that want to retain their employees must have a culture that sustains and excites them. Senior executives should embrace and shape the corporate culture so employees love where they work. (Alex Osterwalder, author, Business Model Generation and Value Proposition Design)
Be optimistic about the future.
The world can become a better place through strong, visionary leadership, the right ambitious actions, and the proper investment of time, effort and capital.
“The more power you have – the more weight your title carries – the more likely you are to be blind to your shortcomings as a leader.”
Dignified work that engages and sustains workers can become the norm rather than the exception. Communities can enrich the lives of their members. Some thoughts on this and related topics include:
- Put your trust in the millennials and generation Z– These motivated young people will help build a better future. (Frances Hesselbein, chair, University of Pittsburgh’s Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum, and former CEO, Girl Scouts of America)
- Heed the message of What Do People Do All Day? – In this wonderfully illustrated children’s book by Richard Scarry, the characters Farmer Alfalfa, Abby Rabbit, Mayor Fox, Mommy Stitches and Doctor Lion demonstrate how everyone contributes to the smooth functioning of Busytown. Its inspirational message shows that people can have a great life if they work together. It teaches that “the essence of work is love made visible.” (Sarah McArthur, author and editor)
- The world isn’t a blood thirsty spectacle in a Roman coliseum– While the media seem to portray everything as an armed clash, it’s time for a less sensationalist perspective. Try viewing the world’s problems as projects the participants can successfully complete to everyone’s benefit. (David Allen, author, Getting Things Done)
- American men are in trouble, but this can change – Almost one-third of men aged 20 years or older in the United States have no jobs. Most of these men spend their time watching TV and playing video games. They need inspiration. All people dream when they are young; these men can learn to dream again. (Whitney Johnson, author, Disrupt Yourself)
- You can learn to become optimistic– Start by being grateful for everything you have. To develop gratitude, tell the people close to you three things for which you are thankful. (CEO Asheesh Advani, Junior Achievement Worldwide)
- Don’t worry, be happy– Happy employees are more engaged, learn more quickly and achieve more success than unhappy employees. Everyone has a basic human right to be happy, but achieving happiness requires developing self-knowledge and living your values. Work hard to enhance your relationships and pursue your dreams. (Annie McKee, author, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education senior fellow)