Google CEO Larry Page’s announcement about his vocal cord condition spotlights the struggle many business leaders experience when dealing with illness while also running a company.
Page revealed that he’s been diagnosed with vocal cord paralysis, a rare nerve condition in your throat that affects your ability to speak, which he contracted 14 years ago. More recently, the ailment caused him to miss some important Google events and investor calls.
When the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was beginning to look ill in 2006, no one knew what was wrong with him, and people started to speculate – a nightmarish situation for most business owners. “A company wants to be in control of its own narrative,” says Henry Cloud, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles and author of Boundaries for Leaders (Harper Business, 2013).
“When you’re not telling the story, then other people will tell it for you.”
Rather than let rumours spread, Page took control. In a Google+ post, he explained the diagnosis, how he got sick and what the future holds for both his health and his involvement at Google. “Thankfully, after some initial recovery I’m fully able to do all I need to at home and at work,” Page wrote. He said the only difference people might notice is that he will be speaking less.
As a leader dealing with a serious illness, you must communicate with your staff and customers, while also taking care of your health, says Cloud. He offers a few strategies for managing sickness at work.
Continue to build trust. It’s important that your employees, investors, clients and anyone else you deal with on a regular basis believe that you have the capacity to continue to lead or that you have a strong plan in place, Cloud says.
That plan may include letting them know which people will be taking over for you, if required. To build trust, first communicate clearly about what’s going on, says Cloud. Then establish credibility over time by following through on the steps you’ve laid out.
When your team sees you continue to fulfill customer orders and pay your employees on time, they’ll have more faith that you can keep the company humming despite your illness.
Show vulnerability, to a point. Your gut reaction might be to be stoic, but employees will embrace you for showing your humanity. Most everyone has had to deal with a sick family member. When you speak with employees about the illness, compare it to the difficulty a family experiences when someone is sick.
“They can identify with that,” says Cloud. At the same time, you might realise you can use your experience to better your company and your relationship with your employees. For example, you may discover that the health-benefits package you’ve been offering isn’t ideal.
Owning up to it and then offering to change it can be an opportunity, says Cloud. Let your employees know that you want to use what you’ve learned through your illness to improve the business.
Communicate regularly and thoughtfully with employees. Employees need to know what their reality is going to look like going forward. But while they need information, planning and structure, “they need that in the proper dosage,” says Cloud. For example, daily emails about your health might be overwhelming.
If you instead say every Friday at 10 a.m. you’ll post an update, then people know when the information is coming and feel more secure. Remember: You’re building a track record for your new reality. As soon as your employees, investors and clients feel that you have established your reliability, Cloud says “they can settle down and go back to work.”
Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Great Leader?
Because it takes everything you’ve got.
I recently hosted the Next Level Leadership Summit in Connecticut, where the main focus was answering the following question: What does it take to lead?
The attendees were seasoned businessmen who ran multiple 7-figure businesses. They had a chance to hear from entrepreneurs in industries like real estate, finance, tech and health. The stories from each presenter gave proof that it doesn’t matter what business you are in – we all have similar struggles. But the biggest insight was the difference between the chase of success versus the pursuit of greatness.
A leader doesn’t chase success, because he knows the chase is never-ending. He doesn’t care what others think, because he knows judgment kills growth. A leader doesn’t worry about how he’s going to make things happen, because he’s focused on the why that drives him to find a way.
Anyone can achieve success, but it takes a certain type of individual to be crazy enough to pursue greatness. This message hit home for me because five years ago, I got tired of chasing success. I had hit a wall in my life, and everything seemed meaningless. The path I had chosen was no longer fulfilling, and I felt empty.
It made no sense for me to feel that way. After all, I had everything anyone could ever want – a growing real estate business, a beautiful family and money in the bank. I thought I had reached success! So, what was wrong with me?
Was I being ungrateful? No. Was I depressed? I didn’t think so. Sometimes I would ask myself, “What if I ceased to exist?” Would anyone care besides my family? What impact have I made on the world?
It became clear to me that it wasn’t success I was seeking. I wanted to make an impact. I wanted to join the ranks of those whose deepest desire wasn’t the chase of success, but rather the pursuit of greatness. The only way to do it was to become a leader.
Today, we oftentimes confuse financial success and leadership. Just because a man knows how to make money doesn’t mean he’s a good leader. I was making money, but I wasn’t a leader, and all my success didn’t mean I was making an impact.
Too many times as successful businessmen, we can’t figure out how to transfer the skills we use at work into the other areas of our lives. Many of us settle for an average relationship with our significant other when we could have more if we simply applied some of the passion that fuels us at our business. The same goes for our health. We often take it for granted. If the same low-maintenance approach were taken with our work, most of us would be out of business. And, what about making an impact – our higher purpose? Most of us settle for higher revenues and move through life like zombies without a purpose. We eventually burn out.
Greatness comes with a price. You have to be willing to lose it all. At that crucial point in my life, I made a decision to pursue my passion.
I decided to create the Next Level Experience. It was my passion business where I would help businessmen find the edge in their lives, and start living with purpose. I had to start from the beginning, and it was frightening and invigorating all at the same time. For the first time in long while, I felt like I was on the right path. My real estate partners thought I was crazy for putting so much time and resources behind it. They told me if I just put the same amount of effort, I would make 10 times the investment. But I was done chasing success. I wanted to create something that mattered, and I was willing to lose everything to make an impact. It was through that experience I learned I was ready to lead.
Related: What Kind Of Leader Are You?
There’s something about the fear of losing everything that shifts your focus. You turn the switch. I had no other choice but to lead. Five years later I’ve helped thousands of men find their edge and turned my passion business into multiple 7-figures.
So, what does it take to lead? Everything you have. The world doesn’t need more millionaires and billionaires chasing success. The world needs leaders who are willing to do whatever it takes to help others along the way to greatness.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Albert Einstein: An Influencer To This Day
Say the word genius and immediately Albert Einstein springs to mind. To this day his influence remains across not only science, humanity and education but popular culture too.
Albert Einstein had the same mentality as an entrepreneur; he was a discoverer, an educator, a revolutionary and incredibly creative. Below are some of the few more reasons why entrepreneurs can learn from him:
1. Even geniuses get it wrong
Einstein wasn’t always right. The best example of Einstein getting it wrong, was when he had trouble accepting that the universe is based on probabilities, not absolutes. In a famous Einstein/Bohr debate, Einstein stated, “God does not play dice with the universe,” with Bohr retorting:
“Einstein, stop telling God what to do!”
2. One should read
When you find the right book, at the right time, it can have an incredible impact on your mindset. I have learned so much from books, and many have helped me as an entrepreneur. Not only does reading give you quiet time and space to look after yourself, but it’s also exciting to keep discovering incredible insights, and being surprised by their impact.
Now I don’t think I will ever dream up a concept that will have world-changing implications like Einstein did, but reading can open new doors for you and your mind, and take you places you never thought possible.
3. Enjoy the challenge
Einstein didn’t pluck remarkable theories out of thin air. He made many mistakes, he persisted and proved his theories worked.
Einstein would ask challenging questions and ask them in different ways. By doing this, he was able to address the unknown from different angles and eventually unveil some of the most perplexing universal secrets.
4. Your weaknesses are your strengths
Experts such have hypothesised that Einstein might have suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome; a condition where sufferers are described as socially aloof, emotionally detached and exhibit inappropriate social behaviour. But on the flip side, those with Asperger’s Syndrome can display an obsessive interest in a single topic or object. So, while Einstein wasn’t the best at socialising, he relished solitude and made incredible use of his mind.
By embracing his playfulness, curiosity and laser-like focus, Einstein decoded the universe. Not so much of a weakness when you think of it like that, hey?
5. Find your tribe
His professors often criticised Einstein’s ideas; professors who were accustomed to conformity. It was only when Einstein worked as a clerk at the patent office that he made significant strides in his thinking within physics, mathematics and philosophy. The point being, make sure you surround yourself with people who get your creative juices flowing and fuel rather than deplete you.
Your Narcissism Is Killing Your Employees’ Productivity. How To Avoid The Pitfalls
The key is to understand how your narcissism is affecting others and actively work to adjust and adapt your behaviour.
Narcissism appears to be on the rise among today’s business and entrepreneurial leaders, if you read the business pages and academic research on a regular basis. And this isn’t always a bad thing: Narcissists can be compelling leaders capable of executing grand strategic visions.
But all too often they are described as highly self-absorbed individuals who believe they are superior to those around them.
And while successful entrepreneurs tend to have high levels of self-confidence and an intense drive for success, often they’ll fall prey to the problems associated with the darker aspects of narcissism: Specifically, they take unnecessary risks, hold too tightly to their vision when change is needed and fail to recognise the work and sacrifices of those around them.
In our new study, which was published in May in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, my research partners and I sought to gain a better understanding of just how problematic narcissistic leaders are, and what they might do to lessen the negative outcomes. We surveyed 262 employees and their (262) direct supervising managers over a four-week period at a large Chinese technology company.
Overall, we found the harmful consequences of narcissistic leaders to be wide-ranging.
Just how harmful is a harmful narcissistic leader?
We began by asking leaders at the tech company we targeted to complete a widely used Narcissistic Personality Inventory test. Employees, meanwhile, were asked to report on their organisation-based self-esteem, meaning the degree to which they felt they belonged in their organisation.
As researchers we were operating on the understanding that the need to belong is a fundamental human need and motivator, but that narcissistic leaders fail to satisfy this need among their employees because of their high levels of self-concern.
Those high levels mean leaders like these ignore the feelings of others. Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, for example, was often described as highly self-absorbed and inconsiderate of others. She was often criticised for being habitually late to meetings and dismissive of her constituents’ ideas and suggestions.
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, is also said to be highly abrasive, and to tend to berate employees who fail to live up to his impossibly high standards. One former engineer at the company referred to critical interactions with the SpaceX CEO as an “Elon ass-kicking” and said some employees felt “crushed under the weight” of those interactions. Not surprisingly, both Musk and Mayer have been recognised as some of the most narcissistic CEOs in the tech industry.
Our study found that 51 percent of employees with narcissistic leaders disagreed or strongly disagreed with statements asking if they felt valuable in the workplace. Moreover, this diminished sense of belonging had wide-ranging consequences on these employees’ behaviour. Specifically:
- 34 percent of employees surveyed disagreed or strongly disagreed with statements asking if they helped other group members with their responsibilities
- 31 percent of employees disagreed or strongly disagreed with statements asking if they spoke up to their leader about their own improvement-oriented suggestions
- 37 percent of employees agreed or strongly agreed with statements asking if they badmouthed their leader to their coworkers
- 18 percent of employees agreed or strongly agreed with statements asking if they intentionally tried to disrupt task completion by ignoring their leader’s requests.
Such behaviours are troublesome enough for established companies, but for start-ups – whose survival depends on quick action and cooperation from all employees – the consequences can be dire.
How can narcissistic leaders avoid the pitfalls of their personalities?
We asked employees to report whether their leader consulted with them before making decisions. While this kind of consultation is an influence tactic leaders use to gain employee support, it can also signal to employees that their contributions are valued.
We found that among narcissistic leaders, 27 percent frequently consulted with employees while another 43 percent consulted with employees to some extent.
Importantly, we found that when narcissistic leaders consulted with employees, the detrimental outcomes stemming from such leadership were not simply reduced, but eliminated completely. Here are three takeaways:
Active listening means that you concentrate on the message being communicated; you don’t just passively “receive” the message. Unfortunately, most narcissistic leaders have difficulty focusing on what others are saying and often ignore their advice.
One classic example of a narcissistic leader who altered his behavior to more attentively listen to others was Steve Jobs. Much of Jobs’ success upon returning to the helm at Apple in 1997 was attributed to the drastic change in his interpersonal behavior from his prior tenure in 1985.
Not only was he more willing to listen to his employees, but he was described as someone who “seemed to relish other people’s ideas.” Our research indicated that employees are likely to discount their narcissistic leaders’ more abrasive qualities when those leaders take the time to actively listen to their suggestions.
Don’t just listen. Invite employees’ involvement in the making and development of decisions. Our study demonstrated that when narcissistic leaders invite employees to participate in leadership processes, those employees experience a sense of ownership in the process that can help alleviate the leader’s more harmful tendencies.
In particular, such behaviour signals to employees that their narcissistic leader is not only willing to listen when they, the employees, have concerns or suggestions, but actually desire to receive those employee contributions.
According to Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, the best leaders “make a religion out of being accessible.” Likewise, our research emphasised the importance of narcissistic leaders making themselves accessible to individual employees.
Despite his narcissism, Welch often sent personal notes to his executives and met one-on-one with employees at all levels. Such behaviours were part of the programs Welch instituted to enhance employees’ “feelings of ownership and self-worth” in the GE culture. We found that the individual attention employees receive when they’re consulted provides the interpersonal interaction they crave, but rarely receive, from their narcissistic leader.
Due to the dynamic environment of the typical entrepreneurial venture, communication and cooperation from employees is a necessity for continued growth and survival. Although entrepreneurial leaders may be more narcissistic than their counterparts in non-entrepreneurial vocations, the pitfalls associated with their tendencies may be avoidable.
The key is for such leaders to understand how their narcissism is affecting others and actively work to adjust and adapt their behavioir.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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