The walls of my office are thin (one of the many reasons why I’m building a new office building) and at least once a week two of my staff members get into an epic argument. One of them is all about the relationships and one is all about the bottom line, so they are usually on the opposite end of issues, but that’s what makes them such a great team. And while I occasionally have to tell them to pipe down, their passion for the company and for their position is clear. They are willing to fight with each other for the good of the organization and I’m totally okay with that. In my book, arguments in an organization are a sign of growth. It is my job as a leader to encourage dissension and empower my team to make decisions at all levels of the organization.
Top down leadership is a thing of the past. Leadership knows no position. Employees need to be armed with information and empowered to make decisions. As a leader, I can create a clear vision, business plan, and budget that allows everyone to know where they are going, but the team can dictate the HOW and pivot as needed along the way. In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing landscape, a nimble organization is a must.
So how does one lead a company into the future when the game is constantly changing? What are the top 5 qualities of a legendary leader? Here’s what I think:
- They are Hungry. Legendary leaders are curious cats. They have a voracious appetite for knowledge and a visceral desire to learn, grow, and have as many new experiences as possible, regardless of the outcome. Life will always give you an out (hello snooze button), but if you have an internal hunger and drive to create and contribute something to the world, then you will succeed. You must have a deep rooted hunger to grow and progress on a daily basis. Your hunger may come from a less than ideal childhood, a chip on your shoulder, a drive to prove someone wrong, or it may come from a desire to give back to your community, or share your talent and create something beautiful in the world. Wherever your hunger comes from, tap into it daily. Everything seems easier for great leaders, but that’s because their relentless hunger is driving every decision they make. They know what they want and they fearlessly pursue their goal.
- They Lead Themselves First. Legendary leaders lead by example and devote a significant amount of time to becoming emotional fit leaders. If you are not able to lead yourself, then who will follow you? I have an extensive personal development routine (meditation, journaling, nature walks, reading, and exercise) that I complete every day in order to be my best self. If I am not at my best, then I will not be able to lead my company at the level I need to. You will be tested daily and you must be able to push through the challenges thrown at you with a clear head. The emotional fitness of a leader is paramount to the success of an organization.
- They Never Give Up. Legendary leaders are constantly failing, but they never fail. Failing means you are continuing to try, refine, and try again in pursuit of your goal. Failure means that you gave up. Great leaders understand that it is not the hand that they are dealt that determines whether they are successful or not, it’s how they play the game.
The best leaders make sure they are instilling this value in their entire team, as well. Our company mantra is, “There is always a way.” Because there is. But I can not be the only one in my company who believes in never giving up. I have to surround myself with a team who believes this and practices this every day. We’re always going to have problems (if you don’t want problems, you might as well go lie in a box six feet under right now). My goal is to constantly have better quality problems and then teach my team to think and find creative solutions to these challenges. No matter how long it takes, we never give up.
- They Practice Self-Discipline. Legendary leaders are creatures of habit. Whether that is daily meditation or quarterly employee advances (aka retreats – but we never retreat at Hergenrother Enterprises!), great leaders have established habits and a rhythm to their life that enables them to build a foundation of emotional fitness (see point 2) so they can continue to grow. Small habits lead to geometric growth.One of the most difficult, but one of the most important, habits for a leader to develop is the ability to say, “No.” Saying no requires an extreme amount of self-discipline, but is often the things you say no to that you will end up being most proud of. It’s definitely not always the “cool” thing to do to say no to happy hour or to say no to a new business opportunity. But the thing is, when you say no, you’re actually opening yourself up to opportunities that are in line with your personal mission and your goals, instead of being distracted by the latest whatever (squirrel!). Saying no is the first step in taking control of your life. Think about this the next time you are saying yes just to make someone else happy: It is the people that are willing to say no in the midst of the noise of the world and unending peer pressure that are the ones who end up being respected the most. People take notice when you are willing to step outside the box of mediocrity and be different!
- They Succeed Through Others. Legendary leaders are coaches and mentors to their team. They understand that no one can succeed alone and they make it their mission to share the vision of the organization and attract the best people in the world to their company. The best leaders also know that talent is not enough. You must hire other leaders in order for everyone to grow. Coaching my team members is a critical component of my leadership. I am teaching them to think for themselves and asking questions in order for them to self-discover and find the answers. Teach a man how to fish, right?
My job is to recruit and hire the best players, but the players are the ones who are going to take us to the Super Bowl. I must succeed through them in order to wear the championship ring. When I find leaders and put them into my organization, I have a responsibility to them to be hungry, to lead myself first, to never give up, and to practice self-discipline so that I am always coaching them at the highest level. I spread the vision, remove roadblocks, and hold them accountable to their goals. And to bring it completely full-circle, I build leaders by encouraging disagreements and independent thinking. Great leaders create more leaders.
Looking for even more? Click here for 50 things you can do to be a better leader.
Remember, as a leader, when you hire the best people on the planet, you should wake up every day and make your one thing about your people hitting their goals. For who? For them. Together you will be legendary.