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3 "Big Sexys" of Leadership

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Becoming a great leader takes more than just years of experience or special abilities, it requires clarity on what type of leader you want to be and a proactive plan to get there faster.

Many small business owners often assume that leadership acumen is reserved for C-level corporate executives who oversee large enterprises and hundreds of millions of dollars of capital. But a closer look at the core of successful leaders reveals three essentials that they all possess.

I like to refer to these essentials as the Big Sexys-core leadership attributes that are most responsible for highly successful outcomes.

 

 
1. Discover your Philosophy and Operationalize it

Every great leader that I’ve known personally or have read about, seem to have a crystal clear picture of who they are and what they want their team to represent. You can label it any way you choose, but it boils down to identifying your philosophy (the fundamental principles that guide your decisions), then finding a way to put those principles into action.

Great philosophies are often personified in the rallying cry or mantra of the organization. This moves the philosophy from a theoretical idea to inspired actions, which helps to build a culture of camaraderie and common purpose. If you were to ask the philosophy of 4-time Super Bowl winning coach Bill Belichick, he’d likely say: “Every player does his job,” and learns to play “situational football” at a high level. If you asked Warren Buffet, he’d say: “Focus on the fundamentals and practice them relentlessly.” Oprah Winfrey’s mantra of: “Live your best life,” has been the driving force behind much of her entrepreneurial success. And finally, entrepreneur extraordinaire Mark Zuckerberg would say: “Move fast and break things” (to illustrate his vision for his staff to work with urgency and not be afraid to challenge the status quo).

2. Love Your People

Yes, the header subtitle uses the word: love. I could’ve instead used: Encourage, inspire, and develop your people, but as my editor often tells me…fewer words are always better. Recently, I was visiting with a client for a tour at their manufacturing plant where I saw the “L” word in action, up close and personal. As the executive who ran the facility escorted me through the plant, amongst dozens of workers doing their job, I noticed he not only knew every employee by name, but he didn’t pass a single one without stopping and talking to them to see how they were doing. And based on their reactions, it looked natural and normal. My sense is that the employees genuinely respected him as their leader. As a result, they perform their work at a high level in large part because they know they have the support and encouragement of the boss.

In today’s information-filled world, there’s no shortage of opinions on leadership approaches on talent or how to develop people. That aside, it’s really quite simple—love your people. Leaders that take the time to listen and get to know their people, find them more likely to be all in with their message.

So just how do you love your people? Talk to them and listen to their ideas and concerns… both personal and professional. You encourage those who might need a positive word and challenge those who may be good─to be great. The bottom line is the expert leader always develops their people. They help to improve the skills of team members to do their job better, move up in the company, or just helping them to better themselves as professionals.

3. Excellence in Decision Making...or Making the Right Decisions Most of the Time

decisionmake

Amidst all of the stuff that leaders do, decision making is no doubt what leaders do the most. It is what we call the “it” of leadership. The challenge with decision making is the fact that it’s largely an implicit skill that people find hard to explain or express with words. But science is playing a key role breaking down this barrier using research on how business people can practice making better decisions by—well… making decisions. Decision making expert, Gary Klein, PhD has been instrumental in developing research in natural settings that reflect how leaders make expert level decisions using intuitive mental processes. If that sounds too scientific, allow me to simplify—you can decide your way to great decision making by noticing and learning from the decisions you make every day.

 

 

How Do Leaders Practice Leadership?

We all know that practice makes perfect, but the reality is, leadership has no off season for practice, nor is there time for long periods away from work in order to work on becoming a great leader. As a result, Klein et al. have introduced deliberate performance activities, designed to accelerate expertise through routine work situations. One example of applying this approach to leadership is self-coaching, a process of extracting leadership expertise from other experts or trusted advisors. Self coaching involves asking interrogative questions that uncover the thinking of the expert. For example, a leader might ask another expert leader about a profitable decision using the following interrogative question technique.

Interrogative Question Chart for Expert Self-Coaching

 

Description

Example

SITUATION

Explores situation   awareness

“Tell me about how the   situation guided your decision process.”

SEQUENCE

Explores the order of the   decision process

“Why did you do X first   before you did Y?”

RATIONALE

Explores the reasoning in   making the decision

“Describe the reason you   decided on this decision.”

FORMULATION

Explores how decision was   formed and evaluated

“Explain how you came up   with that solution”?

There you have it…three Big Sexys that drive leadership expertise… 1) Discover your philosophy and operationalize it, 2) Love your people, and 3) Make excellent decisions.

Please share your thoughts and comments below on this very important leadership topic.

Sedric Hill is the president and co-founder of Sales Development & Performance LLC, a training and consulting firm serving sales professionals and organizations by providing Expert-Based Training (XBT) and customized performance advisory services. Connect with Sedric

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