Why Entrepreneurs Don’t Retire

I have a friend that knows the exact amount of time before he can retire–down to the number of days. He looks forward to his retirement date every single day, and has a countdown like a child waiting for Christmas to arrive in the month of December.

That’s a hard notion for me to comprehend.

I mean, why wouldn’t someone who seemingly despised their job so much, just change careers?

Apparently it’s not that straightforward.

My wife grew up in a household where both of her parents worked. Both had great jobs, working for the same company for nearly their entire career. They saved, invested, paid off debt and ultimately retired early.

From what I understand, they both enjoyed their jobs. They liked the company they worked for and the people they worked with.

They now enjoy their hobbies, Grandchildren and spending winters in the South.

I would venture to guess that MOST people’s professional path is similar to one of the scenarios above.

I’m not one of them.

Much to my wife’s dismay, the thought of staying at the same company for 25 years with a predictable income, socking a bit of each check away for retirement and callin’ it quits at 65, sounds terrifying to me. In fact, it sounds miserable.

That doesn’t mean that the people that fit the scenarios I mentioned above are miserable or that their way of life is wrong.

In the case of my in-laws, they had wonderful careers and were/are perfectly happy.

The difference is the mindset of an entrepreneur.

Work isn’t an obligation and path to a better life. For an entrepreneur, work is a passion and IS the better life.

Retirement isn’t a planned event, nor is something being invested in. Retirement savings is the sale of a company, the future IPO or the liquidity that comes from your companies success.

Dream cars, homes, vacations aren’t just fantasies to entrepreneurs, they’re realities. If they don’t get it this year, they try again the following year. And, the year after that. There is no end in sight and no point of giving up.

Entrepreneurs don’t retire simply because they don’t want to. Entrepreneurs are defined by what they do and their business-life is a part of their legacy.

This lack of retirement planning can be hard though–especially on those that think differently.

My wife, the saint she is, has had to come to terms with the fact that our future is highly unpredictable. Given the way she was raised, security to her is defined by a stable income and a growing retirement account.

There are often times, like right now, where I have very little to no income coming in. This means that whatever we have saved, goes to support the present, not the future.

As an entrepreneur, that’s stressful, but not in the same way it is for someone who thinks like my wife. As an entrepreneur, you possess the conviction to believe that it’s short-term and have the ability see the big picture. Others often look to the present to predict the future.

While entrepreneurs don’t retire, we have to be mindful that others in our life wish that we did.

Dana Severson

How Successful Candidates Steal Job Interviews

Searching for a job can be frustrating, especially if you are devoting full-time hours to the process. You spend hours laboring over the perfect cover letter and making sure your resume is impeccable. You follow all the rules, but still receive no phone calls from employers. What is the deal? You know they called someone.

I have not searched for a job in a few years, but I get a bit queasy thinking about what it was like. I also interact with tons and tons of candidates every week as the CEO of Aha! and I can feel their pain. Looking for a job can be so painful that it paralyzes you.

Despite your best efforts, you may feel like you are tossing your resume into a great abyss. What are you doing wrong? And what is someone else doing right?

Probably nothing, but you need to understand this difficult job climate. The economy may be slowly improving, but there are still roughly three unemployed people for every job opening, plus an untold number of passive job seekers. There are simply a lot of people competing for jobs.

To be a stand-out candidate, you need to drastically change your approach.

You will start landing interviews when you start getting bold.

This is no time to be timid. If you want employers to notice you, start acting like a strong candidate. Try these tactics that I used and other successful candidates are using right now:

Break the rules
Many employers impose restrictions on job-seekers, such as no follow-up phone calls. Or they force you into a rigid online process that searches only for applications matching certain keywords and kicks out the rest. You need to figure out a way to get around HR. Figure out the email address for whoever makes the hiring decisions and send the person a short, personal note. Mail your resume to the company or hand-deliver it with a smile. Okay, so you did not follow their rules. Who cares? If you are a terrific candidate, you may get a call simply because you showed some real chutzpah.

Get small
Are you responding to every job posting that sounds remotely like something you might do? You may think your odds will improve if you send out enough resumes. Here is my advice — send out fewer resumes. Get small. Make a shortlist of places you would like to work, and send out your resume with a personalized cover letter showing how well you know the company and their needs. You will make a positive impression, and lay the groundwork for a new relationship with the company.

Use Google (not that way)
Why should employers have all the technological advantages? Make the technology start working for you. If that monster of a career site is serving up duds to your inbox, check out niche career sites, which may list great openings that have less competition from other job-seekers. Set up Google alerts for the type of position you want. For example, product management reveals a lot of employers looking to fill that role every day.

Finding a new job can be a great challenge for even the strongest candidates, but successful job seekers are bold and stay focused.

Do something entirely different and see what happens. With every bold move you make, your confidence will increase, as well as your odds that a great job is not far away.

Brian de Haaff

Do You Know How Recruiters Read Executive Resumes?

Wouldn’t you like to know how recruiters read your resume? If you did know, you could leverage that knowledge to incorporate the right strategies into your resume, right?

Believe it or not, recruiters are trained how to grab the most information in the least amount of time. By last count, they have shaved the time down from 10 seconds to 6 seconds, so you know your resume needs to be sharp to capture their interest. I researched a few recruiting firms for tips they would give their recruiters on how to get the most out of reading a resume. Here is a culmination of that research:

1. Start with the targeted profile. It should be a well-written statement that delivers a strong message of who the executive is, his or her strengths, and a thumbnail statement that supports the results. A generic or poorly written statement heads the resume to the “no” pile. (Tip to executive: Make sure your profile clearly defines your talent and skills so the reader quickly grasps your value.)

Example:

Generic statement: “Marketing expert looking for a company where I can apply my executive skills to help the company grow.”

Targeted statement: “Global chief marketing officer with success in pioneering B2B & B2C innovative marketing and business development strategies that impact the entire business value chain.”

2. Read between the lines for accomplishments, results and potential. Many executives are prohibited from revealing confidential corporate data and may not be able to reveal the true breadth and depth of their impact on the bottom line. (Tip to executive: Front load your bullet-ed statements so the recruiter gets the most important information first and then what action you took to achieve it second.)

Example: Reduced time-to-market of new product launches 32% by restructuring the product management organization and driving innovative tactics.

3. Check executive’s most recent job title and employer to see if they held a similar role or is on track for the position being filled. For example, if you’re looking for a CFO, think “possibility” if you see titles like vice president or director of finance. (Tip to executive: Depending on the company size, a director-level title may be equal to a C-level job in another organization. Consider translating your title.)

Example: Director of Finance (Chief Financial Officer equivalent.)

4. Look for positive change in previous roles revealed by dollars, percentages, and improvements. Such phrases as “responsible for,” and “managed” don’t uncover the results of the actions taken and the executive’s contribution to it. (Tip to executive: Create your bullets so that they are accomplishment based rather than duty oriented. Of course, you will need to have a few lines of the major responsibilities for your job above this section, but in your bullet string you should be showcasing achievements.)

Example:

Duty driven: Assumed responsibility for the Group’s North American business.

Accomplishment based: Transformed $115M North American business from loss to first profitability in its history. Reversed $2.6M loss to $263K profit in first year. Boosted gross profits an additional 12% in year two.

5. Look for warning signs like gaps in employment. Ups and downs in the economy may have resulted in legitimate gaps, but be sure to vet the executive to fill in the gaps. (Tip to executive: Be prepared to explain any gaps in your employment during an interview without coming across defensive or appear like you are trying to hide something.)

Example: If you took time off to get your master’s degree, care for an aged parent, or to raise a child, just say so. Make sure that you emphasize any constructive activities during your gap period such as volunteer work, workshops or coursework, consulting, or freelance work.

Use these “insider” secrets today to get the job tomorrow!

Louise Garver

The Key To Letting Go

We’ve all heard it or been told we need to let go, forgive and forget and this is the right thing to do. It enables us to move forward in life, genuine forgiveness really does lighten the emotional load and in the long term it is true only you become consumed by the wrong you perceive happened, the person who did this has probably long forgotten you, or what they did. If they ever noticed or cared in the first place.

It’s difficult though, isn’t it? And here’s why.

You have to understand what it is you are holding onto. Regardless of the trauma or the betrayal. You have to dig past the pain and anger to see what it is you haven’t reconciled within yourself yet.

There is a valid point to the argument why should I forgive and forget, but where do we draw the line between letting go of the pain/ hate/ anger and remembering the lesson. Often this is why we hold on to the emotion. We fear if we let go of it, it can happen again and the best way to keep our guard up is to become disciplined in waiting for someone to attack us again.

It’s a tried and tested method across all of the armies around the world. None of them practice peace, they practise attack and defence strategies and there’s no reason you shouldn’t either. It is sensible to be smart to the behaviours of others which offend us and that’s the lesson.

It has happened to you so in theory at least you should have learnt the lesson. Not always easy and often this is because we didn’t want it to happen in the first place. We hope if the next time comes along it will be different, the person will have learnt their lesson or we will see the signs and it wouldn’t happen again. When it does, you beat yourself stupid for being….Well so stupid as to let it happen again.

And this is where you have to dig deep. Are you holding onto the anger because you feel let down or did you not learn the lesson? Anger in these circumstances is often a reflection of our frustration at ourselves. The inner critic has let rip and isn’t holding back about how it feels let down. You should have known better, done better etc. A no win situation which can fester deep inside.

When you should have known better, never forget the good intention you had. The world is a better place because of the people who give second chances. You are the people who make the real differences. You risked getting burnt again because you cared enough to open your arms and welcome a person back into your life. The boundaries had been set and the other person crossed them….again!

It’s not your fault. You are the reason people have hope when their world is going wrong. Trust me I know, I was given a job based on someone’s belief I deserved a second chance. It changed my life forever.

What if you hadn’t learnt the lesson? This is a different kind of digging deep. You have to try to understand why you went back and allowed it to happen again. Thinking it might have been different is an excuse masking what is missing inside of you that this challenges?

You were invested in a particular outcome because of the potential reward, this can be work or relationships etc, even the gym. This covers a whole scope of issues which can keep recurring in our lives. Why was it you were revisiting the issue again and expecting/ hoping for a different outcome?

This is your key to letting go, understanding the hole you are trying to fill. Once you figure this out you can let go and never forget the lesson.

David Watson

Please Join Me In Welcoming Brian Arnold to the Joseph Chris Team

Brian Arnold comes to Joseph Chris Partners with 25 years of leadership and management experience within a variety of different industries. Brian has held executive level management positions in the fields of Banking and Finance, Construction Management and Sales as well as two separate tours with the United States Army.  He spent his first tour with the 75th Ranger Regiment and as instructor at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia.  After ten years back in the private sector Brian, a native New Yorker, reenlisted after the attacks of September 11th, and served as a Triage Specialist/Combat Medic for a forward support hospital.

The determination and dedication that were forged during his military service are invaluable in his position as a partner here at Joseph Chris.  Brian does not know how to fail.  He also understands what it means to really work as a team to reach common objectives and brings that mentality to servicing the clients he works for and the candidate relationships he develops.  Additionally, his firsthand management experience in the industries we have long serviced provides him with a perspective that allows him to truly understand his clients’ business needs and bring them the right candidates to achieve their goals.  Finally, Brian has never met a stranger.  Raised on Long Island and descended from Irish and Italian immigrants, he is a gifted communicator who connects with people easily.  People are naturally drawn to him, and in an industry where relationships are cornerstone, his ability to develop and maintain relationships is one of his greatest assets.

Brian lives in Kingwood, Texas with his four children and enjoys spending his free time reading, playing and coaching volleyball and running with his Blue Heeler, Mickey (named after Yankees great, Mickey Mantle).

We look forward to supporting his development and watching his fierce interest in “being all he can be” for his clients, company and self.

Veronica Ramirez, CEO

Joseph Chris Partners

10 Simple Techniques to Eliminate Interviewer Bias

People who are honest with themselves recognize they often make judgments about people they’re hiring based on insufficient, flawed or biased data. But few interviewers are honest with themselves. Most let their emotions, biases and flawed thinking dominate who gets hired. Worse, most people don’t even recognize the problem.

I just read an article on Fast Company regarding the negative consequences of this type of decision-making. As the article (indirectly) points out, interviewers make mistakes by overvaluing the quality of the candidate’s first impression, level of assertiveness, affability and communication skills. Mistakes are also made if the interviewer is overly confident in his or her own interviewing skills or uses cloudy judgment like assuming attending a prestigious university or technical brilliance is a prerequisite or predictor of success.

Based on 35 years of interviewing thousands of candidates I’d suggest that more than 50% of hiring errors are attributed to these types of issues. So if you or someone you know is less than honest when it comes to recognizing their own biases, try these ideas out the next time you or they interview a candidate.

10 Ways to Become an Honest and Objective Interviewer

1. Bring your biases to the conscious level. People tend to relax when they meet a candidate they instantly like and get uptight when this instant reaction is negative. Make a note about this the next time you meet a candidate. Controlling your biases starts by recognizing you have them.

2. Do the opposite of your typical first impression reaction. Most people seek out positive confirming facts for people they like and negative facts for people they don’t like. You can neutralize your biases by doing the opposite.

3. Treat candidates as consultants. We initially give someone who is a subject matter expert or a highly regarded consultant the benefit of the doubt. If you give every candidate the same courtesy – whether you like them or not – the truth will be evident by the end of the interview.

4. Measure 1st impression at end of interview. If first impressions are important for job success, assess them at the end of the interview when you’re not seduced by them. Then objectively determine if the person’s first impression will help or hinder on-the-job success.

5. No 2’s. The Performance-based Hiring process I advocate uses a 1-5 scale to rank candidates on the 10 factors that best predict on-the-job performance. A Level 2 is someone who’s competent but not motivated to do the work required. By spending extra time on determining what motivates a candidate to excel, you’ll be able to tell the difference between social energy and true work ethic.

6. Listen to the judge. The judge’s instructions to the jurors are always the same: Hear all of the evidence before reaching a conclusion. Every interviewer should take the same advice.

7. Conduct a phone screen first. The less personal nature of a phone screen naturally reduces bias by eliminating visual clues and focusing on general fit and the person’s track record of growth and performance. By establishing this initial connection with the candidate based on his or her past performance, the candidate’s actual first impression – strong or weak – is less impactful.

8. Use evidence, not emotions, to assess the person. Unless backed up with evidence, words like “feel,” “think,” “gut” and “not sure” are evidence of emotional and biased decision-making. “While the candidate is quiet, the fact that he was assigned to two cross-functional leadership teams reporting to the COO on critical projects indicates strong team skills,” represents how evidence should be collected and used to make decisions.

9. Wait 30 minutes. Force yourself to wait at least 30 minutes before making any yes or no decision. During this time collect the same information from each candidate whether you like the person or not. This waiting will be a lot easier if you do all of the above first. Then don’t be surprised if nervous candidates become less nervous and outgoing candidates become less impressive.

10. Divide and conquer to systematize bias out of the selection process. Don’t let anyone have a full yes or not vote on whom gets hired. Instead assign each person on the interviewing team a subset of the factors in this Quality of Hire Talent Scorecard to “own.” During the debriefing session share everyone’s evidence. This way the team makes the hiring decision neutralizing the emotional bias of each team member.
Be honest with yourself. When it comes to hiring, recognize your biases and force them into the parking lot. This won’t compromise your standards of performance. Instead, it will open your eyes to a broader group of remarkable people who are more diverse, less traditional and more motivated to excel that you never even knew existed.

Lou Adler

Your Job and Your Politics: Keep Them Separate

Presidential election season is already upon us with recent announcements by Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul. There are still 19 months to Election Day, and these three are already seeking our support for their runs to the White House in January 2017.

And if you’re like me, you’ve got an opinion on all of them (and the gaggle of Republicans sure to follow them into the mosh pit). You probably also love or hate the current guy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And if you’re even a little bit like me, you may also have a big mouth.

So here’s the question: Should your professional career and your political opinions mix?

No. In case you missed that, here it is again: HELL. NO.

Much like your employer is prohibited (legally and by the laws of common-sense) from unduly influencing you or pressuring you to vote for (or support) a particular candidate or party, it’s also smart business for you to keep your political ranting, raging, opinions and campaigning limited to your friends and family, and under wraps when at work.

That means you should leave your “Change ’08” earrings at home – and cover up your Ronald Reagan tattoo when you head to the office.
And when you post your anti-Keystone blog from your couch, maybe limit your audience to your spouse and your mother – and you may want to take down that “Don’t Tread On Me” flag in your office, too.
While I don’t know if anyone from the ACLU or the Tea Party Patriots is among my LinkedIn followers, I can already hear the noise about individual rights, liberty and free speech.

But I’m not writing this from the perspective of your rights or your liberty (and what you’re allowed to do under the law). I’m writing this because it’s your job we’re talking about. Your career. Your livelihood. Your paycheck. Your family’s meal ticket. I’m writing this from the perspective of common sense.

Sharing your Obama rants with co-workers and clients – is a flat-out horrible decision.
Cajoling your fellow-employees to vote for “your” Candidate is a terrible idea. T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E.
And wearing your “I LOVE RICK SANATORUM” t-shirt on casual Friday is just bad, bad taste.
And all of it is solidly in the danger zone on the career-damage-o-meter.

Yes, California, Colorado, New York, North Dakota and Washington, DC all have laws in place that make it tough for your employer to discriminate against you professionally because of your political activity or beliefs at (or away from) work (unless your rantings are disrupting business).

But the legality of you being politically active at work is not my point. What we’re talking about here is: Is it SMART to do it? (please see above for that answer)

Being a big-mouth about politics (candidates and elections) at work can be a silent killer. It will quietly (or loudly) frame opinions about you among co-workers, executives and subordinates. It will limit your opportunities. It will label you. It will cost you. I realize many may not agree with that. And even more people might not like it, but it’s true: When it comes to your personal life and opinions at work, less is more.

So, whether you’re in the far left wing of the Liberal Movement – or if you’re in the right’s Conservative Camp (or somewhere between the two), leave it at home. All of it.

And remember, the Inter-web makes an opinion exponentially bigger than it actually is. Which means we must know our entire audience before we post politics or pictures, and before we open up with political rhetoric at work (this is also smart behavior that will be a big benefit in future job hunting as well).

In short, the company water cooler is a great place for catching up on last night’s sports, the Kardashians (I’m sorry. Really.), and talking about actual local/national/global/intergalactic news. Or (novel idea) – even work.

But it’s definitely no place for your political opinions. It’s just not worth it.

Bruce Martin

Recruiter’s Secret #2 – And Just Pull The Trigger

Once upon a time there was a search assignment. Perfect candidate meets perfect client. All should have been well. But then, client puts a hold on proceedings – for no really good reason.

A few months later the client calls me and wants to hire Ms. Perfect after all. But guess what? She’s gone on to greener pastures. And even if she hasn’t, she now has a bad taste in her mouth. The client looks commitment phobic.

This unfortunate circumstance is what I like to call Fear of Pulling the Trigger Syndrome. With some companies, it is downright epidemic. Don’t be that company! Your market reputation is at stake, and being the one who can’t commit is unattractive.

Now I do know how this can occur on the client side. I’ve been a hiring manager myself, and sometimes stuff happens. But here’s what happens on the candidate side. There she is, working away at her job. Not looking for anything else. I call and convince her to look up and around.

Once this happens there is an invisible switch that gets flipped to the “on” position. The candidate realizes that if the job I presented to her is out there (and looks better than her current gig), then maybe there are others.

There are others. Which brings us back to the trigger issue.

Once you find a candidate that you really like and that really likes you back, seal the deal. Hiring is like dating – state your intentions up front or be pushed aside by a company that will. Remember, time kills all deals. Don’t let it kill yours!

So, do your due diligence, and then proceed. Fortune favors the action-oriented. Just pull the trigger!

Happy Hunting.

Lynnae Miller

The 3 Cardinal Sins of KPIs and Performance Metrics

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are incredibly powerful tools in modern business and most people have heard about them, which means that many businesses have sought to implement KPIs in some form or another. As a result, there is a danger that you could dismiss KPIs thinking, “Oh I’ve tried KPIs they don’t work in my business” or “are not relevant in my business”.

KPIs do work and they are relevant in every business from small family run organisations to global multi-nationals. If you’ve tried to use them or you know someone who’s tried to use them and they didn’t yield their promise then my guess is you or your acquaintance committed one or more of the three cardinal sins of KPIs…

Measuring everything that walks and moves
Collecting the same KPIs as everyone else
Not choosing the relevant KPIs
Measuring everything that walks and moves

One of the biggest errors people make when seeking to implement KPIs is that they decide to measure everything that walks and moves. They ferret out every single metric, data point or information hot spot.

The assumption is that lots of information is better than no information but actually it’s not. Too much information is as useless as too little so seeking to squeeze every drop of data from every corner of the business without any regard for what you actually need and how you will actually use the vast amount of data you plan to collect is just as damaging as doing nothing.

In fact you could argue it’s more damaging because you are wasting time and money collecting data you will never use which is not only pointless but very frustrating to the people who do the collecting! Going from nothing to everything is remarkably common but it never works. Instead it leads to overwhelm and within a matter of months towels are being thrown in all over the business as executives mutter, “see I told you it wouldn’t work” or, “See we tried that before and it was a nightmare then too.”

Forget what you can measure, instead figure out what questions you need answered in order to deliver your strategy and only implement KPIs that will answer those questions.

Collecting the same measures as everyone else

The other big error people make is working out what KPIs to measure by looking at what everyone else is measuring. So a business leader may decide that KPIs are something he really needs to take seriously but rather than work out what information he needs and what critical business questions he needs the data to answer he will look at competitor businesses or discuss KPIs with other senior executives inside or outside the business and gather a list of KPIs that everyone else is measuring.

This can also happen if a particular KPI or metric gains popularity in leadership journals. Just because everyone is talking about customer satisfactions surveys or employee engagement surveys doesn’t automatically mean you need those KPIs. Whether you invest in these types of measure will depend on your strategy and nothing else.

Obviously there are some KPIs that most businesses will measure – especially around the financials of the business but outside those stalwarts consider your business needs only not popularity. Besides you may not even know what your competitors strategy is so copying those KPIs will usually be a waste of time.

Not choosing the relevant KPIs

The final clanger people make when implementing KPIs is they don’t choose the right ones. There are loads of KPIs to choose from. In my book Key performance Indicators I list 75 but there are many more than that. Needless to say, many business people are already completely overwhelmed by KPIs, how many there are and whether or not they should be measuring them!

If you also consider that the amount and type of data we have access to is constantly increasing and therefore the amount and type of KPIs will also increase then it’s easy to see why people panic and just grab the easy, obvious or common KPIs. At least that way they can say, “KPIs – yeah sure I have some of them!”

It really doesn’t need to be that hard. KPIs are only useful if they are meaningful and deliver mission critical information. It follows therefore that once you know what you are trying to achieve that target should drive the KPI selection process and nothing else.

Bernard Marr

12 Habits of Exceptional Leaders

One of the most popular Dilbert comic strips in the cartoon’s history begins with Dilbert’s boss relaying senior leadership’s explanation for the company’s low profits. In response to his boss, Dilbert asks incredulously, “So they’re saying that profits went up because of great leadership and down because of a weak economy?” To which Dilbert’s boss replies, “These meetings will go faster if you stop putting things in context.”

Great leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes their leadership so effective. Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole.

Below are 12 essential behaviors that exceptional leaders rely on every day. Give them a try and you can become a better leader today.

1. Courage

“Courage is the first virtue that makes all other virtues possible.” —Aristotle

People will wait to see if a leader is courageous before they’re willing to follow his or her lead. People need courage in their leaders. They need someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. People are far more likely to show courage themselves when their leaders do the same.

For the courageous leader adversity is a welcome test. Like a blacksmith’s molding of a red-hot iron, adversity is a trial by fire that refines leaders and sharpens their game. Adversity emboldens courageous leaders and leaves them more committed to their strategic direction.

Leaders who lack courage simply toe the company line. They follow the safest path—the path of least resistance—because they’d rather cover their backside than lead.

2. Effective Communication

“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” —Joseph Priestley

Communication is the real work of leadership. It’s a fundamental element of how leaders accomplish their goals each and every day. You simply can’t become a great leader until you are a great communicator.

Great communicators inspire people. They create a connection with their followers that is real, emotional, and personal, regardless of any physical distance between them. Great communicators forge this connection through an understanding of people and an ability to speak directly to their needs.

3. Generosity

“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” —John Maxwell

Great leaders are generous. They share credit and offer enthusiastic praise. They’re as committed to their followers’ success as they are to their own. They want to inspire all of their employees to achieve their personal best – not just because it will make the team more successful, but because they care about each person as an individual.

4. Humility

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

Great leaders are humble. They don’t allow their position of authority to make them feel that they are better than anyone else. As such, they don’t hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and they won’t ask their followers to do anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.

5. Self-Awareness

“It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself.” —Latin Proverb

Contrary to what Dilbert might have us believe, leaders’ gaps in self-awareness are rarely due to deceitful, Machiavellian motives, or severe character deficits. In most cases, leaders—like everyone else—view themselves in a more favorable light than other people do.

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence, a skill that 90% of top performing leaders possess in abundance. Great leaders’ high self-awareness means they have a clear and accurate image not just of their leadership style, but also of their own strengths and weaknesses. They know where they shine and where they’re weak, and they have effective strategies for leaning into their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses.

6. Adherence to the Golden Rule +1

“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” – Jon Wolfgang von Goethe

The Golden Rule – treat others as you want to be treated – assumes that all people are the same. It assumes that, if you treat your followers the way you would want a leader to treat you, they’ll be happy. It ignores that people are motivated by vastly different things. One person loves public recognition, while another loathes being the center of attention.

Great leaders don’t treat people how they themselves want to be treated. Instead, they take the Golden Rule a step further and treat each person as he or she would like to be treated. Great leaders learn what makes people tick, recognize their needs in the moment, and adapt their leadership style accordingly.

7. Passion

“If you just work on stuff that you like and are passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.” – Mark Zuckerberg

Passion and enthusiasm are contagious. So are boredom and apathy. No one wants to work for a boss that’s unexcited about his or her job, or even one who’s just going through the motions. Great leaders are passionate about what they do, and they strive to share that passion with everyone around them.

8. Infectiousness

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” —Reverend Theodore Hesburgh

Great leaders know that having a clear vision isn’t enough. You have to make that vision come alive so that your followers can see it just as clearly as you do. Great leaders do that by telling stories and painting verbal pictures so that everyone can understand not just where they’re going, but what it will look and feel like when they get there. This inspires others to internalize the vision and make it their own.

9. Authenticity

“Just be who you are and speak from your guts and heart – it’s all a man has.” – Hubert Humphrey

Authenticity refers to being honest in all things – not just what you say and do, but who you are. When you’re authentic, your words and actions align with who you claim to be. Your followers shouldn’t be compelled to spend time trying to figure out if you have ulterior motives. Any time they spend doing so erodes their confidence in you and in their ability to execute.

Leaders who are authentic are transparent and forthcoming. They aren’t perfect, but they earn people’s respect by walking their talk.

10. Approach-ability

“Management is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze too hard and you kill it, not hard enough and it flies away.” – Tommy Lasorda

Great leaders make it clear that they welcome challenges, criticism, and viewpoints other than their own. They know that an environment where people are afraid to speak up, offer insight, and ask good questions is destined for failure. By ensuring that they are approachable, great leaders facilitate the flow of great ideas throughout the organization.

11. Accountability

“The ancient Romans had a tradition: Whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: He stood under the arch.” – Michael Armstrong

Great leaders have their followers’ backs. They don’t try to shift blame, and they don’t avoid shame when they fail. They’re never afraid to say, “The buck stops here,” and they earn people’s trust by backing them up.

12. Sense Of Purpose

“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” – Ken Kesey

Whereas vision is a clear idea of where you’re going, a sense of purpose refers to an understanding of why you’re going there. People like to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Great leaders give people that feeling.

Bringing It All Together

Becoming a great leader doesn’t mean that you have to incorporate all of these traits at once. Focus on one or two at a time; each incremental improvement will make you more effective. It’s okay if you “act” some of these qualities at first. The more you practice, the more instinctive it will become, and the more you’ll internalize your new leadership style.

Dr. Travis Bradberry