Be your Best Self
People know and follow the real deal when they see it, those who walk through life on their own terms, who stay true to their beliefs and who don’t back down. We can all name people like this, and there’s often a pretty broad consensus that such diverse figures as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Oprah Winfrey, Muhammad Ali and Winston Churchill are (or were) all real deals, which goes to show that authenticity can be demonstrated in many different styles.
I call this having “extraordinary authenticity,” which means having the ability to be yourself even in the toughest situations. This requires living with a paradox: To inspire as a leader, you need to know your stuff, but you also need to be able to admit when you don’t know stuff. You need to be both confident and vulnerable at the same time.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable can be hard enough for most of us, but in the business world, the idea of being yourself is further complicated by the fact that it’s also important to get along with all sorts of people while staying true to yourself. You obviously can’t just say to colleagues or customers, “This is me being myself, take it or leave it.” Not if you want to get ahead. Instead, you have to figure out how to be you in a way that broadens your appeal and impact versus turning people off or unnecessarily clashing with company culture.
Be an Avid Learner
One of the most effective things you can do to continue to grow and be your best self is to always be learning. In fact, I believe that being an avid learner is the single biggest thing that separates a good leader from a great one. Someone with a voracious appetite for knowledge is bound to inspire others with their passion and curiosity and can energize an organization by bringing to it new ideas.
Unleash the Power of People
I believe leadership is a privilege. I also believe deep down in my bones that all people, when given a choice, have an inherent desire to do the right thing, to contribute and to make a positive difference through the work that they do. And I’m absolutely convinced that it’s crucial to have this mindset in order to get the most out of the people you work with. As a matter of fact, I believe that there is potential in every person and, as the leader, it’s my job to unleash it.
If you can establish an environment where every single person feels that he or she is part of a team and has a chance to contribute, you’ve created a situation where people can do great things. To build an environment like this, you have to start with trust. Reaching out to people and building relationships based on trust might seem like a natural idea, but how do you do it? This is not the sort of thing they typically teach in business school. Below are things you can do to show people that you believe in them and that you care.
1. Know that people want to contribute: Start with the right attitude: Realize that 99.9 percent of people come to work every day wanting to do good and try hard. So you have to go to work every day thinking about your people that way and appreciating them for it, not looking to catch the 0.1 percent who want to mess things up or don’t act in good faith.
2. Demonstrate that everyone counts: It’s been shown that the most successful companies have a culture where every person feels valued. No matter what their position, they all know they have a chance to contribute and make a difference.
3. The more they know, the more they care: One way to show people you trust in their abilities and intentions is to share what you know.
4. Ask questions that promote insight: To find out more about who people are and what they think, one of my favorite questions to ask is, “What would you do if you had my job?”
5. Take Responsive Action: Once you’ve found out what people think, you’ve got to act on that and show that you’ve taken them into account.
You Have to Believe It Can Be Done
Think for a moment about what you want to accomplish and ask yourself: Do you truly believe you can make it happen? If the answer to that question is not an immediate and emphatic yes, then you have some work to do.
Bob, one of the world’s leading sports psychologists and an expert on peak performance, really drove this point home: “If you think of yourself as able to do something, you probably will do it. If you think of yourself as incapable, you probably won’t.” But believing that you can succeed is not the same thing as knowing exactly how you’re going to get there. It means having faith that you and your people will find a way. If you don’t already have the knowledge, you can find it. If you don’t already have the resources, you can get them. It means believing that you and your team have the capacity to figure things out. And if you don’t believe that, you need to spend some time thinking about why you don’t. By fully examining why not, you’ll identify barriers to your goal