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.
“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
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
Be Clark Kent, Not Superman: 5 Simple Ways To Become The Office Superhero
Not all heroes wear capes. Here’s how you can build goodwill in the workplace and have coworkers singing your praises.
A superhero goes above and beyond to help others, and if you work in the same space as your team, you know that working together isn’t just about, well, work.
It’s about creating a harmonious environment where people feel included, important and happy. You probably spend nearly as much time (if not more) with your coworkers as you do with your family.
So why wouldn’t you take the time to cultivate office relationships, the same way you do in other walks of life?
It doesn’t have to be a grind developing these relationships. You don’t need to bring in bagels or coffee every morning or put in 60-hour weeks. All it really takes is a little thoughtfulness and the willingness to do things outside of your job description.
Here are five great examples of what you can do in your office that will make you the office superhero.
1. Do the dishes
If your office has a communal kitchen, you’ve probably gone in for a snack, only to see the sink is so full of dirty dishes and leftover food that you lose your appetite. Who wants to deal with that? Often, this situation can result in passive-aggressive emails about community hygiene.
The problem, though, is that no one wants to think of themselves as a dishwasher. They think it’s not part of the job description — and they’re probably right.
But, if your business has a kitchen, you probably know which person in the office washes the dishes and appreciate their effort.
It’s not as though you need to hand-wash everything. Simply being willing to occasionally unload the dishwasher is an appreciated gesture that your coworkers will notice.
2. Remember birthdays
Your coworkers want to feel special and seen, and remembering a birthday will make them feel like they’re more than just another cog in the machine.
Set some sort of calendar notification on your smartphone so you know when it’s someone’s birthday. Then, either before work or during lunch, you can go out and grab a card or small treat that will let them know you remembered and care.
3. Solve tech issues
So many businesses are dependent on computers, iPads, WiFi and a million other tech tools and gadgets, but many of those businesses don’t have a dedicated IT worker. However, the great thing about the internet is that you can learn how to fix a lot of tech problems just by Googling it.
I have very little tech expertise, but I am always willing to learn how to do new things — plus, I enjoy fixing things. I recently helped set up a printer in our office, which allowed all of my coworkers to look at important business and personal documents.
Now, whenever someone in the office needs help with a tech problem, they ask me first. I help new employees set up their tech and help everyone else stay happy with their devices.
It’s an essential service for a digital media company like Entrepreneur, and I know the people in the office appreciate my willingness to find solutions.
4. Come in early or be willing to stay late
It’s often a good idea to arrive early at work, because it shows you are responsible and sets the standard for the rest of the day. (However, I’m not saying you should make it a habit to both come in early and stay late.)
But, if your coworkers are stressed out and working on a tight deadline, you can look like a hero by staying late and helping them accomplish their mission.
People remember the people who help them, especially when they go out of the way to do so. Working late into the night to complete something important can be incredibly rewarding and can bond colleagues together. Just make sure you are selective about your moments to step in and help — you don’t want to become the person who stays late all the the time.
5. Be graceful when someone makes a mistake
Everyone makes mistakes in the office. Some of those are big, some of them are small. Most of them you don’t even realize you’ve made until someone else points them out.
That’s why it’s great to treat others’ mistakes with grace. If someone makes an honest mistake, try to help them without embarrassing them.
For example, if I make typos in my stories, my coworkers and editors step in and clean up the typo without shaming me.
Sometimes, they tell me my mistake so I can do better in the future. They’re not looking for credit. They just want to help. And that’s what being an office hero is all about.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Here’s Why Every Entrepreneur Needs A Business Mentor
There’s no success to be found when you’re standing still or alone.
Some entrepreneurs may look at their success and think it insulting to consider talking to a business mentor. And others may look at their struggles and think it’s the only solution to getting the business back on its feet. Neither of these views are correct in terms of what a business mentor can do for a business.
What a business mentor is
Before we get into reasons why, we need to clearly define what a business mentor is and that should already start clearing up the reasons why you’d need one. A business mentor is a well-established person in an industry who offers to impart their knowledge and experience to lesser experienced entrepreneurs and employees.
One could consider business mentors as a more personal relationship than one would have with a business consultant, but just as beneficial (if not more). Business mentors are basically business consultants, except you don’t (always) have to pay for their advice and mentorship. It’s a mentorship relationship and partnership. So, regardless of who you are and how successful your company is, every entrepreneur needs a business mentor and here’s why.
Related: How can I find a mentor?
There will never be “nothing more to learn”
At no point in any person’s life will they be able to say “I know absolutely everything and there’s nothing more for me to learn”. It may feel that way, but sit down with a business mentor for five minutes and your mind will be swirling with questions. We learn something new every day and with the help of a business mentor, the “something new” will always be related to business and have the potential to lead to business success. Isn’t that something that every entrepreneur dreams of?
There will always be something for entrepreneurs in every industry to learn. Technology is forever developing and providing new innovative ways for industries to work and that’s something entrepreneurs need to stay on top of.
Every bit of experience is beneficial
Now, you may be wondering how a business mentor can help when the years of experience they offer is from a time period where technology wasn’t as great a factor as it is today. And the answer is consistency. While the face of the world changes, there are certain constructs that remain exactly the same and business mentors will be able to teach you about these fundamentals that consumers rely on and need in order to adapt to the changing world.
Every bit of experience that mentors offer their mentees is valuable and beneficial. Entrepreneurs are usually so caught up in the bigger picture that they forget about the smaller, background details that are, in fact, the cornerstones of that end goal. Mentors have been there, made those mistakes and are here to make sure you don’t go down the same paths that caused them business trouble.
So, while their information may seem “outdated”, basic principles never change and should not be overlooked.
Everyone needs a support system
Having the weight of the business rest on your shoulders can be a mentally and emotionally draining responsibility. Entrepreneurs don’t only look to business mentors for advice but for support as well.
Everyone needs a support system and, in business, this means having a mentor. Someone who can back up the difficult business decisions you make and who can listen to the inevitable ranting sessions that follow a rough day in the office. They’re also someone to let you know that you’re doing a better job than you give yourself credit for and someone who can talk some sense into you when you go off the rails a little bit (this happens to all entrepreneurs, don’t worry).
It opens doors to networking opportunities
Generally, business mentors have been in the game for years. And over all those years they have met with some of the most influential people in the industry and business world. Every entrepreneur needs a business mentor even if it’s only for the networking opportunities that come with the relationship.
Business success, these days, is highly influenced by who you know and the importance of networking is not something that entrepreneurs can dismiss. Your business mentor will be able to introduce you to the biggest names in the industry and get you into networking events where you will have the opportunity to meet new people who can help you on the path of innovation.
You need someone to challenge you
Speaking of innovation, another reason why you need a business mentor is so that you have someone who is knowledgeable about the industry to challenge you. Through challenges, you’ll be forced to think about business in a new way and create innovative ways of dealing with standard business issues.
The problem many successful entrepreneurs have is that they tend to stick with what works and choose not to push any boundaries for fear of failure. That type of thinking will only get you so far in the business world and then your competitors will be overtaking you. Any business mentor will be able to explain to you why failure isn’t always a bad thing and that by challenging yourself and innovating, you’re growing. There’s no success to be found when you’re standing still.
MAD Leadership Skills: Our Perspectives
Let’s have a look at some aspects around reasons for starting a business, the challenges faced and critical lessons learned.
Some entrepreneurial skills can be taught while others need to be experienced. It is possible to gain skills while working for someone else, but there are perspectives that you can miss if you have not started your own initiative. Let’s have a look at some aspects around reasons for starting a business, the challenges faced and critical lessons learned.
The people who contributed to this content are from different fields of life, in various industries, with a variety of unique goals and ambitions.
Why Start an Entrepreneurial Initiative?
Some people start ventures because they have a good idea, some want to make a difference, and some are lucky enough to have witnessed a family member beginning a legacy. Three themes have been highlighted by our contributors this week:
Entrepreneurship is About Building Your Own or Expanding upon a Family
Tshinondiwa Thovhakale has started a transport company and has done this because of the memories she shares below: “Growing up I had a good relationship with my dad. I have some of the best memories of him. He owned his own taxi business and drove one of them. He would come to school and fetch me, and before dropping me home, we would go to the taxi rank, take people, and I’d sit in front next to him and count money for him. Then do the normal rounds of dropping people at their destinations, and then he’d take me home and go back to work. I think all that grew on me. When he stopped and made other deals with his taxis, I felt it was our legacy, and I couldn’t let it die like that.”
Entrepreneurship is About Following Your Passion:
Spencer Horne stated:
“I wanted to work directly on the needs and problems that are my passion. The independence of starting a business and choosing exactly what to work on has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my work. “
Entrepreneurship is About Making a Difference:
Many entrepreneurs start a venture because of a need that they would like to fulfil in the market. Some love the idea of feeling good by doing good and making a living out of it.
Things to Think About
Five challenges identified this week are:
- Networking is essential: People don’t always seek new businesses to uplift, the help their associates, leverage this to your benefit and establish a network of influencers, support, and contacts in the industry.
- Getting and keeping talent is a task: Especially initially when resources are limited, and you have a lot to do and achieve to grow your business, and cannot do it all alone.
- You may encounter cultural/societal biases – learn to use it to your advantage and set a precedent in the industry of what you can achieve: For example, being a female in transport, people may undermine you if they see the industry as a “man’s world” – show them why they’re wrong.
- You need to make your opportunities when starting a business: There are fewer opportunities when on your own, and you need to build a relationship base to spread your reach. Tenders are often given to the same people and fundraising is one of the most time-consuming aspects of starting or scaling a business. It’s not something that is always enjoyed, and unfortunately, it must take priority over all else until it is achieved.
- Persistence and flexibility should be balanced: Ironically one needs both an unfaltering belief in what you are doing and the flexibility to pivot out in response to the market. This is one of the most significant and most difficult responsibilities of a business leader.
You need to make your own path
There is no blueprint. Your particular path to building your business will be different to that of others. At times you may learn from the experiences of other entrepreneurs, but be careful of comparisons. Be prepared for the detours and bumps along the road and be sure to take the time to enjoy the journey.
The importance of being patient
Patience is vital. Always have back up plans. It is best to venture into a business that you’re passionate about, because it’s the love for the business that will whisper the words “try again, just one more time” every time a challenge comes your way.
The importance of noticing the small wins
Entrepreneurship is a journey and in many cases, a challenging one. With this in mind, it is easy to get frustrated, lose patience and give up. At points, you may feel like no progress has been made. This is when people should remind themselves of the journey that they’ve already walked. It’s important to celebrate the small successes so that we stay positive and forge ahead.
Bringing it All Together
Entrepreneurship isn’t easy, but it is needed. It makes many people happy and helps create jobs and uplift communities. People start initiatives for different reasons, and we all experience challenges. It is through these challenges that we learn and grow.
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