I’m not saying that all those lists out there are bogus because it’s pretty obvious that many great leaders possess a lot of the same characteristics. But I encounter so many people in my life who are not thought of as great leaders yet they have a majority of those generic leadership traits found on all those lists out there. These qualities make them good folks and worthy friends, but nobody is lining up to follow their “vision”.
Like this guy I’ve known for a decade. He would garner a slew of checkmarks on any of those leadership lists. He’s meticulous in the way he dresses. He’s honest and forthcoming. He communicates well in person and on paper. He’s optimistic and not afraid to delegate. But in his last two leadership roles he led like a substitute teacher on the last day of school.
So much for those lists, huh?
I just came across another one of those seemingly ubiquitous leadership lists, and like the proverbial train wreck, I just had to take a peek. And I’m glad I did.
10 Things You Need to Know To Become a Great Leader was put together by James Altucher, a guy who’s opinions I respect not because of his theology or worldview but because of his openness and track record. Not to mention that he’s also a fantastic writer so I never feel like I’ve wasted time reading his stuff.
Here’s some of what he has to say:
“They fired me. They fired me as CEO. Then they fired me as a board member. Then they took away my shares. And now none of them ever talk to me.
I started the company, I had the initial idea, I raised $30 million for it from A+ investors (i.e. “rich people”),
I bought two companies for it, I hired the first 50 employees, and then I was shown the door.
The reason? I was a bad leader. Here are some things I didn’t know about my own company: I didn’t know what our product did. I didn’t know any of the clients. I didn’t know how much money we made. I didn’t know how much we lost. And I had crushes on the secretaries and maybe two or ten other employees.
I would’ve gladly stuck my tongue in the ears of any of those employees. Eewww!
But why was I fired?
I just didn’t do anything… for… anyone.”
Altucher resonates, doesn’t he? He’s probably wrong as much as he’s right, but he’s honest. Sometimes internet blogging honesty comes with a thread of hubris, but I don’t get that from James.
Here’s a condensed version of his list. Go to James Altucher’s blog for the full monty.
B) YES, AND
CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM WORKS LIKE THIS:
a. “Yes, and” b. List what’s good c. How you would improve d. Figure out the vision that is the base of the idea that you are talking about. e. Connect the “Why” of what you are suggesting to the initial vision. Does it work better than the initial idea? f. Be open to the fact that you might be wrong. ALWAYS ALWAYS you might be wrong.
I always imagine a good leader is surrounded by people who call their mothers at the end of the day and tell them, “Mom, you can’t believe what I did today. Let me tell you about it.”
Maybe they learned a new skill. Maybe they met a new client and created value for that client. Maybe a client they hated was fired because you can’t let your employees get the disease that bad clients are all too happy to spread.
D) THE 30-150 RULE (OR…THE VISION RULE)
Below 30 people, an organization is a tribe. A tribe is like a family. At 30 people, a leader spends time with each person in the tribe and knows how to listen to their issues.
From 30-150 people you might not know everyone. But you know OF everyone. After 150 people you can’t keep track of everyone. It’s impossible. But this is where humans split off from every other species.
We united with each other by telling stories.
A LEADER TELLS A VISIONARY STORY.
Everyone has pain they don’t want to feel. So we do things to hide the pain..
When you can get rid of the buffers against pain and change life becomes more insecure, but we become FREE.
A leader is always prepared for change. And realizes that pain is just opportunities to live in a bigger and more abundant world.
If I don’t treat my own projects with respect then how can I expect others to?
If I don’t treat myself with dignity, then how can I expect the people around me to treat me, or even each other, with dignity?
G) THERE’S ALWAYS A GOOD REASON AND A REAL REASON
People come to you every day with problems. The problems are usually very good problems.
In 100% of cases there is a good reason and a real reason.
A good solution solves one problem. A real solution solves 100 problems.
A sick leader is not a great leader. There’s no such thing as instant health. There’s only such thing as practice and progress.
Don’t do something just for the money. Money is a side effect of persistence. You persist in things you are interested in. Explore your interests. Then persist. Then enjoy all the side effects.
J) LEAD YOURSELF
You don’t need to be leading anyone.
Before I can lead anyone I have to lead myself.
I know, I know, James Altucher’s list started with ” B)”. That’s because I saved the first item on his list for last because I thought it was the most awesome point and is the one that resonated the most with me.
A) MORE SUCCESS FOR OTHERS THAN FOR YOU
Most important by far: you care about the success of others more than you care about your own success. Everyone around you needs to ultimately become better than you.
That’s how you lead. The light is in front of you and you take them to the light and then go back.
If all the people around you achieve more than you, then life will be good. You don’t have to believe me. I’ve seen this happen repeatedly.
It doesn’t matter if they are employees, investors, friends, spouses. If you just focus on this one principle in all of your actions then you are a leader. Today: figure out how the people around you can have a successful day.
Hint: don’t stick your tongue in their ear.
Pretty cool, eh?