When I hear the word “President”, I think about leadership. I posted the following on facebook this morning:
Today our Nation celebrates President’s Day. Although I do not agree with our current President on much of anything, I do respect the office of the President of the United States. If were in charge, it would be mandatory that any new President go through a minimum of military basic training and one deployment, if they have zero active duty military experience. In addition to the oath of office, I would ensure that they commit their leadership to some of our past President’s thoughts as quoted below:
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – President John F. Kennedy
(How many promises are made during campaign time, then never heard again?)
“No president who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure.” – President James Polk
(How many costly vacations are there now, with the average American family having zero? This country and those who do actual work for or fought for her owe nobody a vacation. If you are a person that requires this much vacation, this is not the job for you.)
“We should live our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon.” – President Jimmy Carter
“I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.” – President Abraham Lincoln
(We say we are there, but we are not even close).
This post has sparked an entire conversation about leadership. The following is my list of leadership observations, which means these are the characteristics I have found successful leaders to have in common with each other:
Leaders get up and are productive early in the day. They do not sleep until 10am. Ever.
I’m not certain more of a statement is needed – but if I review in my mind the characteristics of the smartest savviest leaders I know, I have never known any of them to be in bed until 10am.
Leaders do not dress like they just rolled out of bed.
Leaders are consistent.
Leaders are instinctual decision makers.
They can or are capable of making 30 decisions in 30 minutes – No lie. Decisions that move in the forward direction of productive momentum. This reminds me of my early soccer coaching days. I never allowed the forward offense to “stop” or “trap” the ball that was already headed towards the goal. Instead, I taught them to move to the ball – and continue its momentum. I watched many coaches with pee-wee players spend a lot of time on drills for “trapping”. It puzzled me. Even the youngest kids show offensive or defensive skill sets early on. Teach the defenders to trap and stop – then send. Teach the offense to move to the send, not stop its momentum. Of course, I also like to make them practice with their arms locked so they moved as one – you know, as a team toward the goal, until they “get it” about team work. Oh yes, that’s right – my generation likes all players to be treated equally, with equal play time and everyone is a winner with a trophy. Yeah. Because real life is just like that.
In professional settings, I have always enjoyed allowing employees to job swap for a day. In medicine, the clinical back office thinks the administrative/clerical staff does nothing all day long but sit. They think this – until they sit in that chair for a day and have to multi-task more than an air traffic controller while having a sweet cheerful voice (as in “receive them well”) every time the phone rings out of the 151 calls tracked on a medical Monday morning. This one day of job swapping can work wonders for team work.
Leaders use excellent language and have great communication skills.
I believe, really believe that words DO matter. The words leaders use compel people to follow them. It amazes me when (as a consultant) I receive a call from a very frustrated business owner and he or she rambles on about why nothing works in their business, sighting many examples of poor productivity Inevitably, I visit their work environment and observe those in charge (or owners themselves) as the most negative people ever. They hate their work, their job – their own company. They hate themselves. They speak ill of their employees – yet they wonder why in the world no one likes to – or wants to work for them. Here’s a hint: if you can’t stand yourself and think your company is a lousy place to work – so do we!
My father hated foul language. He did use an occasional “cuss word” – but rarely did he have to raise his voice. He told me that simple people used simple language, and he felt strongly that if people needed to use foul language to get their point across – they were most likely suffering from very low self esteem or a poor education, and almost always did not see the value or pride in a properly kept self or property. Definition: guilder.
Leaders Genuinely Enjoy Responsibilities
Successful leaders just love being leaders – not for the sake of power but for the meaningful and purposeful impact they can create. When you have reached a senior level of leadership – it’s about your ability to serve others and this can’t be accomplished unless you genuinely enjoy what you do. People who truly possess a servant’s heart will be successful. It just follows a natural path.
I had a conversation with a local chiropractor last week and as we discussed adrenal fatigue, etc – the subject of vacation came up. I know he’s trained to recommend certain things, but with tact and couth, I vetoed his recommendation. Specifically – a long vacation – like on a ship. These types of vacations could drive most leaders completely out of their mind. He secretly admitted he felt the same exact way. A ten day cruise would have the exact opposite effect on me, than what I assume is it’s purpose. I love to travel – I just don’t want to travel slowly, and for the sake of all things good – not on a germ infested ship with little to no chance of getting off safely in case of an emergency. And no food that I could ever eat. Did we not learn anything from the Titanic? Floating hotels, I just don’t get it. I prefer to spend my money getting quickly to my destination and to learn as much as I can about the people and their customs while I am there. In other words – leaders work. A lot. They do vacation, but they tend to still engage in learning activities while “at that place of rest”. Although I have not mastered the skill of power napping, I think I do fairly well at “power vacationing”. Normally, there is so much information flowing and synapsing through my brain – that taking a long lunch or a Friday Funday session feels like a vacation.
Leaders have positive energy and a positive attitude
As such, they are likeable, respected and strong willed. They don’t allow failures to disrupt momentum; they expect that they will fail – a lot.
Leaders create, implement and manage systems.
Not that they don’t recognize the importance of their people, but they all recognize that in general – people are not manageable, but systems are. They build their systems so that a mediocre person with mediocre talent can follow them and are ecstatic when they get a stellar performer. When this is done well, anyone who can follow their systems can work for them. Period.
They “kick non performers” off the short bus – fast.
It never ends well otherwise. If the best behavior is exerted in the first 90 days, and that behavior is nowhere close to acceptable, they act quickly – and save themselves time, money and headache. it sounds mean, but it is what it is.
Obviously my observations have been most beneficial when applied appropriately. I also have some personal rules that I apply to almost all situations (both business and personal).
I chose to spend my time:
- With those who build me up. If I am the sum total of the five people or activities that I spend most of my time with and those five people influence the way in which I behave and act in the outer world, and the way in which I perceive, think and feel in the inner world of my mind – I must chose wisely.
- With a close friend or two that are capable of being my mirror mentors – they tell me exactly what they see in me, about me, with no holds barred, even if I don’t want to hear it – and I usually don’t
- With those who are far smarter than me. That’s just – well, smart. In opposition, I have watched many bad leaders only allow those not as smart as them under them – so they are never challenged.
- Not watching television that has any chance of “dumbing” me down. There are a lot of options out there. I have a hard time even understanding why anyone would spend time watching most television and feel completely lost when people speak of “honey boo-boo, duck anything, etc”. I don’t judge others, it’s just not for me and I don’t have the time.
- Reading. Everything. I don’t believe everything I read, but it’s important to know what’s out there and form my own opinions
- By only spending my money with people and businesses I like. I watch sales people and meet with many of them. Most of them do not get “it”. Long before I had a business degree, I formulated with a best friend the rule that in order to spend my money with you- I had to like you. Period. It just cannot be painful to spend my own money. In fact, I had an exact example situation of this today. Said stalker rep showed up on site after leaving or being forced to leave his last company. He freaked me out then with his stalker like tactics (private jet, pick me up and take me to dinner, where do I live? Creep) and today’s purpose after several unanswered phone calls and texts (like he’s my friend and can text me) was to show up on site and tell the staff that he knew I was blowing him off, but he had urgent information that was crucial to my business. The only thing crucial to my business is that he is not in it.
- Raising childhood cancer awareness. Many times I have felt heartbreak more than I previously thought I could bear. This is hard “in the trenches” kind of work that I want to quit every day. I have never wanted to quit anything more or as often. There is nothing natural about personally witnessing a young child die and their mother’s grief – and then most of his friends too. This experience has led me to be ashamed of my generation/adults and the decisions we make. We can and must do better than this. I guarantee that in any other situation (be it a shooter, or terrorist, a drunk driver, a text message sent while driving, etc – if those acts killed 7 kids each and every day, we’d have federal legislation in no time to ban whatever it was – the gun, the texting, the drinking and driving. Point taken? 46/7.