I have over four decades of teaching leadership and performance skills around the world. Recently, I was asked what I would list as the top five characteristics that super achievers/leaders possess that others do not. Here is what I have personally found consistent with top leaders:
1. Believe in everyone but depend upon no one. This simple rule helps manage expectations as you move forward in life. Often, I find companies believing, “This new hire is the ‘secret’ to our future success. He or she has all the accolades desired to take our company to the next level.” They begin to depend completely on the success of that one individual to turn their company around and, more often than not, it never happens. After they wait several months for the miracle, they finally come to the realization this person is not the right fit. On the contrary, great leaders hire or place people in positions believing they will achieve, believing they will do great things, BUT they do not depend upon it. They continue looking for others to put in the lineup for backup. It does not take that long to determine if an individual is going to perform to the level of your expectations.
2. Do not get caught in the world of drama but rather stay in the world of dreams. Today we are surrounded by drama, both within and outside our businesses. From the news channels to our neighbors, it seems the negative is much easier to share than the positive. I have found that many would rather discuss the negative traits of their friends than the positive-sharing all the problems versus focusing on the solutions. Personally, I try to guard my environment and work to keep the world of drama away. Why? You can’t serve others, and remain creative, if you live in the world of drama. Drama steals your joy, passion, and ambition. Evaluate your inner circle of business associates and friends. If they are not feeding your dreams and ideas, it is best to love them at a distance.
3. Your life will follow your vision. When I was a small boy, I had a toy paddle that had a strong rubber band attached to its middle and at the end of the rubber band was a small ball. The objective was to see how many times you could hit the ball over and over. Now, let’s imagination the paddle is your vision and your life is the ball. Where the paddle (vision) goes, the ball (your life) will follow. Your vision drives your life; if your vision is big and creative, your life will follow in a magical way. If you keep that vision alive, it begins to feed the rest of your senses-creativity and learning increases, and burnout decreases. Reversely, if you have a negative vision of where you are going, so your life will follow as well.
4. Know what you can control and what you can’t control. I have found over the years of working with top leaders in all industries, many CEOs or heads of organizations tend to worry and focus on things they cannot control. Listen, Washington D.C. has had challenges since my birth and I cannot tell you how many people become unwound over what is happening in that city. They spend their energy and creative thinking focused on things they have no control over. This spills into conversations with people they should be leading, sacrificing valuable time. Don’t waste your day. Take a quick inventory at this very moment. What are you focusing on that you have absolutely no control over? Release it and you will begin to see how much more productive you will become.
5. People cannot perform beyond the way they see themselves. Bottom line: “No confidence equals no commitment.” We often ask those we are leading to perform specific tasks. And even though we know a certain person has the ability to perform that task, we also know he or she will never make it happen. You see, an employee may understand the mechanics of what you are asking but he or she may not have the confidence to perform it. Their minds may be telling them, “I know I am not good enough to perform a certain task” or “I know I will look funny if I try. So, therefore, I am not going to try.” This is why great leaders spend key moments mentoring new hires to insure they have the confidence to perform. I challenge you to slow down and look around your family, and certainly your office, to find those who need your reassurance-instilling in them that they have the capacity to achieve whatever the task may be. Leaders should continually be encouraging, empowering, and equipping those they serve.