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10 Qualities a Real Leader Can’t Be Without

The reigning theory in business has long been that “alpha” leaders make the best entrepreneurs.

Martin Zwilling

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Alpha leaders are aggressive, results-driven achievers who assert control and insist on a hierarchical organisational model. Yet I am seeing increasing success from “beta” start-up cultures where the emphasis is on collaboration, curation and communication.

Some argue that this new horizontal culture is being driven by Gen-Y, whose focus has always been more communitarian. Other business culture experts, like Dr Dana Ardi, in her new book The Fall of the Alphas, argue that the rise of the betas is really part of a broader culture change driven by the Internet – emphasising communities, instant communication and collaboration.

Can you imagine the overwhelming growth of Facebook, Wikipedia and Twitter in a culture dominated by alphas? This would never happen. I agree with Ardi who says most successful workplaces of the future need to adopt the following beta characteristics and better align themselves with the beta leadership model:

1. Do away with archaic command-and-control models.

Winning start-ups today are horizontal, not hierarchical. Everyone who works at an organisation feels they’re part of something, and moreover, that it’s the next big thing. They want to be on the cutting-edge of technology.

2. Practice ego management.

Be aware of your own biases and focus on the present as on the future. You need to manage the egos of team members by rewarding collaborative behaviour. There will always be the need for decisive leadership, particularly in times of crisis. I’m not suggesting total democracy.

3. Stress innovation.

Betas believe that team members need to be given an opportunity to make a difference – to give input into key decisions and communicate their findings and learnings to one another. Encourage team-members to play to their own strengths so that the entire team and organisation leads the competition.

4. Put a premium on collaboration and teamwork.

Instead of knives-out competition, these companies thrive by building a successful community with shared values. Team members are empowered and encouraged to express themselves. The best teams are hired with collaboration in mind. The whole is thus more than the sum of its parts.

5. Create a shared culture.

Leadership is fluid and flexible. Integrity and character matter a lot. Everyone knows about the culture. Everyone subscribes to the culture. Everyone recognises both its passion and its nuance. The result looks more like a symphony orchestra than an advancing army.

6. Be ready for roles and responsibilities to change weekly, daily and even hourly.

One of the big mistakes entrepreneurs make is they don’t act quickly enough. Markets and needs change fast. Now there is a focus on social, global and environmental responsibility. Hierarchies make it hard to adjust positions or redefine roles. The beta culture gets it done.

7. Temper confidence with compassion.

Mindfulness, of self and others, by boards, executives and employees, may very well be the single most important trait of a successful company. If someone is not a good cultural fit or is not getting their job done, make the change quickly, but with sensitivity.

8. Invite employees to contribute.

The closer everyone in the organisation comes to achieving his or her singular potential, the more successful the business will be. Successful cultures encourage their employees to keep refreshing their toolkits, keep flexible, keep their stakes in the stream.

9. Stay diverse.

Entrepreneurs build teams. They don’t fill positions. Cherry-picking candidates from name-brand universities will do nothing to further an organisation and may even work against it. Don’t wait for the perfect person – he or she may not exist. Hire for track record and potential.

10. Not everyone needs to be a superstar.

Superstars don’t pass the ball, they just shoot it. Not everyone wants to move up in an organisation. It’s perfectly fine to move across. Become your employees’ sponsor – on-boarding with training and tools is essential. Spend time listening. Give them what they need to succeed.

Savvy entrepreneurs and managers around the world are finding it more effective to lead through influence and collaboration, rather than relying on fear, authority and competition. This is rapidly becoming the new paradigm for success in today’s challenging market. Where does your start-up fit in with this new model?

The 7 Lies You Need to Stop Believing About Leadership

Martin Zwilling is a veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, and angel investor. Contact him at at marty@startupprofessionals.com

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Digital Leadership: Amplified & Magnified

Leadership is not changing. But it is being amplified and magnified through the use of digital media. Here’s how to use it to become a better leader.

Erik Kruger

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Digital Leadership

What does leadership look like in the digital age?

Fundamentally, leadership stays the same. The objective of leadership remains to paint a compelling vision of the future and to then rally others around creating it.

However, the visibility of leadership has changed thanks to the internet and social media.

Leaders should embrace the tools that come with this change because it allows them to communicate their vision more consistently, to truly lead from the front, and to be more human.

Related: How You Can Make Leadership Excellence An Effortless Effort

Communicate consistently

As a leader, you have the opportunity to consistently show up and communicate your vision and dedication to your followers. Digital has made this easy for you. All you need to do is simply choose the channel of communication that best suits your style and strengths.

Prefer writing? Jot down a weekly email or tweet that inspires or informs those around you.

Prefer talking? Record a quick video on your phone.

Great leaders understand the importance of communication.

How awesome that a leader’s voice can now extend beyond the boardroom and the annual letter to shareholders.

Truly lead from the front

Apart from the words that you use to communicate there is another intrinsic benefit to this consistent act. Your people see your commitment. The words you write become less important than the act of consistently showing up.

For the past few years I have written a daily email that goes out to over 17,000 subscribers. I often hear that the thing that inspires readers the most is not the words but the consistent action. You cannot fake it when you are leading with visibility. 

One thing that has always been true is that leaders need to lead by example. Never has it been truer than in a world where our actions are amplified and then magnified. It comes down to this. As leader, you cannot say one thing and do another. You shouldn’t have to.

If you are leading authentically then your actions and your words will live in perfect harmony. And the life that people see on Instagram will not clash with what they see in the boardroom.

An obscured leader cannot lead from the front. Leaders need to be visible.

Related: Leadership Hustle: A Modern View On Leadership

Be human

I often speak to incredible leaders who are afraid of embracing the digital era. Specifically, they fear “showcasing” themselves on social media. They do not want to come across as promotional, narcissistic, or flawed.

However, the opposite usually happens. When people get to see the other side of you they connect on a deeper level. You become human. And as a leader, this is a good thing to be.

Does this mean you should splash your entire life across the digital ecosystem?

No.

You still need to be selective. But it is ok to let people in to your world.

What next?

As a leader, you can make a profound impact that reverberates beyond the walls of your company. An impact that affects your employees, your customers, and even those watching you from the sidelines.

Digital media shines a spotlight on your leadership. Embrace it.

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Leadership Hustle: A Modern View On Leadership

‘Leadership hustle’ refers to the concept of analysing with great care what needs to be done as a Leader.

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“Actually, caring about the other person is the leverage in any conversation.” – Gary Vaynerchuk


Have a clear Vision. Do what you love. Now, go and do what is necessary to make your glorious Vision a reality. Sounds so simple! Sounds so cliché. Not so much……

It takes a lot of ‘hustle’ and serious staying power to fully unleash your inherent Leadership potential and to overcome several obstacles that appear on your path. Several opinions and definitions exist in terms of what Leadership really is. Within a modern context, considering factors such as generational gaps, differences in upbringing and schooling, political interference, technological advances, and market disruptions I will define leadership as:

“Continuously applying the required and adaptive skill set, to unite a diverse group of people in committed and sustained effort, with the aim to attain a collective Vision that they sincerely aspire to.

In reflecting on this statement concepts such as self-development, emotional intelligence, honing your craft, wisdom, building a sustainable culture of success, a high level of motivation and several other factors are cast under the spotlight.

Related: How Marius Meyer Is Defining What Excellent Leadership Really Means

‘Leadership hustle’ refers to the concept of analysing with great care what needs to be done as a Leader, then carefully deciding how it needs to be done, be willing to ‘pivot’ when things are not working, create a sustainable motivating climate, and then persevere with an extreme high level of commitment until your team realises your collective vision. If you are a true Leader this ‘hustle’ never stops. A critical part of your work as a Leader is to coach and create more Leaders in order to ensure a sustainable future for your business.

The ‘last trump’ has blown on supposed Leaders whom only use bonusses or disciplinary action as leverage to entice their team members to perform. People, generally speaking, want to feel that they are cared for and that they are working together to attain something higher than themselves.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk

A twenty-eight-year-old friend of mine recently stated that: “It is so not cool to Lead”. He was giving a voice to his perception of power hungry and self-serving leaders whom do not care for others. There are always individuals whose actions are not exemplary. Well, let me tell everyone of something that is very cool – First-hand experience of an individual or team that have unleashed their potential and now are masters of their craft and you had something to do with it as their leader/a leader.

As the abovementioned Gary Vaynerchuk quote alludes to – “Actually caring for the other person is the leverage in any conversation.” Leaders must sincerely care for their team members, if not they are just ‘ bosses’ that suck every ounce of energy out of their team members in order to be enriched.

The Author has heard a number of entrepreneurs complain that they have lost their businesses by caring too much for their employees and doing too much for them at the dire cost of their businesses and themselves in person. Their situations became untenable as according to them their team members performance did not even remotely match the effort of the entrepreneurs.

In part many challenges similar to the above example arise as a result of a transactional style of Leadership – “I do for you and you do for me”. Naturally even if no lip service is paid to the concept , there is, in most cases part of the Leader/Entrepreneurs’ consciousness that does expect something in return.

For the purposes of this article the concept of ‘Leadership Hustle’ moves in the opposite direction of a transactional style of Leadership, instead it fosters a collective consciousness and culture where the team jointly as servants of a higher vision do everything because they want to out of love for the cause as opposed to being forced to.

Related: Servant Leadership – Will You Serve?

This puts a demand on the team Leader to hire ‘the right people’ that are committed to the cause from the start. Easier said than done? Most certainly! The Leader would have to Hustle up! We as Leaders will have to be committed enough to learn through several mistakes until the most optimal HR model is created that serves our Vision. We would have to continuously and urgently refine our team selection, training processes, and positive feedback loops until we find the solution that offers us the best change to collectively attain our aspiring Vision.

The ‘People before profit culture’ strikes fear in the hearts of most Leaders and rightfully so. What if I focus so much on caring for people that our profits decrease dramatically?! Allow me to rephrase the statement –

‘The right people (doing the right things) before profit culture’ will ensure more profits in the long run than you could ever have foretold.

‘Leadership hustle’ does not mean I foreclose on all methods of control as a Leader, stop managing, and only Lead. ‘Hustle’ means that we as Leaders must put more focus on Leadership than management controls which in turn would make the daily management of our teams easier because as a result of the focus on Leadership we will generally deal with a more inspired, motivated, and engaged workforce.

Seeing Leadership as an ever-evolving journey of learning and adapting rather than a single event would save the reader an unmeasurable amount of frustration and failures. Whether we appreciate change or not it is being enforced upon us by, in part, the millennial generations’ general traits of being more entrepreneurial, being very inquisitive and challenging, and basically living online.

It will serve Leaders well to rather gain wisdom in terms of the varying needs of different generations within a single workforce as opposed to judging a certain generation to be more effective at work than the other. Caring for people means caring for all, and part of caring is being interested enough to understand them better.

Related: Paddy Upton: People Centred Coaching

millennial-segment

The author was in the audience when Cliff Hazell, an agile coach at Spotify, delivered a guest speech at the 2016 African Lean management conference. During the Q&A session Cliff was asked how we should best engage the “millennial segment” of our workforce as Spotify is well known for its very modern, integrated, and very successful culture.

The first part of Cliffs’ answer was, at least to me, simple yet profound – “First of all you could start by stopping to call them Millennials!”

People in general are progressively starting to abhor labelling and a judgemental attitude. It has served Spotify very well to rather focus on utilizing their generally younger workforces’ entrepreneurial thinking and inquisitiveness to gain traction towards the companies collective Vision as opposed to an attitude of labelling and judging.

A paradigm shift that forms part of ‘the Leadership hustle ‘is to rather have non- judgemental Learning discussions than the traditional performance appraisals. To sum up this modern approach to Leadership we are asked to continuously learn and improve our skills and be flexible in our application of skills. In order to create sustainable success as Leaders we have to have an improved grasp on the generational differences within our teams. We have to develop the skill to utilize the strong points of each generation and person within our teams to gain traction to ultimately actualizing our collective Vision.

We have to be more and more inspiring Leaders as opposed to being ‘control freaks’, that is if we sincerely aim to create a ‘HIGH TECH-HIGH TOUCH (People orientated) environment for our teams.

GO FORTH AND HUSTLE!!!

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How Marius Meyer Is Defining What Excellent Leadership Really Means

In search of an enthusiastic advocate for Leadership standards in South-Africa look no further than Marius Meyer, CEO of the South African Board of Peoples’ Practices.

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In search of an enthusiastic advocate for Leadership standards in South-Africa look no further than Marius Meyer. Marius and his team along with all South-Africans face a complex, diverse and fast paced environment wherein a higher demand is placed on the general Leadership standards and skill levels of companies, organisations, entrepreneurs and the workforce at large.

As the CEO of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) he has identified this challenge related to the Leadership paradigm within South Africa as a priority. As a result of the absence of a Leadership standard there tends to be a lack of clarity on how Leadership can be defined and more importantly how Leadership principles can be effectively applied within diverse business sectors.

Related: 4 Leadership Lessons You Won’t Learn In Business School

The drive for profit can unfortunately lead to the neglect of the “people’s element” of organisations and businesses which ultimately can lead to severe sustainability problems. Growing in the wisdom that a business ecosystem comprises out of generational, philosophical, industry, and a plethora of other differences our Leaders must be highly skilled and their style must be flexible in order to make their teams successful.

Defining a Leadership Standard

Through the application of a Leadership standard the aim of the SA Board for People Practices is to create consensus on what excellent Leadership means. A logical yet challenging next step is to empower Leaders on all levels to acquire the skills necessary to Lead their team members towards a sustainable and successful future.

Marius believes that the traditional “top-down” structure of enforcing company values must be replaced with a culture of co-creating values. These values must then be embedded within the company culture to create a climate where all team members sincerely feel that they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

The CEO of the SABPP alluded to the fact that the traditional norms of work have changed dramatically. The average “Millennial“ will work for between 15-20 different companies in his or her lifetime. Technology has enabled us to connect the dots between continents and therefore the location of work has become less important in general. Therefore, it is a core function of Leaders to adapt to our ever-changing work environment rapidly.

Marius’ personal values enables him to adapt to the vicissitudes of the environment within which he plies his trade are:

  • Professionalism – In his view this means to cultivate an environment of very good people skills, knowledge levels of your profession, and to act with respect.
  • Innovation – Foster a high level of awareness of how renewed ways of doing things can improve the effectiveness of your team and organisation.
  • Ethics – Always act in the best interest of your company and clients in an honest way, using your principles and values as a compass.
  • Competence – Always develop yourself. Keep up with the changes and demands of your industry.
  • Excellence – Even if it is just a simple e-mail to a client hold yourself to the highest standard of execution of every task.

Related: 25 Leadership Lessons From Millionaire Business Owners

Wise Words From Marius Meyer

He had the following wisdom to share with all aspiring South-African Leaders:

Start thinking big, we tend to think too small. A critical element of “thinking big” is to expand your network. In the realisation of the fact that nobody became successful purely by themselves the aspiring Leader must be willing to ask for mentorship and always consider his mentors advice carefully before he acts.

If mentorship takes the form of a low paid internship be willing to start at the bottom in order to grow. Build your confidence by constantly venturing outside of your “comfort zone” and by constructively applying the lessons that you learn through making honest mistakes. Build your basic management acumen by closely observing other excellent managers that produce positive results.

It is only possible to improve the general standard of Leadership in South-Africa if we stand together as leaders, entrepreneurs and workforce. The South African Leadership Standard will be launched on 26 October in Kyalami, Johannesburg. For more information, visit www.sabpp.co.za or follow SABPP on twitter @SABPP1  

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