A Leader’s Disciplines, Perceptions & Habits
1.Be open and honest about taking risks and encourage others to do same
In developing Elegant Leaders, there’s a rhythm between following the gut and the heart. While some answers need to be in black-and-white, there’s also your answer. Although your answer may be different, maybe even a bit risky, it’s your risk to take and it’s your outcome to manage.
Leaders are ultimately judged on the results they deliver. Sometimes it can be easier for leaders to tread water, especially when things seem to be going well. Frankly, continued creativity, innovation and risk-taking are critical to leadership success:
Leadership success is about finding new or better ways of doing things in meeting the needs of customers.
Leadership success is birthed from the germ of an idea or concept that needs cultivating.
Leadership success is about finding different solutions to long-standing problems that get in the way of results.
Leaders need to be willing to jump into the pool of uncertainty without allowing for fear of failure to stop them.
This approach has many leaders well, and here’s why: Without trial and error — and risk-taking — you remain stagnant, predictable and, ultimately, you will become complacent. Risks are about pushing yourself until you’re operating outside of your comfort zone — with good judgment of course — and allowing yourself to take a step that might feel uncomfortable at first. Growing and realizing your full potential requires it.
Anticipate Mistakes. You may not win every time, but you sure as hell won’t lose either. Ensure you minimize the potential fallout or blowback whenever possible and develop mitigating and contingency plans to re-deploy as necessary should a risk not pan out. Fear is a trap of indecision. Don’t wimp out and become afraid to make a mistake. Mistakes are one of the best ways we learn and develop into our best selves.
Start Small. If you are a bit more conservative or risk-averse, then try them in baby steps. A pilot or a simple test before taking the big leap is one step you can make. This method will allow you to see the outcome before the impact or the mistakes are too great.
Listen to Your Gut and Your Heart. There is no perfect answer and why should there be – it’s called risk-taking – a gut reaction, an instinct. Allow yourself the ability to follow it. Avoid falling into fear of failure by overthinking things, coming up with reasons “not to” justifying your fears.
Decide on Less Than Complete and Clean Data. Avoid analysis paralysis – Elegant Leaders don’t become great by being predictable and playing it safe. Sure, there’s merit in being consistent, and all risks should have some level of consideration. People can talk themselves out of anything they want to, and in risk-taking, you can become paralyzed in the details. or live in fear you don’t have all the data you need. Elegant Leaders are comfortable in their own skin and at some point, you just have to make a decision and live with the outcomes. People will respect you for it.
You Don’t Know What You Think You Know. We are all creatures of habit, and as professionals, we need to be open to learning, exploring and not believing we have all of the answers. No one said you were supposed to be the smartest one in the room. If you are, “Houston, we have a problem…” Because let’s be honest, we never really do. It’s important to realize the world is changing and it’s changing quickly. What worked before may never work again, and the best thing you can do as a professional is to be comfortable in the grey, to explore the new options that come your way.
2. Treat everyone equally
Leaders who aren’t comfortable in their own skin want people around them who will not threaten or challenge them. They gain comfort in the chair when “yes ” people or an inner circle exists under them. Respected Elegant Leaders see challenges and new ideas as a way of helping others grow and become better leaders and better people.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are in constant learning and growing mode supporting staff to show initiative. While it can be tempting to favor people who massage our egos, respected leaders rise above the noise and make a sincere attempt to reward talent on its own merits and hard work regardless of their personal feelings about the person.w
It might be easier to grasp treating one another equally if we think of a family to a certain degree (buyer beware). Even though, workgroups, teams and companies are NOT families. Families can be quite dysfunctional! Parents take responsibility for each child’s development into his or her potential. An equal concern is called for, and most likely it will not be an equal effort. Some children naturally fall in line with doing the right thing while others may have rebellious or independent spirits to be tamed. An Elegant Leader would be pleased with concern equally for each of the people on their teams, yet equal concern does not necessarily mean equal effort.
Closely examining your practices to ensure you are not favoring one employee or group of employees over others. Here are a few thoughts to guide you through that examination:
Invest – time each week chatting with each employee about non-work related topics – build a relationship. While you may find it easier to strike up a conversation with some employees more than others, ignoring employees will create a perception you prefer the employees you talk with regularly.
Feedback – deliver regular consistent feedback to all employees and give them the tools and information to improve their performances. You’ll have a concrete record of discussions to explain your decision-making process when it comes to promotions, new projects and creating clear career paths. Make sure employees know exactly what hard and soft skills they will need to advance to the next level. Provide training opportunities for all employees. Ensure all employees have the opportunity to receive additional training that may help them perform more effectively.
Praise – employees when they are successful. Congratulate all employees who contributed to the project, not just the most visible. Employees who are recognized and feel they are valued by their leader(s) will be less likely to feel others are favored. All three of these ideas revolve around communicating regular and more often.
3. Admit mistakes and take responsibility when IT hits the fan
We all know people who constantly blame their failures on everything and everyone but themselves. They were fired because their supervisor was jealous of them. They got dumped because their girlfriend is crazy. They failed the course because the questions the professor asked were irrelevant. The dog didn’t just eat the homework, he woofed down their whole life.
“To err is human. But so is rebounding from our mistakes.” – Michael Hyatt
Plenty of people shirk their personal responsibility, and declare that “ those people need to own up to their mistakes!” We all have blind spots that can make it difficult for us to honestly assess our actions and determine our responsibility for those actions let alone their consequences. Our brains are wired to flatter and shield our egos from blame when we make mistakes.
Taking responsibility for your life and ownership of your mistakes is incredibly worthwhile for many reasons:
Allows you to make better decisions. Self-justifying twists reality unrealistically. The more you distort reality, the more you create an alternate universe for yourself. That reality or your justification of your reality leads to a decreased ability to make good choices, as the information you’re using is so out of whack! Get away with it and you’ll continue down that slippery slope and continue self-justification.
Keeps little problems from turning into big ones. If you can own up to a mistake sooner rather than later and do your best to correct it or make it right, you can prevent it from turning into a bigger problem or a crisis of epic proportion that’s going to be difficult or nearly impossible to resolve.
Promotes the respect of others. Often we hide our mistakes from other people because we worry about the blowback – others will think less of us once they’ve seen that we’ve screwed up. Frankly acknowledging your mistakes, apologizing for them, and then earnestly working to make things right almost always has the opposite effect – people respect you for it. Instead of building a case of blame against another person, own it, make amends and work your ass off to never do it again. You’ll strengthen relationships by humbling your ego by improving your behaviors.
4. Maintain a high level of self-awareness
Well-respected leaders have a healthy dose of emotional intelligence and are aware of how they are perceived and how their work and actions influence and impact others. They use their self-awareness in giving and receiving feedback by looking for sincere opportunities to praise the work of others as well as maintaining openness and humility for improvement. They keep their emotions in check and avoid speaking or acting when highly emotional. They will wait until they have regained control and have had time to think over the situation.
Although it’s probably one of the least discussed leadership competencies, however, self-awareness is possibly one of the most valuable. Self-awareness is being conscious of what you’re good at while acknowledging you still have learning opportunities. This includes admitting when you don’t have the answer and own mistakes.
In our highly competitive culture, this can seem counterintuitive. In fact, many of us operate on the belief we must appear as though we know everything all the time or else people will question our abilities, diminishing our effectiveness as leaders. No one said you’re supposed to be the smartest one in the room, and quite frankly you’re better off not being that guy. No one said you’re supposed to have all the answers either.
If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit the opposite is true. Because whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, everyone else sees them. The higher you rise in an organization, the more visible the blind spots and the more difficult they are to overcome. Rather than conceal them, the person who tries to hide weaknesses actually highlights them, creating the perception of a lack of integrity and self-awareness.
The Elegant Leader with Voltage understands and is committed to the trinity of self-awareness:
Improve thyself, and
These are common sense principles and are not necessarily commonly followed. Why? Because people don’t always commit to standing in the face of truth and mind the gap. Intellectual honesty, rigorous commitment, and active truth-seeking are sine qua non to any self-awareness process. We use Checkpoint 360 and the Profile XT assessments from Wiley International as baseline and follow-on tools to highlight a leader’s self-awareness trinity. We then, craft a coaching program personalized for where the leader needs to go.
Self-reflection and its reward of self-awareness cannot be thought of as passive exercises. This is not soft, fluffy BS. Rather meat-on-the-bone solutions and nowhere to hide coaching that gives the leader zero wiggle room yet maintaining a safe environment from where they can learn and apply the insights, which are absolutely essential. There is a reason why in rehabilitation programs the starting point is being aware enough to admit you have a problem. So, too, is the case in business leadership and personal development. – this is part of the AAA framework. I’m offering a qualified FREE session for a limited time to see if working together makes sense.
5. Be willing to do whatever it takes
It never fails, when you travel often things will go wrong – late flights, canceled flights, reservations that weren’t, rentals cars that evaporated – it all happens. I was traveling to Boston several years ago and brought along one of our logistics managers because he thinks what I do is ‘glamorous and you have all the fun.’ Yeah, let me show you what fun is!
Our flight is two hours late getting in. The hotel ‘lost’ our reservation and because of several conventions in town, there’s no vacancy. We drive 60 miles to find a hotel. Drive back into town for several meetings the next morning. I offer to ease his pain so we drive south to Providence for a good meal which turned into food poison for him. As we head to our return flight, I get a message our flight has been canceled. We immediately head to the rental counter and find out we can’t extend the car we have and no other cars are available. No cars, no flight, no hotel…anything else?
Sure, his kid’s 9th birthday is the next day. “We are out of options,” he says, “my wife will kill me.” I laugh at him, “we don’t give up. We always have options.” I rent a Budget truck and drive back to Providence where we turn in the truck, grab a cab to the train station. Take the train to NYC where we pick up a flight to Minneapolis and along the way I call a friend who’s a pilot and cash in a favor. He picks us up in the cities and we enjoy a relaxing charter home just in time for the birthday party. Yeah, some fun we have! When you’re the leader, you better have a ‘whatever it takes’ mindset!
Suck it Up Buttercup. You can only adopt a “whatever it takes” attitude if you stop caring what you look like in the process. No one cares but you – really! How many times do we stop short of a goal because we think if we tried something, even if it’s different and it goes wrong, we’ll look stupid? It’s okay to look stupid – you’re human, and nobody gives a s* about you.
The second cousin to swallowing your pride is form v. function. You can think better if you’re focused on what has to get done, rather than how you’ve done it in the past. Would you take a U-haul truck if all rental cars were booked and there’s no Uber?
There is no box. Usually, we fail to see creative solutions because we get stuck thinking the way we have in the past. We use old “paradigms” that constrict our options. What if you tossed out all your “boxes” and started with a blank canvas? In the movie, The Matrix, you can’t bend the spoon, but you can bend reality to see the spoon bend. Don’t think you can. Know you can.
Invite people in to the thought process who are outside of the process. Outsiders can almost always see solutions that insiders cannot. One of the great reasons advisors and coaches are so popular is we come into the situation with a blank canvas, no preconceived notions and clear insight into the issues at hand.
Progress or Con-gress? Ultimately, every leader must weigh out the pros and cons of a decision. When you come up with an “out-of-the-box” solution, wise leaders consider the following questions: Is it worth it to try this? What do we give up? What do we gain? And finally, does the price outweigh the benefit? If so, stop now. If not—give it everything you’ve got.
Screw the outcome, Be Prepared. Part of the “whatever it takes” mindset is about exertion. Once you’ve looked at the challenge from a new angle, come up with a creative solution and determined that it’s worth it, you must commit to the end result you’re after—regardless of the price tag. Flawless execution of the process gets you to the outcome you must have. Without the right implementation, the outcome won’t be what you desired.
“In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” – Warren Buffett