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4 Leadership Lessons You Won’t Learn In Business School

True leaders are born, not built in a classroom.

Sujan Patel

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Nailing down your MBA could help give you the business savvy you need to launch your startup or rise in the ranks of your current company. But not having that celebrated diploma hanging on your office wall doesn’t mean you can’t find your path to success.

CNBC reported on research from Wealth-X which found that only 13 percent of today’s global billionaires have an MBA. That’s not all: Only 30 percent of those billionaires have a bachelor’s degree. Those statistics indicate there is something else at play for these billionaires besides a formal education.

I have found this to be true for my own life. While I am certainly not a billionaire, I am a college dropout, and everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned by execution. It’s paid off: By the time my friends were out of school, I was already earning six figures and had four different investments making money for me. While those buddies were in college, I hustled; and by age 23, my income was already $140,000. By the time I was 25, my company had passed $1 million in revenue.

So, the message here is that there’s no right path to success, but there is more to learn in business than lessons on strategic differentiation. If you’re waiting to step into a role as a great business leader, with an MBA in hand, you could be taking a detour to success. Instead, focus on some of the leadership lessons you can acquire right now.

Related: 25 Leadership Lessons From Millionaire Business Owners

Here are four leadership lessons you won’t learn in business school.

1Scale slowly and organically

Jeff Hayniewriting for Recode, nailed it when he described how impossible it is to scale quickly as a start-up: “You need a lot of things,” he wrote, “to make scaling fast work that are inherently a mismatch at a start-up, including well-defined processes and people that work well with and know those processes well.”

In other words, a strict structure isn’t exactly the hallmark of a startup. Nor is a strict structure a priority for most small businesses looking to launch into a cycle of rapid growth.

Instead, start scaling by automating your business processes first; for example, create training videos to onboard new hires quickly. Then, use that time you’ve earned, putting it back into your workweek, to focus on more client-relationship building, and organically add services and new clients.

The time to scale is when you have revenue in place to sustain the growth. Scale too fast without a solid process and revenue model in place, and your business will topple like a house of cards built too quickly.

2Get ready to sacrifice

barbara-corcoran

In theory, anyone familiar with hard work and growing with a company knows that sacrifice is required to realise success. The reality of what those late nights in the office and missed moments with your family really means only starts to sink in long after you’ve gotten your MBA.

Take some comfort in knowing that you’ll at least be in good company as you’re figuring out what you’ll need to sacrifice. Success interviewed accomplished entrepreneurs, including Barbara Corcoran, about their sacrifices. Corcoran described how she took a full-time job and left her company in the hands of a partner while she paid down her looming six-figure debt.

While her bosses loved her, she said, she hated being an employee. Yet, in the end, she recognized that swallowing her pride and making the sacrifice was a good move and helped save her company.

Be prepared to make your own sacrifices to capture the success you’re looking for. That might mean sacrifices, like Corcoran’s, of working for someone else or moving back in with your parents – as 30 percent of today’s millennials are doing. Just remember that these sacrifices are temporary, and can make your success more satisfying in the long run.

Related: Business & Leadership Lessons from Kumaran of Spartan

3Diversify early and often

Business school might tell you to monetise early, but that doesn’t always mean what you might think. For example, instead of focusing strictly on trying to turn your freemium SaaS project into a premium model, think about your income stream with the big picture in mind.

As a SaaS developer, you could offer consulting on the side, create a coding course for your peers or get paid to speak on the future of the SaaS industry.

The point is, diversify early and often. Recognise that you may need to launch side gigs just to make ends meet to get your business up and running – because unfortunately, securing funding isn’t always a reality for business owners and entrepreneurs. But using your income streams to bootstrap your business is within your control.

As a 23-year-old, I worked hard to diversify and increase my revenue through investments and by bootstrapping my successes. I invested in stocks, a commercial apartment complex and five startups (one of which tripled my investment).

There’s no reason why you can’t do the same. For example, today’s investors can crowdfund their way to a robust commercial real estate investment with a service like RealtyMogul for just a few thousand dollars down.

The income streams you develop now could end up opening the door to a new business in real estate or a position as a silent partner in a start-up that you never considered before.

4Practice gratitude

Turning gratitude into a daily practice isn’t on the radar of enough of today’s business leaders, despite the immeasurable professional and personal benefits. But, according to Psychology Today, gratitude opens the door to more relationships. I’ve discovered that relationship-building is a big factor in success, and so make a habit of helping others, as a way to network and forge more personal connections.

Gratitude also improves your overall psychological mindset. This can be crucial for entrepreneurs and business leaders who all too often suffer from depression and chronic stress in silence. Entrepreneurship and growing a business is not for the faint of heart, and we could all use more gratitude to help us remember why we were optimistic enough to jump into this arena in the first place.

Related: Ebrahim Matthews’ Lessons in Authentic Leadership

Then, what I personally love about gratitude is how it anchors you to the present to fully embrace and benefit from each experience. It’s like that new business inspiration that popped into your head when you were paying close attention to a speaker at a conference. It helps you gain a foothold on the work-life balance we all need in our lives.

So . . . an MBA? A diploma can be beneficial for someone who needs a solid understanding of business principles and making new connections. But earning one doesn’t necessarily turn you into a great leader.

Instead, you can reach out to mentors in your industry to help guide you through the process, and seek out people who know more than you and have been there before. At the end of the day, true leaders surround themselves with the talent that can help drive them forward. That’s not something you can do in a bubble, because a bubble will only put you on the slow route to success.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

In his more than 10 years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic, sales and strengthen brand reputation online. Sujan is the VP of marketing at When I Work -- an employee scheduling software solution for small businesses.

Leading

Why Elon Musk’s Vision Should Change Your Business

If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward, there’s no sitting on the fence, its one or the other.

Craig Johnston

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It’s about the big picture

Elon Musk is the kind of guy who probably divides the room wherever he goes; in the same way that people either prefer Superman or Batman, soccer or rugby, maybe summer or winter. There’s no sitting on the fence. It’s one or the other. You either like Elon Musk or you don’t. But this article is not about him, its about you and how you are leading your business.

Love him or hate him, I don’t believe any business leader can get away from the fact that Elon Musk, possibly more than any other contemporary entrepreneur, is going to have an influence over your business. And if he doesn’t, he should, not as an individual as much as an archetype.

In the early 2000s another famous South African born entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth was the first South African to become a space tourist. We were all proud, and asked ourselves what we would do if we had billions of Rands… how would you spend it? Mark’s rigorous preparation and orbit in space riveted the nation, from coffee break conversations to television documentaries and Grade 5 school projects. Everyone was talking about it. Mark’s trip was ultimately the fulfilment of one man’s personal ambition, a dream long-held and finally fulfilled.

Related: What Elon Musk Can Teach You About Getting Funding for Your Start-up

Aligning the planets

Elon Musk seems to be a different kind of dreamer. He does not only dream for himself, he dreams for humanity and that is rare. It is also why I think that his vision is something that every business leader should take note of. Look at any Start-up:101 Pitch Deck and you’ll likely see Guy Kawasaki’s famous 10, 20, 30 format and the first slide trying to answer the question, “What problem are you solving?”

Imagine setting yourself the problem of transitioning humanity into becoming a “multi-planetary species”, as Musk famously declared in a 2017 TED interview, and if that’s not enough, you are also working to revolutionise transport and save the environment through clean energy. In my view, Elon Musk (flawed as he may be) represents, two essential qualities that are absolutely indispensable for leaders and businesses of the future: Hope and Vision.

The lever that Musk has chosen to crank open the future, restore hope and unlock his vision, is technology. Misunderstood and much maligned, technology; like Musk, also instantly divides a room.

Technophiles on the one side, technophobes on the other and you must choose. You cannot half use technology, you either opt in or you opt out. The only choice is whether you will use technology responsibly or not. This is no small question and something that many business leaders (including Musk) have shown some commitment to by adding their support to organisations such as the Future of Life Institute.

Ships are not built to stay in the harbour

Technology is agnostic, it is neither good or bad. It’s influence lies in how you choose to use it. With so much talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and how it is going to impact our lives and, in a business context, the lives of our employees it seems prudent that, as leaders, we establish a clear vision for technology in our businesses with due cognisance of how it is likely to impact our staff and our customers alike.

A business that integrates machine learning and AI into its business management system, for example, may in future have unprecedented access to information, provide intuitive robotic support 24/7, and the power to influence behaviour. This goes beyond ‘old-school’ marketing and advertising, heading into untested waters.

While we should rightly rely on our policy makers and legislators to put regulatory frameworks in place to guide how we use technology, as business leaders we should already be taking the first steps towards developing a technology-use policy in our businesses.

Related: Elon Musk’s Formula For Successfully Growing Companies Faster

Like Musk, our aim should be to bring hope and share a vision. A hope that, even with the threat of diminishing resources in our businesses, we are up to the task of conceiving novel and exciting alternatives that, even if it looks different than in the past, are able to meet the needs of our people. And a vision, not just to increase shareholder value or to be the leaders in our field, but something aspirational.

A commitment to lift eyes and hearts with a big vision, maybe not for interplanetary travel, but at least to let your Enterprise boldly go where it has not gone before, not as a tourist, but as the captain of your ship. Because if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward, there’s no sitting on the fence, its one or the other.

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6 Ways To Lead In The Multi-leader Economy

Why business leaders today compete for mindshare among their employees, and how they can lead.

Don Packett

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I recently attended an event where a CEO delivered the company’s annual results and outlined its future strategy. He closed the talk with some inspirational content to get the team excited about the year ahead.

While I listened to this business leader speak, I also had my eye on the audience. While the content was relevant and inspiring, the narrative and delivery was off. This was evident in the audience, who seemed disengaged – most had their faces in their phones. These employees, who should be inspired by their leader, were simply biding their time, waiting for the next speaker.

Was it because they’re generally rude, disengaged people? Not at all. In fact, they were a phenomenally switched-on crowd when we presented to them. So why weren’t they listening intently to the proverbial captain of the ship?

Leadership competition hotting up

I believe it’s because leaders today are competing for the attention of those they lead. People are exposed to hundreds of potential leaders in their daily lives, and that number grows daily as the internet brings a whole host of outside influence into reach.

While many of these influencers are not tasked with leading, per se, great leaders seldom have to force a following. They naturally build one through an innate ability. They achieve this by delivering inspiring and engaging content on a regular basis via platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, podcasts or TED.com.

And it’s not just inspirational visionaries like Jobs or Branson who people listen to today. Anyone with a strong message can self-publish to spark debate, inspire or influence.

Related: 21 Tanks: Don Packett and Richard Mulholland

Understand the new dynamic

will-smith

Accordingly, whenever a leader steps up to deliver something relevant to their team, they need to be aware that in the past 24 hours their audience has probably watched people like Simon Sinek, Mel Robbins or Will Smith deliver a message that could spark a different way of thinking.

If you’re a business leader and have not considered the possibility that your team is also being influenced and, often, led by a host of other leaders, then you’re in for a tough time. The reality is that leaders now face fierce competition, and as the head of an organisation you need to take charge and own that space.

Here’s how you can take the lead in leadership:

1. Maintain face-to-face engagements

This is still the best way to work, especially when talking about important matters. I have a standing one-hour meeting with my team every three weeks. I open this session with a 10-15 minute talk on a specific topic I feel is important. The remaining time is used for open discussion. These sessions have been incredibly powerful, because it’s an opportunity for everyone to have their say, share their views and contribute to growing the business and the team, together.

2. Write narrative that catalyses conversation

This pertains to the content of your engagements. This needs to be something that’s not only on your agenda, but also on your employees’ agenda. People need both answers and guidance, but when leaders and teams can work on both aspects together, magic happens.

3. Deliver with conviction

Leaders often throw out a concern, hoping that it gets resolved. You can’t do that. Leaders need to stand up and deliver with passion to galvanise their teams. Sure, be part of the conversation, and ensure that your team knows how important it this, but understand that it’s more than just a conversation.

4. Get them to challenge you

The proverbial ‘open door policy’ requires employees to walk up to the door. Our regular team session offers me the opportunity to ask everyone, collectively, about their thoughts on a subject. I’m basically standing at the open door and asking them to come in, and not just randomly, but to discuss something pertinent.

Related: Rich Mulholland Reveals His Secrets To Success And How He Plans To Stay There

5. Make the changes required

After listening to your team, take action. Due to the influence of social media, society today is plagued by “ask-holes” – people who ask for advice or ideas, but never action them. Leaders need to listen and take action. Not that you should do everything you team asks, of course, but listening is the first step to understanding, and action needs to follow.

6. Rinse, repeat

Effective leadership is not an annual speaking engagement. It requires constant work to keep teams focused on the business. The biggest failure in most businesses is a lack of communication, which is something leaders need to constantly work on.

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Want To Achieve Greatness? Force Everyone Out Of Their Comfort Zones

Diverse teams are better performing teams, but only when they are inclusive.

Rob Jardine

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Working in a diverse team feels uncomfortable and that’s why we perform better. Discomfort arouses our brain, which leads to better performance.

Diverse teams are smarter teams. They have higher rates of innovation, error detection and creative problem solving. In environments that possess diverse stakeholders, being able to have different perspectives in the room may even enable more alignment with varied customer needs.

Being able to think from different perspectives actually lights up areas of the brain, such as the emotional centres needed for perspective taking that would previously not be activated in similar or non-diverse groups.

In a nutshell, you use more of your brain when you encourage different perspectives by including different views in the room. However, work done at the NeuroLeadership Institute has proven that this only works when diverse teams are inclusive, and this still remains a key challenge in business today.

When we consider the amount of diversity present in the modern workplace and the addition of more diverse thinking as a result of globalisation and the use of virtual work teams, it’s clear that the ability to unlock the power of diversity is just waiting to be unleashed.

Here’s how you can unlock this powerful performance driver.

The Social Brain

Despite the rich sources of diversity present in most workplaces, companies are still often unable to leverage the different perspectives available to them in driving business goals. Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience have enabled us to understand why. The major breakthrough has centred around the basic needs of the social brain.

We have an instinctual need to continually define whether we are within an in-group or an out-group. This is an evolutionary remnant of the brain that enabled us to strive to remain within a herd or group where we had access to social support structures, food and potential mates. If we were part of the out-group it could literally have meant life or death. We are therefore hypersensitive to feelings of exclusion as it affected our survival.

The brain is further hardwired for threat and unconsciously scans our environments for threats five times a second. This means, coupled with our life or death need for group affiliation, we are hypersensitive to finding sameness and a need for in-group inclusion.

When we heard a rustle in a bush it was safer to assume that it may be a lion than a gust of wind. It is this threat detection network that has kept us alive until today. The challenge is that society has developed faster than our brains. In times of uncertainty we often jump to what is more threatening.

Some of the ways that this plays out is when we leave someone out of an email and they begin to wonder why they were left out. The problem is that it’s easy to unconsciously exclude someone if we are not actively including. The trouble occurs when we incorrectly use physical proxies to define in-group and out-group, as this is the most readily available evidence used unconsciously by the brain.

Barriers to Inclusion

A study done between a diverse group and non-diverse group demonstrates how this plays out in the work place. Both groups completed a challenging task and were asked how they felt they did as a team after the exercise.

The effectiveness of the team and how they perceived effectiveness were both measured in the study. It’s no surprise that the diverse team did better in the completion of the problem-solving task, but what is surprising is that they felt they did not do well. In contrast, the non-diverse team did worse, but felt that they had done well.

Working in a diverse team feels uncomfortable and that’s why we perform better. Discomfort arouses our brain, which leads to better performance. It feels easier to work in a team where we feel at ease in sameness, but in that environment we are more prone to groupthink and are less effective.

Creating Inclusion

We can’t assume that when we place diverse teams together we will automatically reap the rewards of higher team performance. As discussed, we’re hardwired for sameness and if we’re not actively including, we may be unconsciously excluding.

If we want diversity to become a silver bullet, we need to actively make efforts to find common ground amongst disparate team members. This in turn will build team cohesion and create a sense of unity, including reminders of a shared purpose and shared goals. Many global businesses put an emphasis on a shared corporate culture that supersedes individual difference.

It’s the same mechanism that is used in science fiction films that bond individuals together against a common alien invasion. It can also be used to describe why we felt such a great sense of accomplishment during the 2010 World Cup as we banded together as a nation.

We must also make sure we uplift all team members by sharing credit widely when available and recognising performance. The last thing we can do to further inclusion is to create clarity for teams. By removing ambiguity, we allow individuals to not jump to conclusions about their membership within groups and calm their minds so they can use their mental capacity to focus on the task at hand.

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