If you own a business, lead a team, or manage projects, you are in a leadership role today. And if you are anything like me, leadership training is not something you’ve been offered. And if you are in a leadership role, it can seem risky to ask for leadership training now that you are in the job, doing the role. I felt driven to seek out my own training. And it’s from that knowledge, that space, that I share with you today three leadership secrets from the executive office.
Leadership Secret #1: What you need most is a foundation that will help you weather any storm and boost you further when you thrive.
That foundation comes from knowing who you are and what is important to you.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you stand for as a leader?
- Why do you want to be a leader?
- What is your “Big Why?”
- Who do you want to impact and how?
If you’ve never thought about these before, these questions can seem daunting. This is the first place I start when working with my clients who want to be first-class leaders — and the first step is to discover their values. Values are the cornerstone of what is important.
One of my clients, Mark, came to me frustrated that he was not seen or recognized as a leader in his job. As we worked together to identify his values, and then his Big Why, it became clear that Mark had not been taking a stand for his Big Why. Mark believed that one of his missions was to teach and mentor junior staff on technology best practices. His boss disagreed. Mark didn’t take his stand.
Remember, the only one who can take a stand for your Big Why is YOU. No one else will do it for you. After Mark began to take his own stand, he began to be recognized by his team and his peers for his technology leadership. Ultimately he found a role in a new company that embraced Mark and his Big Why.
Leadership Secret #2: You need to identify your own superpowers in order to adapt, pivot, or hold the course.
Now that you have your Big Why to keep you anchored, you need to identify your own superpowers, in order to adapt, pivot, or hold the course.
You need to know what is, as Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap, calls it your “zone of genius”. I like to think of your zone of genius as your superpowers. One way to identify those is to hone in on the strengths you enjoy using.
Strengths are the stuff you are great at, either naturally or through effort. Did you know that the brain is designed in such a way that its strengths support its weaknesses?
Years ago I read about a study (in a book by Dr. Caroline Leaf called The Gift In You.) She noted that “to use your innate potential…you need to focus on what you can do [your strengths]… When you do that, you will find that your non-dominant thinking [your weaknesses] will naturally grow stronger.”
The point is this: if we focus on repairing our weaknesses, we can improve. We’ve all experienced that. However, our brain has an amazing ability. If we focus on identifying and leveraging our strengths, our brain will, on its own, shore up and improve our weaknesses. By leveraging our strengths, we can improve more, and faster, than if we pick out our weaknesses one by one and fix them. Incredible!
Your top strength is your superpower. You can call on it at any time. And you should. Mine is persistence. It is the cornerstone of how I run my business, how I lead in my business, and how I take on challenges. If I plan to take a stand for my Big Why, I activate my persistence. If I need to thrive in difficult times, I activate my persistence.
What about you? What is your top strength? And how can you use the strengths you enjoy using to help you take a stand?
Let’s look at a favorite example: Tony Hsieh of Zappos who was recruited by Nick Swinmurn to become co-leader of Zappos. They grew Zappos from nothing to $1.2B in 10 years. Zappos became known for its culture of putting employees and work culture first.
According to those who knew Tony best, his Big Why, the thing for which he took a stand was making people feel important. Tony’s superpower (how he got things done) was thinking outside the box. He was known for always taking a look at challenges and problems in unconventional ways.
Zappos’ culture became legendary, due in large part to the executive leadership of Tony, who succeeded because he used his superpower and aligned it with his big why.
Leadership Secret #3: You need to build your own Circle of Trust.
I also know that Tony died under tragic circumstances, which reminds me that we are all human. And as such, I want to share with you the final secret you need to be successful in disruptive times. You need your own Circle of Trust– close professional relationships based on mutual trust, respect, and reliability. It is easy to think that, as a leader, we must stand alone. That belief can be the setup to a great and unnecessary downfall.
We must continue to build and maintain a circle of trusted friends who understand business, care for us unconditionally, support us as needed, and tell us the truth at all times. This one key has benefited me more times than I can count.
Today, I help people like you become the leaders that you need to be so you can create the biggest impact you can possibly make. Just imagine yourself taking a stand for what’s important to you, leading others to make the impact you feel proud of, all while getting paid for the value you bring!
If you would like to find out how your skills stack up as a leader, then I invite you to take a free leadership self-assessment.