It’s a great question to ponder and one a few of us around the world are always challenging!
Is there such a thing as a successful leader?
Becoming and then lasting as a successful leader is never easy. Too often CEOs, senior executives and high potential future leaders fail to achieve their true success because they give up all too soon or they rest on their skills that got them to where they are. They are not willing or want to put in the hard work necessary to achieve lasting leadership success. But are there any themes? what are the behaviours used by successful leaders? how do leaders become successful? and more importantly what are they doing right now to help others they lead be more successful?
In 2016 I wrote an article that provoked an influx of messages to my phone. If I recall the title was this,
“your job as a leader is to create more leaders around you”
It really hit a nerve (a positive one) and, that as leaders no matter which region of the world you operate from, or what ever sector your organisation sits, you must enhance, develop and create more leaders around you.
Leadership is lonely, that saying is not a fad or a theory – it’s very much fact. Many of my CEOs clients describe their role as the most lonely role they have ever held! They have grown up through the ranks with encouragement, support and pats on the back. But yet, as they operate in the most privallage position of all they do not get the pats on the back, or the encouragement. Everyone including at times the Board turned to the CEO shining a bright spotlight on them and seeking answers!
Don’t fall into the common trap that you need to be like someone else? The previous CEO or the CEO down the road. Stop thinking like that. Trust me when I say your people (who are the most important people in the world) will see through that pretty quickly, I encourage all my CEO clients to really laser into being themselves, what do they stand for? what are their values? how do they think etc, some find this terribly hard because they are consistently comparing themselves to someone they are not nor never will be.
How we measure success is a topic in itself and something a few of us in the coaching world are playing with at the moment.
Leaders are not born they learn, grow, fall-over, develop, gain deep scars on their backs and are willing to not give up. When I was training for my first Ironman there were some really dark days, how can I put another foot forwards but I managed to dig deeper than I have ‘ever’ done and trust the process that my coach had development for me. It taught me that even when the clouds are thick and dark they will pass. Having resilience, and faith in your abilities will be tested each and every day as a leader and working on those will strengthen your leadership. You will have self-doubt, this has to be expected (no CEO who I have ever coached has ever conversed to me that they don’t have self doubt). Successful CEOs and leaders seek out individuals who they can talk with openly, confidentially and with no judgement. Those individuals that might bring a different view to the topic, or, even just a person who can simply listen.
I once coached a hugley successful CEO who operated across Australia and New Zealand, she ran a large listed company that had a beautiful history, a bright future and this was her first CEO gig. We would regularly meet in my offices or her’s and in one of our earlier coaching sessions I asked her this question.
‘how are you progressing’?
that was the only question I asked her – she spoke for just over an hour. I listened intently, observed her body language and occasionally nodded or asked her to ‘carry on’. We finished our coaching session and she left to get back on a plane to Australia. Like all my coaching sessions I reflected on what had just occurred. Nick……..you just sat their, said nothing, contributed nothing, did nothing….I was devastated truly devastated. Here I am coaching a very successful CEO and I’ve done nothing!!
A few months later she called me, we were now well into our coaching work, she asked if she could say something. I was waiting for sorry Nick but I don’t think this is working. Instead she said Nick thank you! A few months back we sat in your office, you asked me how was I progressing and for the next hour or so I just talked, I just want to thank you for allowing me to get so much off my chest.
Successful leaders sometimes just need to talk and sound things out to a coach, a mentor or a friend, person they trust and who holds no judgement!
Successful leaders sacrifice more than anyone can imagine, in my coaching practice where I partner one-on-one CEOs there are some real themes that are shared with me. Successful leaders
Give. That’s right they Give.
They have an innate drive to serve others,
they do more the little things when no one is watching,
they are not afraid to say I don’t know
they listen with (both ears)
They promote & celebrate others success
they take enormous time with their people (that’s right) they spend time with their people every single day!
Leading successful groups of people is more challenging than anyone can imagine. There is a fine art a sweet spot to leading others. Many feel they have the answers but the more I have the pleasure of coaching professionals the more I come to the conclusion that no one style/approach will work for all.
To be extremely successful, You have to understand yourself, you must identify what are your own leadership strengths and development areas. You have to learn different approaches to different situations, appreciate and embrace varieties of thought, values and beliefs. Their is no one right way or wrong way!
Successful leaders put enormous pressure on themselves as they feel they need to do more, they do not hesitate in saying No and they appreciate that someone else may be the best person to sort out a problem or come up with an idea.
Being successful isn’t easy. Be clear on what success means to you and not someone else.