Sometimes I am a little late to the party and only recently discovered the powerful original STARZ TV series "Boss" starring Kelsey Grammar. It sure is a departure from his typical roles as he plays a brilliant yet dark and ruthless Mayor of Chicago who recently was diagnosed with a life threatening illness. The power he evokes on the screen is quite remarkable. You get the sense that maybe he started out with the right intentions but then became obsessed with power and position at all costs. It's actually hard to identify a protagonist in this show. The scripts and acting are a very clever take on what has always happened to leaders throughout history. It's pretty obvious that both Shakespeare and Machiavelli are a huge influence on the writers. After watching the whole first season, a number of things jumped out at me as someone who studies leadership for a living:
I was speaking with a colleague the other day and they said that watching the news only depresses them and puts them in a bad mood. I asked him why he watches it then and he said to stay connected to what’s going on in the world. Sometimes we do the wrong things for the […]
A career and life is just a series of interconnected days. Success comes about by developing constructive daily habits. Most people tend to "wing it" instead of creating some sense of consistency and discipline in their lives. As a result, they regularly end up dealing with the consequences of undisciplined behavior. Sure some people get lucky, but this is a relatively small number and not a good life strategy. I've observed the following success behaviors in my clients, colleagues and friends:
I find that leaders often get in trouble when they try to be who they are not. Your job is to be the best YOU that you can be. Trying to be someone else is inauthentic. This doesn't mean you can't improve or shouldn't get better, but never lose sight of who you are, your passions, and what you believe to be right. Everyone needs be true to their own voice.
I attended a youth soccer game and a professional hockey game this weekend and it was interesting to watch how both groups handled frustration and adversity. As would be expected the kids had a much more difficult time with it. With a few exceptions, they were quick to get down on themselves and hang their heads. After a couple of unlucky plays they started to unravel and forget their training. It became increasingly obvious that many of them just gave up on winning well before this should have been the case. The pros on the other hand kept plugging away and fighting through their unlucky breaks. Their hard work and resilience paid off. Eventually things turned around for them and they won the game. I'm not saying this just to state the obvious that professional athletes have more mental toughness than children, but instead to point out the importance of never giving up.
If a leader isn't properly motivated then it will eventually trickle down throughout the organization. We all look to our leaders for both inspiration and direction. Every organization has to maintain a certain edge in this regard and must continually fight complacency. It's hard to stay on top. You must never accept the status quo or rest on your laurels. High performing leaders are never just going through the motions. They show up to work every day with a sense of purpose and responsibility to do what's needed and what's right. They don't need other people or external factors to force them into action. They are self-motivated to build the best possible organization they can.
The most successful business owners I know are focused on building great companies and/or fulfilling an important mission instead of just making money. Financial success should be the end result not the driving force. This becomes especially apparent after the business experiences some level of economic success. Instead of becoming greedy and short term focused these leaders often double down and invest surplus resources in continuing to grow the business and its people. They genuinely appreciate the importance and responsibility of having a positive impact on others and adding real value to their marketplace.
I appreciate the fact that there are a lot of "grey" areas in life. Not everything is black and white. Sometimes there are mitigating circumstances and/or good reasons why people act they way they do. Everything doesn't always fits into a neat little box of appropriate behavior; however there are some things that are almost always unacceptable despite the circumstances. There is a reason why all religions are typically based on a foundation of common morality and expected ethical behavior. Whether the leaders of these religions actually they live up to their own principles is another issue altogether.
We can't control what people say or do, but we can control how we respond to it. It's important to always remember that no one can make you feel anything; you choose to feel that way. It's amazing how a few unkind words or obvious negative body language can affect us. I've seen fairly successful and confident people wilt under the glare of another person's disapproval. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes, so only take constructive feedback to the degree that it helps you improve/grow as a person. If the feedback being given isn't constructive, then learn to simply block it out or ignore it.
There is a term commonly used in real estate when describing the value of an individual property called its "highest and best use." The highest and best use is always that use that would produce the highest value for a property, regardless of its actual current use. I want to encourage leaders to think the same way about their own role. As the lead person in your organization, it is your responsibility to vigorously protect your time and activity. Any number of distractions will pop up in a given day, but they cannot be allowed to dilute your energy, talent and focus from what's most important.