When you run your own business, you’re the boss. Your job title and your name on the checks gives you that power. But to be a leader, you need to do more than own a business. Your leadership is apparent (or not) in how you do everything.
What takes an ordinary business leader and makes them extraordinary? The difference comes down to good decision-making, persuasive leadership, effective practices, and positive habits.
To help you make the jump to extraordinary, here are eight tips to apply in your leadership practice.
- Assemble Powerful Teams
A leader is only as effective as the groups they command, which is why your first step to better leadership should be to assemble powerful teams. Human beings are tribal animals, and you can assemble powerful teams by attending to all the necessary pieces of a tribe. That includes a culture bonded by shared values with clearly defined, inspiring goals.
You’ll also need individuals with highly developed talents who can execute on those goals. With these ingredients, you’ll be empowered to build teams that are internally motivated by their commitment to one another and to the group.
- Establish a Meritocracy
Once you have the basis of a powerful team, establish a meritocracy. Putting the right people in the right roles has to be based on people’s talents and skills with everyone serving in their highest-value position, not on seniority or nepotism. If roles aren’t based on people’s merits, you sap their motivation to perform better.
If there’s no reward, why should they work harder? Make it clear from the beginning that people can be moved to different positions, and that the duties associated with a position can be shifted based on assessments of their performance.
- Set a Cadence
With the right people in the right positions, you now need them working at the right pace. Evenhuskies don’t run the Iditarod with their tongues hanging out the whole time. They occasionally stop to sleep and eat frozen fish. In sport or business, even the toughest training includes recovery days.
As an extraordinary leader, establishing a cadence should be a part of your strategic planning process. You need to create times when your entire team is sprinting together, and times for them to catch their breath. The fish are optional.
- Collect Experiences
As you develop your skills as a leader, make an effort to collect experiences. Our experiences—good and bad—don’t just shape us; they also form the boundaries of what’s possible. Having more experiences means having more possibilities. So have a ton of them, but choose them for yourself. Don’t leave your life up to coincidence.
Ask most people how they ended up in their career or why they live where they do, and you’ll find that their answers hinge on something coincidental. Be intentional about your experiences and go after them.
- Practice Leading
Few people are born natural leaders. Most of us have to work our butts off to develop leadership. Leadership skills are acquired slowly through small daily steps. Like training a muscle, growing into an extraordinary leader requires deliberate practice.
So, especially in your twenties and thirties, take every possible opportunity to lead: a club, a fund drive, or a sports team. Just get your hours in. Over time, leading will become easier, if not second nature.
- Create Powerful Habits
Next, develop the powerful habits of reading, having good conversations, and meeting new people. Each good book you read adds to your collective knowledge. Each thoughtful and substantive conversation you have with the people who matter the most to you will strengthen your relationships and bolster your emotional wellbeing.
Each new person you meet will open doors and bring new opportunities into your life. If you make a habit out of these three activities, the cumulative effect will be powerful.
- Take Care of Yourself
Next, a leader can’t perform and take care of their team if they aren’t taking care of themselves. That’s why self-care—physical, emotional, and intellectual—is so important. Your body is a system, and like all systems, the inputs affect the outputs.
The quality of your thinking will never be any better than the quality of ideas you consume, and the same is true of literal consumption. Garbage in, garbage out. As you progress through your leadership journey, replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones, sleep enough, exercise, eat well, and get a checkup every once in a while.
- Create a Positive Company Culture
Lastly, to be an extraordinary leader, you must cultivate positive company culture. Excellent leaders and teams can’t thrive in negative environments, and as the leader, it’s up to you to set the standard. Leadership means placing yourself in opposition to anyone who resists the positive intent you’re trying to implement.
Your company’s culture is something you have to deliberately create and curate, and it, like everything else, starts with values. If you establish and enforce strong values, like honesty, integrity, collaboration, and fun, your positive company culture will naturally follow.
This article was adapted from the book Discernment written by Jeff Dudan.
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