5 Quick Wins
What does it mean to be a great leader? In my previous blog posts, we’ve covered what great leaders do consistently to stay ahead and stay successful.
This time, we will cover a handful of quick wins and immediate changes that will help you be a better leader today – things that you can do right now.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” -Mark Twain
1. Learn From Those Who Have Come Before You
As we’ve covered in previous blogs, you don’t have to simply learn from your own mistakes. In fact, there is a tremendous amount of value in learning from the mistakes (and the triumphs) of others who have gone before you. Lessons learned and lessons observed are two feet in the same dance, and there is no law stating you must learn through hardships firsthand. With myriad biographies and teachings available spanning millennia, learning from history provides students of industry the insight of innumerable altruistic, economic, and political leaders throughout time and civilization.
Reading autobiographies and biographies of great leaders seems to be the most direct connection to learning these lessons of history. For just a few dollars, you can learn the story of Sam Walton – arguably the most successful businessman of modern times and the founder of retail conglomerate Walmart. If your goal is to emulate the Richard Bransons, the Warren Buffets, or the Jeff Bezoses of the world, practically every great leader has laid out his or her own path to success in some form, including, but not limited to, the invaluable mistakes each one of them has made along the way. And whether you are seeking faith-based insights or not, the Bible is a wonderful resource for learning about leadership and its stories span thousands of years.
2. Embrace What You Are Good At
One of the most crucial elements in growing yourself as a leader in business and life is to gain a mastery of your emotional intelligence – often referred to as EQ (or emotional quotient). Essentially, this is the command and control of your emotional state. It’s not what happens to you, but how you react. A great exercise is to identify a few people in your inner circle, whether family, close friends, or trusted coworkers, and ask them several pointed questions about yourself. Ask them to be brutally honest without worry or repercussion, and absorb their insight regarding your talents, weaknesses, and how they see you. Do you agree with their answers? Or are you offended by them? Alignment indicates strong emotional intelligence. Misalignment identifies self awareness and then allows for subsequent EQ improvements. People will lie; friends and family will be biased; spouses will filter criticisms; but the open market will expose everything – whether you’re not ready, haven’t earned it, or are simply lacking the emotional intelligence needed to garner the results you seek.
I believe that everyone is talented at something; but not everyone can do anything. We must embrace our individual circle of competencies and maintain a balanced ego along the way. Humbling yourself allows for a healthy outlook and effectively manages your expectations of the working world. One thing I hope you remember is that there is always a bigger, better, more talented, or more successful fish. But that doesn’t limit your own possibilities.
“Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.” – John Maxwell
3. Become a Coach
The best way to become a better leader is to jump right in and teach somebody something. Find someone who is younger or not as far along in their career/journey and coach them along. You’ll find that lending your services and serving others will lift you up equally, and you will learn a lot about yourself along the way. Whether you are a life coach, business coach, or are coaching a little league team, some of the best lessons you can learn as a leader will come from jumping into leadership roles head-first. Every great mentor also has a great mentor; ideally, you should seek numerous mentors.
Lifting up those around you will teach you patience, something that is priceless in life. Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in six months, but underestimate what they can achieve in five years. Most great business ideas started in less time than that. What do you wish you could have started five years ago? And what can you start in the next five minutes?
Teaching others also teaches you reciprocal altruism – in that the more you give, the more you get. Since the dawn of humanity, even throughout examples in nature, we tend to reap what we sow. The seeds that are planted and nurtured in spring will become the same crops which feed and warm you come winter. When ultimately called upon, will you be ready? Whether it’s the faith of a mustard seed, or the one decision you made to change your life today?
“Work on being self-aware. But really do it.” -Anthony Clervi
4. Start a Disciplined Daily Routine
Working on your mind, body, and soul are all imperative to the pillars of happiness and success. When you feel good, you do good. When you think positively, you attract positivity. These are not new revelations, and not my own original thoughts. These are principles of success that have withstood the test of time. Studying the most successful business and worldly minds reveals one common thread: their discipline in having a daily routine.
Successful leaders commonly wake up at the same time, practice mindfulness and meditation, commit their efforts everyday toward a bigger goal, and embrace a position of gratitude. When gratefulness enters your daily mindset, you will attract more things to be grateful for.
Your daily routine should be like a racecar: make tweaks and adjustments when necessary to refine your machine every day and get better. When you find a stretch of success, don’t rest on your laurels. The icons of professional sports don’t stop practicing because they’ve won a championship. In fact, they train harder and find other ways to improve everyday. That type of mindset is something you can add to your daily routine starting right now.
“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” -Albert Einstein
5. Learn to Shut Up
Becoming a good listener is one of the most valuable trains you can learn as a leader. Listening builds trust. Trust warrants influence. Influence begets results. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a wonderful resource on the art of listening. Active listening allows you to establish a meaningful connection with those around you.
Too often, people will speak their mind without thinking, and rather than listening to their conversational counterpart, they will be thinking of what to say next – essentially having a one-way conversation with themselves.
Learning to shut up, listen, and actively respond in every interaction you have will yield huge dividends within your “social value.” Ask open-ended questions that directly tie-in to the points your counterpart just mentioned; this engages those keywords and phrases that create a valuable connection with your relationship or interaction. It shows empathy and allows you to absorb the digestible parts of their messaging. This works wonders in sales, as well.
Every moment you spend talking over someone sucks the oxygen out of a conversation. Learning to shut up allows you to also learn active listening. One thing that is common among the titans of industry is their unwavering ability to listen and successfully communicate ideas.
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” -John F. Kennedy
Just as you cannot change your entire body after only one workout or one day of clean eating, you cannot expect to evolve yourself all at once. These incremental changes compound to create measurable and noticeable changes over time. How do you eat an elephant, as they say…? One bite at a time.
The secret is to start right now.