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12 Daily Habits of Exceptional Leaders

A great leader has the incredible ability to bring out the best in you.

Travis Bradberry

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One of the most popular Dilbert comic strips in the cartoon’s history begins with Dilbert’s boss relaying senior leadership’s explanation for the company’s low profits. In response to his boss, Dilbert asks incredulously, “So they’re saying that profits went up because of great leadership and down because of a weak economy?” To which Dilbert’s boss replies, “These meetings will go faster if you stop putting things in context.”

Great leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes their leadership so effective.

Great leaders change us for the better. They see more in us than we see in ourselves, and they help us learn to see it too. They dream big and show us all the great things we can accomplish.

Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole. Great leadership is also founded in good habits. What follows are the essential habits that exceptional leaders rely on every day. Give them a try and see where they take your leadership skills.

1. Effective communication

“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” — Joseph Priestley

Communication is the real work of leadership. It’s a fundamental element of how leaders accomplish their goals each and every day. You simply can’t become a great leader until you are a great communicator.

Great communicators inspire people. They create a connection with their followers that is real, emotional and personal, regardless of any physical distance between them. Great communicators forge this connection through an understanding of people and an ability to speak directly to their needs.

2. Courage

“Courage is the first virtue that makes all other virtues possible.” — Aristotle

People will wait to see if a leader is courageous before they’re willing to follow his or her lead. People need courage in their leaders. They need someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. People are far more likely to show courage themselves when their leaders do the same.

For the courageous leader adversity is a welcome test. Like a blacksmith’s molding of a red-hot iron, adversity is a trial by fire that refines leaders and sharpens their game. Adversity emboldens courageous leaders and leaves them more committed to their strategic direction.

Leaders who lack courage simply toe the company line. They follow the safest path — the path of least resistance — because they’d rather cover their backside than lead.

3. Adherence to the Golden Rule +1

“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.”  — Jon Wolfgang von Goethe

The Golden Rule — treat others as you want to be treated — assumes that all people are the same. It assumes that, if you treat your followers the way you would want a leader to treat you, they’ll be happy. It ignores that people are motivated by vastly different things. One person loves public recognition, while another loathes being the center of attention.

Great leaders don’t treat people how they themselves want to be treated. Instead, they take the Golden Rule a step further and treat each person as he or she would like to be treated. Great leaders learn what makes people tick, recognize their needs in the moment and adapt their leadership style accordingly.

Related: Lead From Where You Are

4. Self-awareness

“It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself.” — Latin Proverb

Contrary to what Dilbert might have us believe, leaders’ gaps in self-awareness are rarely due to deceitful, Machiavellian motives or severe character deficits. In most cases, leaders — like everyone else — view themselves in a more favorable light than other people do.

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence, a skill that 90 percent of top performing leaders possess in abundance. Great leaders’ high self-awareness means they have a clear and accurate image not just of their leadership style, but also of their own strengths and weaknesses. They know where they shine and where they’re weak, and they have effective strategies for leaning into their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses.

5. Passion

“If you just work on stuff that you like and are passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.” — Mark Zuckerberg

Passion and enthusiasm are contagious. So are boredom and apathy. No one wants to work for a boss that’s unexcited about his or her job, or even one who’s just going through the motions. Great leaders are passionate about what they do, and they strive to share that passion with everyone around them.

6. Humility

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” — C.S. Lewis

Great leaders are humble. They don’t allow their position of authority to make them feel that they are better than anyone else. As such, they don’t hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed and they won’t ask their followers to do anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.

Related: How To Be A Great Leader When Leadership Doesn’t Come Naturally To You

7. Generosity

“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.”  — John Maxwell

Great leaders are generous. They share credit and offer enthusiastic praise. They’re as committed to their followers’ success as they are to their own. They want to inspire all of their employees to achieve their personal best — not just because it will make the team more successful, but because they care about each person as an individual.

8. Infectiousness

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” — Reverend Theodore Hesburgh

Great leaders know that having a clear vision isn’t enough. You have to make that vision come alive so that your followers can see it just as clearly as you do. Great leaders do that by telling stories and painting verbal pictures so that everyone can understand not just where they’re going, but what it will look and feel like when they get there. This inspires others to internalize the vision and make it their own.

9. Authenticity

“Just be who you are and speak from your guts and heart — it’s all a man has.” — Hubert Humphrey

Authenticity refers to being honest in all things — not just what you say and do, but who you are. When you’re authentic, your words and actions align with who you claim to be. Your followers shouldn’t be compelled to spend time trying to figure out if you have ulterior motives. Any time they spend doing so erodes their confidence in you and in their ability to execute.

Leaders who are authentic are transparent and forthcoming. They aren’t perfect, but they earn people’s respect by walking their talk.

10. Approachability

“Management is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze too hard and you kill it, not hard enough and it flies away.” — Tommy Lasorda

Great leaders make it clear that they welcome challenges, criticism and viewpoints other than their own. They know that an environment where people are afraid to speak up, offer insight and ask good questions is destined for failure. By ensuring that they are approachable, great leaders facilitate the flow of great ideas throughout the organization.

Related: Why Growing Your Business Can Feel Like Sailing Over The Edge Of The World

11. Accountability

“The ancient Romans had a tradition: Whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: He stood under the arch.” — Michael Armstrong

Great leaders have their followers’ backs. They don’t try to shift blame, and they don’t avoid shame when they fail. They’re never afraid to say, “The buck stops here,” and they earn people’s trust by backing them up.

12. A sense of purpose

“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” — Ken Kesey

Whereas vision is a clear idea of where you’re going, a sense of purpose refers to an understanding of why you’re going there. People like to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Great leaders give people that feeling.

Bringing It All Together

Becoming a great leader doesn’t mean that you have to incorporate all of these traits at once. Focus on one or two at a time; each incremental improvement will make you more effective. It’s okay if you “act” some of these qualities at first. The more you practice, the more instinctive it will become and the more you’ll internalize your new leadership style.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Award-winning co-author of the best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the co-founder of TalentSmart -- a consultancy that serves more than 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies and is a leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, training and certification.

Leading

To Get A Job Or Not Get A Job. What Are We Teaching Our Children?

Remember the days where if you went to school and studied a degree, you got a job and built a career that enabled you to retire comfortably? I don’t, in fact I’m not sure those days ever really existed. If they did, they are long gone.

David Wilson

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Today STATS SA tells us only 1 in 3 of the youth in South Africa have a job, even worse still – 34% of graduates aged 15-24 are unemployed1. The bottom line is that there are not enough jobs to cater for every child that finishes school. Our children need to learn entrepreneurship. If we want a brighter future for them, we need to nurture, teach and develop the skills and behaviours required to create jobs of their own.

With no intention of knocking the school system it would seem for the most part it discourages entrepreneurial thinking on a fundamental level; it prepares students to become good employees. Tuck your shirt in, sit still, stand in line, do your homework, focus on the task, check this box, you get the picture. Three decades ago this may have worked but it won’t work when we are trying to teach our children to survive the forth industrial revolution and prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist!

It may sound like a cliché, but kids are our future. As a parent I believe one of the most important duties we have is to give our children the best possible start. We need to prepare them on how to live, survive and thrive in a world that is rapidly changing, mostly unpredictable and often unforgiving. This starts by identifying the skills and nurturing the behaviours that will give them the best chance for success.

Related: Watch List: 11 Teen Entrepreneurs Who Have Launched Successful Businesses

Teaching entrepreneurship prepares our children for the future

Entrepreneurship encompasses so much more than starting and running a business. It’s a shift in mindset, a different way of thinking. Entrepreneurship views problems as opportunities and fuels creativity in the pursuit of solutions. All these skills can be applied to life.

Successful entrepreneurs are resourceful, self-confident and tenacious. They are great communicators and marketers, good at identifying and understanding risk. They have learnt from failure and made mistakes. Entrepreneurs are financially literate, understand cash flow and how to manage money. Again, these are skills that every child and student can benefit from.

To make it in the workplace of the future you will need to be self-confident, innovative, creative, motivated and curious.

Employers will need to hire staff that have the creative ability to innovate and ensure the longevity of their organisations. Those people that show entrepreneurial flair will be in demand in a world that is ever and more rapidly changing.

Exposing our children to entrepreneurship, teaching them the fundamental skills and behaviours required to start a business, and letting them know it is a career choice should be a requirement in all schools and endorsed and supported by all parents.

References:

  1. Youth unemployment still high in Q1: 2018 http://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=11129

Read next: Kid Entrepreneurs Who Have Already Built Successful Businesses (And How You Can Too)

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Leading

How To, In Practice, Distinguish Between Executive, Non-Executive And Independent Directors And Their Functions

Learn more about the differences in executive and non-executive directors.

RSM

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Definition of a director in terms of the Companies Act

Section 1 of the Companies Act 71 of 2008 (Companies Act) defines a Director as “a member of the board of a company, as contemplated in section 66, or an alternate director of a company and includes any person occupying the position of director or alternate director, by whatever name designated”.

Powers of directors

Section 66 of the Companies Act determines that the business and affairs of the company must be managed by or under the direction of its board and that the board has the authority to exercise all of the power and perform any of the functions of the company, except to the extent that the Companies Act or the Company’s Memorandum of Incorporation provides otherwise.

The board of directors, for the first time in our current Companies Act has been assigned the legal duty and responsibility and play a very important role in managing the affairs of the company and making vital decisions on behalf of the company.

Related: What You Need To Know Before Transitioning From Business Owner To Director

Number of directors required on a board

In the case of a private company, or a personal liability company, the board must consist of at least one director and the case of a public company, or non-profit company, the board must consist of at least three directors. A JSE listed company requires at least four directors. The company’s Memorandum of Incorporation may however specify a higher number, substituting the minimum number of directors required.

How to distinguish between executive, non-executive and independent directors and their functions

A clear distinction is noticeable between the different types of directors in practice, even though the Act does not distinguish between executive, non-executive and independent directors.

The below table gives a clear understanding of the differences between executive and non-executive directors:

Executive directors

Non-executive directors

Member of the board of directors with directors’ duties.

Part of the executive team, as an employee of the company and generally under a service contract with the company. Not an employee of the company.
Involved in the day-to-day management of the company. Not involved in the day-to-day management of the company.
In addition to a salary, does not receive directors’ fees. May receive Directors’ fees, but does not receive a salary.
Shareholders are not involved in approving their salary packages. Shareholders must approve their fees by way of special resolution, in advance.
Employee entitlements apply, such as annual and sick leave. No entitlements apply.
Has an intimate knowledge of the workings of the company. They contribute to the development of management strategies and monitor the activities of the executive directors.
They carry an added responsibility. Entrusted with ensuring that the information laid before the board by management is an accurate reflection of their understanding of the affairs of the company. Plays an important role in providing objective judgement, independent of management on issues the company are facing.

 

Independent, non-executive director

An independent, non-executive director does not have a relationship, directly or indirectly with the company other than his or her directorship. They should be free of any relationship that could materially interfere with the independence process of his or her judgement and they do not represent the shareholders of the company.

An independent, non-executive director should be evaluated on an annual basis to determine if they are still considered independent.

Related: The Role, Responsibilities and Liabilities Facing Non-Executive Directors

The role of these directors

All directors should apply objective judgment and an independent state of mind, regardless of the classification as an executive, non-executive or independent non-executive director.

Executive directors may be appointed as non-executive directors on other boards if this does not influence their current position and is in accordance with company policy.

Before a director accepts the appointment, they should be familiar with their duties and responsibilities and be provided with the necessary training and advice.

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Leading

Managing Your Priorities And Learning To Say No

How you use your time determines the degree of meaning or fulfillment you have and the money you make.

Dr John Demartini

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Getting more done is not about managing your time; it is about how you focus your attention and intention during the time you have. When you focus on scheduling your day to do high priority actions, they are more likely to get done.

Since you can have more than one kind of high priority action, it is wise to define them accordingly by further prioritising your high priorities. High priority items or actions can fall under one or more of the following categories:

  • Those needing to be strategically planned (working on the business)
  • Those needing to be done in relation to yourself
  • Those needing to be done in relation to your employees
  • Those needing to be done in relation to your clients, customers, patients…
  • Those needing to be done that are creative (new divisions, services, products, markets…)
  • Those needing to be delegated outside your company (outsourced)
  • Those needing to be delegated inside your company (insourced).

It is essential to master the art of saying no to anything less important.

When you are unclear about what your true highest priority or business mission is, distractions can take you ‘off track’ and consume your time, attention, energy, focus, power of concentration and productive capacity.

Related: How To Say No Nicely

Knowing what your highest priority business mission and primary objectives are prevents you from being as easily distracted by every so-called ‘opportunity’ that comes along. It allows you to be more discerning about the activities you choose to take on board and those you discard. Clarity of mission gives you the ability to ignore distractions, and that can be incredibly inspiring and empowering.

You cannot please everyone so don’t waste your time trying. Continually saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no will cost you greater opportunities and lead you to bite off more than you can chew. Your time is finite.

 

Block out all less important distractions. Give them up. Embrace your trade-off.

Try eliminating, or scaling back some of your activities to determine if reducing or eliminating them makes any real difference in your results. This also helps you determine which actions are truly the most productive priorities. Deliberately eliminate or at least reduce your trivial, unimportant, unnecessary and irrelevant actions. Your intentional limits can help you become more limitless.

Sticking to your own higher priorities each day raises your self-worth. Take command of your time before others do and tell them the truth, or they may possibly keep demanding from you. Your integrity and, at times tactful bluntness, will allow you to get your most important job done. Your true friends or colleagues will respect your time and your priorities.

Since your work will expand or contract to fill the time allotted (Parkinson’s law), if you don’t fill your space and time with high priorities they can become filled with low priorities. And, if you don’t consume your energy and material resources with high priorities uses they can become consumed by low priority ones. If you don’t intensify your day with inspired actions things can slow down. Your time x your intensity will determine your results.

Related: I Started Saying ‘No’ To These 6 Things. My Life And My Business Got A Lot Better

Many distractions that are being initiated by others are often opportunistic in nature. Many are simply others trying to sell you something – an idea, a viewpoint, an opinion, a friendship – in exchange for your valuable life and time. Simply being aware of what is being sold allows you to be more deliberate in deciding whether you want to buy or spend time on it.

Gracefully, respectfully and reasonably saying no, may temporarily disappoint the opportunist, but eventually it will lead them to respecting and appreciating you even more. It shows that you are a professional more than just an amateur and that you value yourself and your time more than their distractions. It is wiser to have a long-term gain in respect than a short-term popularity.

So ask yourself every morning what exactly is the highest priority action step I can take today to help me fulfill my most purposeful, meaningful, productive and profitable dream tomorrow.

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