2
Dec

4 Questions to Ask When Thinking of Thought Leadership

4 Questions to Ask When Thinking of Thought Leadership

4 Questions to Ask When Thinking of Thought Leadership

Image credit: -DiMiTRi- | Flickr

Far too many people dismiss thought leadership as a buzzword devoid of real substance, which is unfortunate — because it’s not just a buzzword. But, what is it really? When should you consider using it, and how do you balance the talent and experience of your team with the humility and authenticity that today’s audiences demand?

Let’s start by getting on the same page with these four questions:

1. What is thought leadership?

At its core, thought leadership is a type of content marketing where you tap into the talent, experience and passion inside your business, or from your community, to answer the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience on a particular topic.

The source is not as important as the content. Thought leadership doesn’t mean a big name from a big school, it means you provide the best and deepest answers to your customers’ biggest questions in the formats your audience likes to consume them.

Thought leadership is a key component of content marketing, but it’s important not to fall into the unique-point-of-view trap. I have heard more than a few executives delay betting on content marketing by focusing on the unique point of view. They say, “There is so much noise in the marketplace. We can only compete if our content is differentiated.”

Your audience isn’t looking for your content to be differentiated all of the time. They are just looking for the best answers to the questions. Or as Bryan Rhoads at Intel likes to say, “You have to win the internet every day.” Of course you want to differentiate your point of view when it’s appropriate. Differentiate with your visual design. But mostly, differentiate by becoming an authority and by helping your customers with different types of content, every single day.

We have to be careful with how we use the words thought leadership though. Wikipedia actually calls it business jargon and defines it as content that is recognized by others as innovative, covering trends and topics that influence an industry.

2. When should you consider a thought leadership approach?

One of the best ways to establish authority on your topic is to produce deep research on the subject. You have to present a depth of knowledge that no one else has.

You also have to define all of your customers challenges, and define the best ways to overcome them. Many brands think this is an opportunity to talk about their products and how they are better, but this isn’t an effective approach. As soon as you start promoting yourself, your audience will start to tune out, and you will lose the trust you worked so hard to build.

3. What are the benefits of thought leadership?

The benefits of thought leadership start with brand affinity. By communicating thought leadership, you become part of the conversation early in the consumer journey. You allow your audience to get to know you.

Ultimately, thought leadership is one of the outcomes of a solid content strategy. And content is bigger than marketing. Leaders are everywhere. Expose your thought leaders, and you begin the process of becoming a social business — real people with real faces talking to real customers and buyers.

4. How do you create thought leadership that drives results?

Identify a topic that is closely associated with your brand. Are you an authority on that topic. A simple Google search can help you answer that question. Often we find that brands are not just competing with their direct competitors. You are competing with everyone. Anyone who publishes content in your space is competing for mind share and authority.

You also need to identify the questions your customers are asking. Identify them all, make a list and prioritize them. Answer those questions across multiple formats and multiple channels in a way that adds value to your audience. Start with the most important and work your way down the list. Seek to be the best answer to those questions.

Finally, create your thought leadership content in an engaging way. Viral cat videos and listicles are great, but you shouldn’t dismiss any content types that your audience might be interested in. You need to educate them, but we are all human and none of us mind a little humor. Use lots of examples, facts and quotes. I love the idea of interviewing customers to create content or curating content from other sources while adding your own perspective.

Your audience is looking for help. Are you willing to give it to them? And tell me, what do you think? What does thought leadership mean to you?

2
Dec

How Your Leadership Skills Will Determine Your Company Culture

How Your Leadership Skills Will Determine Your Company Culture

How Your Leadership Skills Will Determine Your Company Culture

Image credit: AppLovin

Build a culture of teamwork.

In 2012, chef Niki Nakayama was living her dream, preparing traditional Japanese kaiseki feasts at her Los Angeles restaurant, n/naka. Then her sous chef quit without notice. “I had been accustomed to splitting tasks with him,” she says, but now everything fell on her shoulders. She dove in, preparing exquisite, labor-intensive meals of nine or 13 courses — but with less leadership available, her minimal staff suffered.

What was going on? The problem may have been culture. In traditional Japanese kitchens — not unlike some traditional American offices — subordinates are expected to watch and learn, rarely ask questions and never debate the head chef’s ideas. “I am not a great teacher,” Nakayama admits. That’s why the loss of her sous chef was so acute: The staff had lost a certain kind of leader, someone who could “speak Niki,” bringing order to her creative chaos and translating her instructions for everyone else. Nakayama couldn’t fill the hole herself.

She came to a realization: Everyone should be aware of their weaknesses and overcome them as a team. Nakayama fixed her own problem by hiring Carole Iida, a fellow chef whom she was dating at the time. Where Nakayama was messy and spontaneous, working off the top of her head, Iida was organized and reliable, and could guide the staff. “She brought in her organizational abilities, and we were able to put everything together for other people to understand,” Nakayama says.

As a result, the 2016 Zagat guide has awarded n/naka the top spot for food among L.A. restaurants, a dramatic rise from eighth place the year before. Now Nakayama encourages all her workers to focus on their strengths — “to pull out that best part of ourselves and just contribute that all the time, without spending too much time trying to fix the weaknesses that we have,” she says. “It’s far more productive in a team environment. It’s knowing and respecting each other’s strengths and weaknesses that makes a great team.”

Build a culture of rigor.

The Santa Fe Institute, an extremely well-regarded nonprofit research center, sets a high bar for scientific inquiry. The more than 250 researchers affiliated with SFI are investigating the fundamentals behind the world’s biggest problems — cancer, fast-spreading viruses, global economies, you name it. And its president, accomplished scientist David Krakauer, knows one thing for sure: When working with all these great minds, he cannot always be the smartest one in the room. He sometimes thinks of himself “as a colonel leading an army of generals.”

So how does he lead them? “The authority of my position is not worth shit,” he says. “When I’m talking to someone who is more accomplished than I am, my opinion is not the most compelling argument. The most compelling argument is rigor. You have to speak the language of rigor.”

Speak the language of rigor. That means supporting every idea with observation, evidence and analysis — and maybe even conducting experiments to determine the best course of action. It means trusting a clear, quantitative approach that everyone can understand. And it means not using language that’s limiting. Here’s a phrase Krakauer hates: “That’s not how we do things around here.” No. He is adamant on this point: Anyone caught uttering that phrase, he says, “should be put down.”

Like scientists, business leaders should wield evidence as a tool of persuasion, Krakauer believes. He quotes physicist Richard Feynman: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” It’s a hard lesson to learn, but a necessary one: Your gut instinct is not sufficient. If you want to persuade top talent to follow your lead, you’d better be able to back up your arguments with more than your job title.

Build a culture of inquiry.

Contently, a tech startup that helps Fortune 500 companies and other brands do content marketing, was founded by three guys in New York in 2010. That trio has since grown to a staff of about 100. And along the way, cofounder and chief creative officer Shane Snow feared a disturbing change: The energy driving that growth — that scrappy, do-anything attitude — could easily cool. Employees might become timid in large groups, afraid of earning the ire of the majority. “Most people and most companies reach a plateau at a certain point, and at many points,” says Snow. “It’s crazy how quickly even a disruptive, rebellious startup can get to the point where they say, ‘That’s not the way things are done here.’” (There it is, that phrase again.)

So Contently made sure not to let that happen.

For example, Snow limits meetings that involve problem solving — where employees really need to speak up — to three or four people. And challenges keep Contently’s big team feeling scrappy. For example, Snow often asks for “10X ideas” — say, “How can we improve customer happiness by 10 times?” Employees are game, he says: They do want to keep things fresh. A leader’s role is to create the right opportunities.

Time for another forbidden phrase: “Don’t bring me problems; bring me solutions.” Leaders use that phrase because they think it inspires employees to take initiative, says Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. But instead, it teaches employees not to speak up about a need unless they have a proposal for fixing it. “When you ask for solutions, you create a culture of advocacy rather than a culture of inquiry,” Grant says. “Most creativity, most innovation happens when somebody points out a problem that’s not yet been solved.”

Snow wants to hear it all. He and his cofounders set aside a few free hours every week so any employee who wants to chat (in or, preferably, outside the office) can do so. It’s an invitation to hear about those problems that are in search of solutions. “When someone brings in a perspective that hasn’t been heard yet,” Grant says, “it often forces you to reconsider your decision criteria, to bring in new information — and that ultimately is good for your process.”

Build a culture of accountability.

Bridgewater Associates is the world’s largest hedge fund, managing $154 billion in assets for sovereign wealth funds, corporate and public pensions, foundations and university endowments. Its founder, Ray Dalio, is widely seen as a financial genius. And yet, after a meeting with a potential client one day, an employee several levels down on the org chart fired off a blistering email to Dalio. He accused the boss of being unprepared and disorganized, and gave him a grade — D-minus! — for his behavior.

“I don’t know many organizations where you can send an email like that to the billionaire founder and keep your job,” says Grant, the Wharton professor who shared the incident in his book, Originals. But instead of lashing out, Grant says that Dalio asked others who had participated in the meeting to assess his performance. The email exchange was then forwarded to the entire staff, effectively turning Dalio’s misstep into a case study.

This is how Bridgewater’s culture works, according to Grant: Everyone is accountable to everyone. The staff is expected to routinely rate coworkers on a range of 77 qualities, including some — like the willingness to touch a nerve — that might not be prized at other companies. The firm’s 1,500 employees can even assess their bosses, and the more incisive the critique, the better. And all this data, including the name of each person who left feedback, is available to any employee.

It’s extreme. It wouldn’t work for most companies. Thirty-five percent of new hires don’t make it past 18 months. But consider what Bridgewater is going for: It wants employees to feel that hard work is recognized, and that the company values transparency. Find ways to bring those traits into your workplace — because when an employee feels comfortable enough to challenge you, and you’re able to turn that into a lesson in leadership, then you’ve created a culture in which everyone can do their best work.

2
Dec

5 Unforgettable Leadership Qualities for Successful Entrepreneurs

5 Unforgettable Leadership Qualities for Successful Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are a different breed of leader. Renegades, rebels, world changers, innovators, black sheep, risk takers, workaholics — these are just a few of the names we are called by both those who love us, and those who don’t understand us.

One thing successful entrepreneurial leaders have in common is a high degree of emotional intelligence, or the capacity to be aware of, control and express our emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships fairly and empathetically. It can be argued that emotional intelligence (EQ) is more important to your happiness, health and success over your intellect (IQ).

The following is my personal list of the five pillars of leadership for entrepreneurs, which is probably quite different than you would expect. As you grow your business and make your mark on the world in your own unique way, I think you will find it useful to keep these qualities top-of-mind when defining your own leadership identity. These pillars are fundamental and unforgettable for success.

1. Responsibility: If it is to be it’s up to me.

Personally, I like to look for a “win-win” scenario in every situation, no matter what. In order to create this win-win, especially in challenging interactions, I always remind myself to come from a place of respect and love. It doesn’t matter what frame of mind the other party is in, I get to choose my actions and reactions.

Mother Teresa exemplified this sort of leadership responsibility and captured it eloquently in this quote written on the wall in her home for children in Calcutta:

“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.  What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.  Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.”

2. Possibility: 100 percent is possible 100 percent of the time.

You will be tempted to say no to opportunities you don’t want to pass up when you are feeling overwhelmed. You are the master of your emotions and your reactions and when you come from a mindset of being unstoppable, you will find a way to make it all happen.

This is the hustle, the difference between being the best you can be and half-assing it. If you want to say yes to an opportunity but feel you have too much on your plate, don’t doubt, just take action and find the support you need to make it happen. Leave everything on the field, every day.

3. Integrity: My vision and my commitments dictate my ways of being and my actions.

We are defined by our vision and our commitments (our word). When you revisit your goals, mission statement and vision daily you will be in alignment with your highest potential more often. Naturally, there will be days when circumstances get the best of you or throw you off track, but if you stay attuned to your vision you will rise above the petty details time and time again.

4. Urgency: I live as if my life and the lives of others depend on it.

This is a precious life. Every second wasted will never come back.

When I wake up I am thankful for another day to experience it and to share my gifts. When you go all out and share your passion with others, what distinguishes a leader from the average person is the sense of urgency to do everything we can with this one day, this one hour. You may not have tomorrow so you need to take action now.

5. Risk: Learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

The only way you become an entrepreneur is to take a risk. You risk your time, safety, money, security, reputation and so much more. So what? Let fear be your compass. Follow it all the way through to the end and see to it that your business and your life are nothing short of extraordinary.

2
Dec

Why Leadership Hinges Upon What You Do — Not Who You Are

Why Leadership Hinges Upon What You Do — Not Who You Are

Why Leadership Hinges Upon What You Do -- Not Who You Are

Image credit: Shutterstock

Ask 10 entrepreneurs about the vital characteristics that great leaders possess, and more than likely you will receive 20 different answers.

With thousands of books on leadership and countless more articles, there is no shortage of commentary, opinions and debates about the entrepreneurial traits that differentiate great leaders from good leaders from the rest of the pack. Being a leader, however, goes far beyond the ability to master a trait or fill a role.

Ronald Heifetz, the director of the Leadership Education Project at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and author of “Leadership Without Easy Answers” suggests that rather than defining leadership either as a position of authority or a personal set of characteristics, we should define leadership as an activity.

In other words, it boils down to what you do rather than who you are.

Former Illinois Central Railroad CEO, Harry J. Bruce, goes further and explains how many of the typical definitions and expectations of leadership are wrong — and why entrepreneurs should learn not to measure themselves by these false measures.

1. Leadership is not measured by authority.

Leadership and authority may go together at times, but generally, authority is conferred to individuals in order to accomplish a goal, while leadership is the process of influencing others to accomplish the goal. The two are not mutually exclusive, and indeed leadership can and often does happen in the absence of any authority.

2. Leadership is not pioneering.

Entrepreneurs who pioneer an innovation, create a movement or fundamentally change an industry may be wonderful at creating new theories, concepts or products, but it hardly qualifies them to be the person to lead the implementation and expansion.

3. Leadership is not serving as a role model.

While entrepreneurs are often looked upon to serve as a positive role model for the rest of their organization, being a role model is different than being a leader. Role models have a demeanor that serves as a benchmark for how to carry oneself, but when it comes to leading, it is actions rather than appearances that lead followers toward a goal.

4. Leadership is not accomplished alone.

Leadership by definition means causing action with others, so achievements and success in the absence of a consistent following of loyal followers is not leading — it is luck.

In the end, because leadership is based on action, the only important and common capability of great leaders is the ability to understand motivations. By being self-aware of what drives you as well as what drives those around you, great leaders learn to leverage motivations to make their vision that of their followers and eventually act together toward a goal. The job is infinitely easier when you surround yourself with individuals with shared motivations.

No entrepreneur embodies this better than Steve Jobs, who famously was abrasive, demanding and difficult to work with. What made Jobs a great leader was his understanding of his own motivations, aspirations and dreams, and by actively and regularly surrounding himself with individuals who shared his vision and passion (and forcing out those who did not), he was able to lead his team at Apple to great achievements despite a leadership style that most would shun.

Taking on the actions of a leader is not easy. Because leaders lead, they are often the first to fail, a frightening fact that for many can be difficult to overcome. As well, because leaders are always leading, entrepreneurs need a healthy dose of physical and mental stamina.

At least entrepreneurs can stop measuring their leadership ability against other successful entrepreneurs or a Myers-Briggs personality test. If you want to be a great leader, all it takes is action — so get going.

2
Dec

How to Leverage Your Executive Leadership Team

How to Leverage Your Executive Leadership Team

How to Leverage Your Executive Leadership Team

Image credit: Shutterstock

One of the hardest things to get right as a founder is building out a strong and capable leadership team that can propel the company to the next level. The next hardest thing, once the leaders are assembled, is determining: 1) How much ownership of the strategy should those leaders have? and 2) How involved should a founder be in the business as it grows?

Entrepreneurs tend to gravitate toward two extremes: They are either too involved in the minutiae of the business, and become micromanagers; or they hand off almost the entire business to others. The key to success here is achieving the right balance — knowing when and how to partner with the leadership team.

Founders need to trust and leverage their leadership team to make decisions and keep the business moving forward. At the same time, they need to stay connected to leaders, ensure they’re aligned on the vision and support them as they grow their own teams. It’s a hard balance to strike, but an important one to get right.

Here’s how to find the right tone between leading and trusting an executive management team:

Hire leaders with complementary experience.

Everything in business starts with people — they’re an organization’s most valuable asset. So, to ensure that a leadership team is trustworthy, its membership must consist of professionals with the skills and experience the business needs.

Remember, leaders can be developed if they have the right foundation for success. Look internally and externally for the right talent to fill the leadership team. That doesn’t necessarily mean these professionals need to be industry veterans with an extensive resume. It just means their experience and skill set align with what’s necessary for the company at this stage of growth.

Further, these leadership additions should balance the management style and business approach of the founder. Look for people who have skills and experience in areas of business the founder doesn’t, and find people full of new and innovative ideas. Work to bring together a group of leaders who have diverse knowledge and experience, but who also share the same values.

Overall, founders should choose people who are great representatives of the business and whose skills and judgment can be trusted in their absence.

Get to know any candidates really well before offering them a spot on the leadership team. This can be done through a thorough interview process. During interviews, focus on building a relationship, understanding these candidates’ leadership style and talking about what their leadership would look like within the company.

Finally, do due diligence by reaching out to references and asking for referrals to collect feedback and confirm the facts.

Allow the team to lead.

Once a trustworthy, capable leadership team is assembled, it’s time to step back and let the team members do their jobs. Although it can be difficult to hand over control, the alternative is much worse. Micromanaging at any level of the organization is harmful. A 2014 survey conducted by Accountemps found that 59 percent of employees surveyed reported working for a micromanager at some point, and 55 percent agreed that that experience had hurt their productivity.

Empower the leadership team members to do what they were brought in to do. Set specific goals for the company; and for each department, ensure that they are aligned with the vision and values. Then, allow the team members to execute these goals and drive the strategy however they see fit. Give them room to develop new processes, innovate and launch new ideas and provide them with the tools they need to succeed.

Start small at first, and as the leaders prove themselves, hand over more and more responsibility. At the end of the day, the goal is to have the leadership team managing up to the founder versus the other way around.

Hold regular meetings.

Taking a step back and allowing leadership to do their jobs doesn’t mean they should run the show without any guidance. The leadership team still needs support from the founder. When founders don’t keep in touch with the executive leadership team, they set the tone for a lack of communication throughout the organization.

In fact, only 25 percent of mid-level managers in Global 1000 companies surveyed by Insigniam in 2014 said they had 13 or more interactions with executives over the course of a year.

This is why the founder should become the facilitator of cross-departmental partnerships. Make sure the leadership team members are communicating with one another and lower-level managers, and that they’re collaborating at all the right decision points.

Stay connected to the team to offer guidance and support, stay updated on projects and initiatives and take control when necessary. Hold ongoing one-to-one and team leadership meetings to keep everyone on the same page and updated on individual and company goals.

Meet with team members regularly, not just to offer guidance, but to learn from them as well. These meetings should be two-way dialogues about the key business topics. In this way, founders can learn about the health of that arm of their organization.

Further, founders should ask for feedback about what they themselves can do better to enhance overall company engagement and adoption of the company vision.

As the business grows, founders can’t be everywhere at once or aware of what’s happening at every level throughout the organization. That’s where the leadership team comes in. Gain insight on what different departments and employees are thinking and feeling, what programs are working well and which need to be rethought and stay informed on different operations.

Leverage the executive leadership team’s detailed view of its business to improve, inform and drive plans for growth. This team exists to help boost the founder to the next level of operating the company. So, if you’re the founder, help team members do exactly that.

2
Dec

Establish Your Thought Leadership Role as a CEO

Establish Your Thought Leadership Role as a CEO

Establish Your Thought Leadership Role as a CEO

Image credit: Hero Images | Getty Images

Being a thought leader doesn’t happen because you declare yourself one; it happens because your audience, industry and the world at large say you are. The process of getting there requires forethought, planning and execution. Start by considering the following.

What role will thought leadership play?

A big part of developing an executive or CEO brand is deciding what role thought leadership should play in your brand. Start by considering the impact a thought leadership strategy could have on you and your organization. How can your thought leadership goals align with your larger organizational goals?

Once you’ve made a case in your own mind, it’s important to engage the support of senior management or your board of directors. Since there are always costs, time and effort (PR, branding, marketing, consulting etc.) involved in pursuing a CEO thought leadership strategy, it’s a smart move to get buy-in before you start down the path.

What flavor is your thought leadership?

The world of executive and CEO branding overflows with self-proclaimed experts and gurus — many of whom have not taken the time or rigorous exploration to define their thought leadership brand.

In general, CEO thought leadership comes in three varieties:

  1. Celebrity. These people are best known for their personality. Examples include Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey.
  2. Cerebral. These people are best known for their thinking and ideas. Examples include Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
  3. Consequential. These people are best known for the results they produce. Examples include Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Where do you think you fit in? Knowing which variety of thought leadership you want to be known for will affect the tactical strategy you put in place.

“The CEO Reputation Premium” report from Weber Shandwick and KRC Research asked more than 1,700 executives which external activities they felt were important for CEOs to participate in. The top eight were:

  1. Speak at industry or trade conferences. Being invited to speak at conferences as either a keynote, breakout session or panel partic­ipant is a solid step in creating yourself as a thought leader in your space.
  2. Be accessible to the news media. The more reporters get to know you, the more they’ll call on you when they need sources to interview. In addition, a proactive PR campaign can get you on the media’s radar. Be it radio, television, magazines, newspapers, online outlets or bloggers, the more known you are, the stronger your thought leadership position becomes. One strategy for gaining media coverage is to apply for (and receive) awards. There is an endless number of awards available on a local and national level, within your industry and the general business world at large.
  3. Be visible on the company website. Many CEOs are in hiding when it comes to their online presence. Clear visibility on your company website, a personal website, LinkedIn, About Me profile or other authoritative landing sites are necessary to give people a place to discover what your brand is all about.
  4. Share new insights and trends with the public. There are countless ways you can share your knowledge writ large. Discuss the content marketing strategies that would work best for you with your marketing department to determine which will provide excellent channels for your thought leadership.
  5. Be active in the local community. A big part of thought leadership is reaching out beyond your own business to support your local community. Local groups, causes and philanthropic activities all contribute to your executive and personal brand. One caution: I advise my clients to never pick a cause solely because they think it will help them build their brand. Sticking with causes that you feel authentically passionate about will benefit your brand but, more importantly, will give you a true sense of satisfaction and contribution that will be seen and felt.
  6. Be visible on the corporate video channel. Two words here: “media training.” Before you jump headlong into any video taping (for your corporate website or CNBC), be sure you have your sound bites down and a level of comfort and competency that represents your CEO brand.
  7. Hold positions of leadership outside the company. In the same way that supporting local causes brings you outside the world of your own business, teaching, sitting on boards and other leadership positions will help establish your seniority in your field.
  8. Publicly take positions on issues that affect society at large. At perhaps the highest level of thought leadership, these are the people who have transcended talking about themselves, their brand and even their businesses to become go-to pundits for the big-picture issues impacting our world.
2
Dec

50 Rules for Being a Great Leader

50 Rules for Being a Great Leader

50 Rules for Being a Great Leader

Image credit: Shutterstock

Becoming a great leader isn’t something that happens overnight, but it can be achieved through discipline, hard work and a commitment to improvement through experience. Great leaders aren’t born, as some people suggest; instead, they are shaped over time. And, while what makes a “great” leader in one application doesn’t always apply to others, there are some general rules that all great leaders follow.

If becoming a great leader in your own business or organization is your goal, these 50 rules are a good place to start:

1. Listen to your team. Rule one. Always listen to what your team has to say, even if you don’t like it.

2. Communicate as efficiently as possible. Make your expectations and feelings clear, in the appropriate medium as often as possible.

3. Talk less. Sometimes saying nothing is better than saying just anything.

4. Be an example. Be the type of person you want your team members to be.

5. Be passionate. If you aren’t passionate about your business, you’re in the wrong business.

6. Be consistent. Be consistent in your behaviors so your team knows what to expect from you.

7. Make firm decisions. Don’t leave things undecided for long, and don’t waver about a decision once you’ve made it.

8. Identify mentors and role models. Find people you can look up to and learn from, and follow them closely.

9. Interfere only when necessary. If you trust your team to do good work, don’t interfere unless absolutely necessary.

10. Know your limits. Don’t extend yourself beyond your means.

11. Know your strengths. If you’re good at resolving disputes, step in and resolve them as often as possible.

12. Know your weaknesses. If there’s something you’re not good at, admit it, and work on it.

13. Don’t make excuses. If you make a mistake, take ownership of it and don’t pass the blame to someone or something else.

14. Accept the unforeseen. You can’t control or predict everything.

15. Choose your partners carefully. Work only with people you can count on and trust.

16. Do good. Commit yourself to being a good person and giving back to the community when possible.

17. Meet new people all the time. Take every opportunity to expand your network and expose yourself to new experiences and perspectives.

18. Stay in touch with your emotions. Don’t be a robot — let yourself feel.

19. Temper your reactions. Hold back your reactions until you have a moment to clarify your internal thoughts and feelings.

20. Have fun. Take the time to have fun with your team.

21. Research everything. Before making a decision, know the pros and cons — do your homework.

22. Think everything through. Never exclusively trust your instincts or first reactions.

23. Choose your team carefully. Hire only those you can trust to get the job done (and to get along with others, as well).

24. Prioritize your team. Your team is everything. Give them whatever they need to succeed.

25. Be humble. Don’t get big-headed about your wealth, influence or position as a leader.

Related: 10 Habits of Ultra-Likable Leaders

26. Forgive mistakes. Everyone makes them.

27. Forgive yourself. Don’t beat yourself up too much over anything. Move on.

28. Be rational. Make decisions logically.

29. Be reasonable. Listen to dissenting opinions, and be fair.

30. Make time for what’s important. There’s no such thing as “not having time” for what’s really important in your life. Make the time.

31. Constantly learn. Read as much as you can, and take classes whenever you have the opportunity.

32. Improve everything. Work on improving your approaches, your skills and your processes constantly.

33. Never give up. Don’t throw in the towel when a little extra persistence could put you over the edge.

34. Transform your methods when necessary. If something isn’t working, change your approach.

35. Cut your losses when necessary. If you’re fighting a losing battle, retreat and start again somewhere else (or in a new way).

36. Learn from your mistakes. Try not to make the same mistakes twice.

37. Ground everything with data. Back up all your decisions, opinions and thoughts with hard, objective facts and evidence.

38. Don’t ignore signs of stress. Stress is real and can interfere with your ability to lead. If it starts setting in at abnormal levels, take action to reduce or relieve it.

39. Give feedback. Let your team know what they’re doing well and what needs further improvement.

40. Trust, but verify. Trust your team to get things done, but always follow up to make sure the work is completed.

41. Be approachable. Let people know they can trust you, and open your door to anybody who needs it.

42. Treat everyone equally. Don’t play favorites; it breeds resentment and makes you appear immature as a leader.

43. Don’t pursue close personal relationships with the team. Be on friendly terms, but don’t try to be best friends with everybody. You’re a leader, first and foremost.

44. Get the team together. Use team-building exercises or other excuses to get your team members talking with one other and having fun together.

45. Return favors. If someone helps you, make it your responsibility to pay back the favor — even if it’s years later.

46. Don’t burn bridges. Never cut a contact completely out of your life.

47. Stay in touch. If team members leave or change roles, stay in contact with them.

48. Don’t sacrifice your personal life. Your personal life is necessary to retain your own mental health. Never sacrifice it for the sake of leadership or professional responsibilities.

49. Enjoy leadership. Try not to stress too much about being a leader. Instead, enjoy all the benefits it offers.

50. Take advice with a grain of salt. Even with these 50 rules! Because nobody knows everything, and no one piece of advice applies to all situations.

Follow these rules, trust your instincts and continually strive for self-improvement. Eventually, through your experiences and your efforts, you’ll become the type of leader most people only aspire to be.

2
Dec

5 Keys to Inspiring Leadership, No Matter Your Style

5 Keys to Inspiring Leadership, No Matter Your Style

Forget the stereotypical leadership image of a buttoned-up person in a gray suit hauling around a hefty briefcase. Today, standout leaders come in all shapes and sizes. She could be a blue jeans-clad marketing student, running a major ecommerce company out of her dorm room. He might be the next salt-and-pepper-haired, barefoot Steve Jobs, presenting a groundbreaking new device at a major industry conference.

“Our research indicates that what really matters is that leaders are able to create enthusiasm, empower their people, instill confidence and be inspiring to the people around them,” says Peter Handal, chief executive of New York City-based Dale Carnegie Training, a leadership-training company.

That’s a tall order. However, as different as leaders are today, there are some things great leaders do every day. Here, Handal shares his five keys for effective leadership:


1. Face challenges.

Great leaders are brave enough to face up to challenging situations and deal with them honestly. Whether it’s steering through a business downturn or getting struggling employees back on track, effective leaders meet these challenges openly. Regular communications with your staff, informing them of both good news and how the company is reacting to challenges will go a long way toward making employees feel like you trust them and that they’re unlikely to be hit with unpleasant surprises.

“The gossip at the coffee machine is usually 10 times worse than reality,” Handal says. “Employees need to see their leaders out there, confronting that reality head-on.”


2. Win trust.

2. Win trust.

Employees are more loyal and enthusiastic when they work in an environment run by people they trust. Building that trust can be done in many ways. The first is to show employees that you care about them, Handal says. Take an interest in your employees beyond the workplace. Don’t pry, he advises, but ask about an employee’s child’s baseball game or college graduation. Let your employees know that you’re interested in their success and discuss their career paths with them regularly.

When employees, vendors or others make mistakes, don’t reprimand or correct them in anger. Instead, calmly explain the situation and why their behavior or actions weren’t correct, as well as what you expect in the future. When people know that you aren’t going to berate them and that you have their best interests at heart, they’re going to trust you, Handal says.


3. Be authentic.

3. Be authentic.

If you’re not a suit, don’t try to be one. Employees and others dealing with your company will be able to tell if you’re just pretending to be someone you’re not, Handal says. That could make them question what else about you might be inauthentic. Have a passion for funky shoes? Wear them. Are you an enthusiastic and hilarious presenter? Get them laughing. Use your strengths and personality traits to develop your personal leadership style, Handal says.


4. Earn respect.

4. Earn respect.

When you conduct yourself in an ethical way and model the traits you want to see in others, you earn the respect of those around you. Leaders who are perceived as not “walking their talk” typically don’t get very far, Handal says. This contributes to employees and other stakeholders having pride in the company, which is an essential part of engagement, Handal says. Also, customers are less likely to do business with a company if they don’t respect its values or leadership.


5. Stay curious.

5. Stay curious.

Good leaders remain intellectually curious and committed to learning. They’re inquisitive and always looking for new ideas, insights and information. Handal says the best leaders understand that innovation and new approaches can come from many places and are always on the lookout for knowledge or people who might inform them and give them an advantage.

“The most successful leaders I know are truly very curious people. They’re interested in the things around them and that contributes to their vision,” Handal says.

2
Dec

22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

 1. Focus

“It’s been said that leadership is making important but unpopular decisions. That’s certainly a partial truth, but I think it underscores the importance of focus. To be a good leader, you cannot major in minor things, and you must be less distracted than your competition. To get the few critical things done, you must develop incredible selective ignorance. Otherwise, the trivial will drown you.”

—Tim Ferriss, bestselling author, host of The Tim Ferriss Show 

2. Confidence

“A leader instills confidence and ‘followership’ by having a clear vision, showing empathy and being a strong coach. As a female leader, to be recognized I feel I have to show up with swagger and assertiveness, yet always try to maintain my Southern upbringing, which underscores kindness and generosity. The two work well together in gaining respect.”

—Barri Rafferty, CEO, Ketchum North America

3. Transparency

“I’ve never bought into the concept of ‘wearing the mask.’ As a leader, the only way I know how to engender trust and buy-in from my team and with my colleagues is to be 100 percent authentically me—open, sometimes flawed, but always passionate about our work. It has allowed me the freedom to be fully present and consistent. They know what they’re getting at all times. No surprises.”

—Keri Potts, senior director of public relations, ESPN

4. Integrity

“Our employees are a direct reflection of the values we embody as leaders. If we’re playing from a reactive and obsolete playbook of needing to be right instead of doing what’s right, then we limit the full potential of our business and lose quality talent. If you focus on becoming authentic in all your interactions, that will rub off on your business and your culture, and the rest takes care of itself.”

—Gunnar Lovelace, co-CEO and cofounder, Thrive Market

5. Inspiration

“People always say I’m a self-made man. But there is no such thing. Leaders aren’t self-made; they are driven. I arrived in America with no money or any belongings besides my gym bag, but I can’t say I came with nothing: Others gave me great inspiration and fantastic advice, and I was fueled by my beliefs and an internal drive and passion. That’s why I’m always willing to  offer motivation—to friends or strangers on Reddit. I know the power of inspiration, and if someone can stand on my shoulders to achieve greatness, I’m more than willing to help them up.”

—Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California

6. Passion

“You must love what you do. In order to be truly successful at something, you must obsess over it and let it consume you. No matter how successful your business might become, you are never satisfied and constantly push to do something bigger, better and greater. You lead by example not because you feel like it’s what you should do, but because it is your way of life.”

—Joe Perez, cofounder, Tastemade

7. Innovation

“In any system with finite resources and infinite expansion of population—like your business, or like all of humanity—innovation is essential for not only success  but also survival. The innovators are our leaders. You cannot separate the two. Whether it is by thought, technology or organization, innovation is our only hope to solve our challenges.”

—Aubrey Marcus, founder, Onnit

8. Patience

“Patience is really courage that’s meant to test your commitment to your cause. The path to great things is always tough, but the best leaders understand when to abandon the cause and when to stay the course. If your vision is bold enough, there will be hundreds of reasons why it ‘can’t be done’ and plenty of doubters. A lot of things have to come together—external markets, competition, financing, consumer demand and always a little luck—to pull off something big.”

—Dan Brian, COO, WhipClip

9. Stoicism

“It’s inevitable: We’re going to find ourselves in some real shit situations, whether they’re costly mistakes, unexpected failures or unscrupulous enemies. Stoicism is, at its core, accepting and anticipating this in advance, so that you don’t freak out, react emotionally and aggravate things further. Train our minds, consider the worst-case scenarios and regulate our unhelpful instinctual responses—that’s how we make sure shit situations don’t turn into fatal resolutions.”

—Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle is the Way and former director of marketing, American Apparel

10. Wonkiness

“Understanding the underlying numbers is the best thing I’ve done for my business. As we have a subscription-based service, the biggest impact on our bottom line was to decrease our churn rate. Being able to nudge that number from 6 percent to 4 Percent meant a 50 percent increase in the average customer’s lifetime value.
We would not have known to focus on this metric without being able to accurately analyze our data.”

—Sol Orwell, cofounder, Examine.com

11. Authenticity

“It’s true that imitation is one of the greatest forms of flattery, but not when it comes to leadership—and every great leader in my life, from Mike Tomlin to Olympic ski coach Scott Rawles, led from a place of authenticity. Learn from others, read autobiographies of your favorite leaders, pick up skills along the way… but never lose your authentic voice, opinions and, ultimately, how you make decisions.”

—Jeremy Bloom, cofounder and CEO, Integrate

12. Open-mindedness

“One of the biggest myths is that good business leaders are great visionaries with dogged determination to stick to their goals no matter what. It’s nonsense. The truth is, leaders need to keep an open mind while being flexible, and adjust if necessary. When in the startup phase of a company, planning is highly overrated and goals are not static. Your commitment should be to invest, develop and maintain great relationships.”

—Daymond John, CEO, Shark Branding and FUBU

13. Decisiveness

“In high school and college, to pick up extra cash I would often referee recreational basketball games. The mentor who taught me how to officiate gave his refs one important piece of advice that translates well into the professional world: ‘Make the call fast, make the call loud and don’t look back.’ In marginal situations, a decisively made wrong call will often lead to better long-term results and a stronger team than a wishy-washy decision that turns out to be right.”

—Scott Hoffman, owner, Folio Literary Management

14. Personableness

“We all provide something unique to this world, and we can all smell when someone isn’t being real. The more you focus on genuine connections with people, and look for ways to help them—rather than just focus on what they can do for you—the more likable and personable you become. This isn’t required to be a great leader, but it is to be a respected leader, which can make all the difference in your business.”

—Lewis Howes, New York Times bestselling author of The School of Greatness

15. Empowerment

“Many of my leadership philosophies were learned as an athlete. My most successful teams didn’t always have the most talent but did have teammates with the right combination of skills, strengths and a common trust in each other. To build an ‘overachieving’ team, you need to delegate responsibility and authority. Giving away responsibilities isn’t always easy. It can actually be harder to do than completing the task yourself, but with the right project selection and support, delegating can pay off in dividends. It is how you truly find people’s capabilities and get the most out of them.”

—Shannon Pappas, senior vice president, Beachbody LIVE

16. Positivity

“In order to achieve greatness, you must create a culture of optimism. There will be many ups and downs, but the prevalence of positivity will keep the company going. But be warned: This requires fearlessness. You have to truly believe in making the impossible possible.”

—Jason Harris, CEO, Mekanism

17. Generosity

“My main goal has always been to offer the best of myself. We all grow—as a collective whole—when I’m able to build up others and help them grow as individuals.”

—Christopher Perilli, CEO, Pixel Mobb

18. Persistence

“A great leader once told me, ‘persistence beats resistance.’ And after working at Facebook, Intel and Microsoft and starting my own company, I’ve learned two major lessons: All great things take time, and you must persist no matter what. That’s what it takes to be a leader: willingness to go beyond where others will stop.”

—Noah Kagan, Chief Sumo, appsumo

19. Insightfulness

“It takes insight every day to be able to separate that which is really important from all the incoming fire. It’s like wisdom—it can be improved with time, if you’re paying attention, but it has to exist in your character. It’s inherent. When your insight is right, you look like a genius. And when your insight is wrong, you look like an idiot.”

—Raj Bhakta, founder, WhistlePig Whiskey

20. Communication

“If people aren’t aware of your expectations, and they fall short, it’s really your fault for not expressing it to them. The people I work with are in constant communication, probably to a fault. But communication is a balancing act. You might have a specific want or need, but it’s superimportant to treat work as a collaboration. We always want people to tell us their thoughts and ideas—that’s why we have all these very talented people working with us.”

—Kim Kurlanchik Russen, partner, TAO Group

21. Accountability

“It’s a lot easier to assign blame than to hold yourself accountable. But if you want to know how to do it right, learn from financial expert Larry Robbins. He wrote a genuinely humble letter to his investors about his bad judgment that caused their investments to falter. He then opened up a new fund without management and performance fees—unheard of in the hedge fund world. This is character. This is accountability. It’s not only taking responsibility; it’s taking the next step to make it right.”

—Sandra Carreon-John, senior vice president, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment

22. Restlessness

“It takes real leadership to find the strengths within each person on your team and then be willing to look outside to plug the gaps. It’s best to believe that your team alone does not have all the answers— because if you believe that, it usually means you’re not asking all the right questions.”

—Nick Woolery, global director of marketing, Stance Socks