Q: What advice would you give to senior entrepreneurs who want to remain active, creative and productive in their pre-retirement or retirement years?
A: When I was young, my hero was Peter Pan, and he is still one of my favourite fictional characters. After all, who wouldn’t want to be him? He spent his days with a great gang of friends, he went on lots of adventures, and he could fly. While I have no intention of slowing down anytime soon, it would be great to be like Peter, who never got any older.
In my experience, older entrepreneurs can use their age to their advantage, both in business and in life. There is no reason at all to slow down. If you are concerned about preserving your creativity, look to some new sources of inspiration – innovative ideas or fresh strategies from other fields, for example, or surprising new technological developments, or art and music you find interesting.
I often find that when I take a break to learn about something new, my newfound knowledge can be applied to some of our Virgin businesses, helping us to tackle long-standing problems from different angles.
A group that recently inspired me was the band we partnered with to launch our new global music venture, Virgin Live: The Rolling Stones. After spending 50 years together as one of the world’s most popular rock bands, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts are still as keen as ever to get onstage and to work on new songs.
Senior business leaders can sometimes fall into a rut by working only with the same team of colleagues and advisers they have always trusted, wary of newcomers’ youth and inexperience. If you surround yourself with energetic, like-minded people, no matter what their ages, you will find that great ideas are more likely to flow.
One way of expanding your contacts among younger generations is by volunteering as a mentor. A lot of young people are not getting a fair shake when it comes to getting a start in business, so we started up initiatives such as the Branson Centres of Entrepreneurship in South Africa and the Caribbean, and Virgin Media Pioneers in the U.K. I’ve benefitted immensely from our exchanges – these young entrepreneurs’ ideas have been fascinating and transformative.
And do not forget to draw upon the knowledge of your wider circle of peers. When a problem comes up, you may find that they have been in similar situations in the past.
Staying motivated is another worry that entrepreneurs contemplating the later stages of their careers have mentioned to me: If you’ve done it all before, what is the point of starting over?
I have never found this to be a problem, since there is always another challenge to tackle. If you are having trouble finding an interesting new project, step back and look at your situation in a different light: How can you use this opportunity to make a difference and do good in the world? Are you are doing something you care passionately about? If so, you will want to keep doing it.
Another thing to bear in mind is the importance of physical fitness – keeping fit will help you to remain a creative, agile thinker. In the past few months my children Sam and Holly and I have completed challenges including climbing Mont Blanc, which is the highest mountain in Western Europe, and taking part in the London Triathlon.
And over this past summer, we broke some records for kite-surfing across the English Channel: My son Sam broke a world record, becoming the fastest person to kite-surf across the channel, while I am now the person with the most years to have done so! A bit of action and adventure away from the office can be highly refreshing, reinvigorating your creativity in other areas, including business.
Finally, many people do not find their true calling until later in life. Some business leaders who have done well at a steady job for many years feel the urge later in their careers to start up on their own businesses.
Those who lose their jobs in cutbacks turn misfortune into opportunity and follow up on a brilliant idea that they never had time for before. If you find yourself in this situation, my advice is to go for it! You’ll find that a lot of the skills entrepreneurs need are acquired through experience: real-life, on-the-job expertise.
Older employees who have learned how to inspire and lead people, and how to remain persistent and optimistic despite changes in circumstances, will have an edge. Senior entrepreneurs can bring the best of both worlds to new ventures: experience and the contagious enthusiasm of a youthful mindset. Remain flexible and look around yourself for inspiration, and you may soon find that you’re onto a winning idea.
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.
Entrepreneur Profiles3 days ago
Karl Westvig Of Retail Capital Shares His Insights Into A Year-On-Year Double-Digit Growth Business
Self Development1 week ago
5 Inspiring Quotes From Madiba To Stir You Into Action On Mandela Day
Angel Investors1 week ago
A Comprehensive List Of Angel Investors That Fund South African Start-Ups
Ongoing Learning5 days ago
15 Of The Best And Most Unusual Online Courses For Entrepreneurs
Lessons Learnt5 days ago
11 Things Very Successful People Do That 99% Of People Don’t
Small Business1 week ago
Even SMEs Can Use Big Data: Here’s How
Branding20 hours ago
Personal Brand Or Business Brand: Which Is More Important?
Strategy2 weeks ago
There’s More To Team Management Than Leadership