I was standing in a packed auditorium ready to introduce the results of our latest study, what behaviors to great business leaders share. The entire study was done to find out what top tier leaders actually do. More specifically, I wanted to know the behaviors that they all shared and attributed to their success. As I introduced the topic I could hear 300 people, almost simultaneously roll their eyes. I get it. Not another talk about leadership. “But why the skepticism?” I ask myself as cellphones are drawn at gunslinger speed.
In 2017 there were over 1,500 books published with leadership in their title. That’s about four books a day! Now, add those books to over 25,000 white papers with leadership in the title and you can start to feel the subject saturation.
So, what’s with our fascination with what makes for a good leader. Is it that we all have a deep desire to lead? Is it we just want to know what to look for so we know who to follow? Maybe. The real reason is that leadership is a SUBJECTIVE topic. Its study has a personal perspective tied to it and that perspective show’s itself in myriad different ways. Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa are both leaders, but radically different in their styles, whereas Joan of Arc and Steven Jobs are surprisingly similar. Couple the various individual observations with the constant evolution of what it means to lead and you have one of the most popular topics in history. Hello, collective eye roll!
When I started on my leadership study, I simply wanted to know what these leaders were actually doing, not what they thought, not even their beliefs, but what were their actions, most importantly their repeated and shared actions. I had a successful methodology, one that resulted In my best-selling book – THE 21 SECRETS OF MILLION DOLLAR SELLERS. So, I created 10 open-ended questions, identified nine different industries and interviewed over 300 business leaders. The whole thing took two years. I identified 11 shared leadership power behaviors, 11 behaviors that all 300 shared. Interested in working on your leadership skills? Here are three that will continue on a growth trajectory.
When we hear this term we often think “science”. In science, a hypothesis, an idea is tested by experimenting and trying things to see if your idea is right or wrong. Leaders swear by this action. They test their ideas. If you are office furniture giant Herman Miller, you build multiple examples of your latest chair. If you are Chili’s, you serve new menu ideas in your test kitchen and you host focus groups and test scenarios. As a leader, you EXPERIMENT. Ideas are fragile things and need care and tending to before they become real.
THE RULE OF EVERYTHING
It’s amazing how many people think that more is better. It’s practically an American mantra. At the Wayback Burger chain (95 US locations with 75 more in the works) you can get their Triple Triple Burger, a mammoth stack of meat, cheese and other stuff that will set you back about 1,800 calories. You can get a hot tub full of Dr. Pepper to go along with a truckload of popcorn at the movies. Leaders, good leaders, limit their commitments to those that create critical impact. They say NO, a lot! They become expert filters of their companies ideas and learn when and where to limit their YES’S. You can do anything you want, you simply can’t do everything!
THE MECHANICS OF ACCOMPLISHMENT
A core tenant of leadership is the ability to actually get something done, your ability to accomplish something. The generation of good ideas is no small feat, but the aptitude to see that the right ideas lead to action is a very impactful behavior of leaders. Leaders are all about execution. They design specific strategies around adeptness and capacity and create a unique focus on seeing something completed. They have processes in place to make objectives become tangible. Their decision procedures are in place to accomplish things.
I often work with companies that feel they need to move on to the next shiny thing before the last one is even close to getting done. Wayne is a great leader. He sat in a strategic planning meeting and presented his three goals (yep, three). One of them was a carryover from the previous year and the team asked, “Why is that on the list?” The team was used to committing to new goals every year, which was something I encountered several times in the study. Wayne’s response, his LEADERSHIP response was, “This was a key goal last year and we didn’t get it done. It still has the same level of importance as when we committed to it and it needs to be FINISHED.”