10 unarguable things that great leaders do

10 unarguable things that great leaders do
10 unarguable things that great leaders do

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be involved with the world’s largest online network of entrepreneurs and to have interviewed many of the most successful founders and executives of today’s most valued startups.

Some have worked directly for the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Being a successful and great leader isn’t always as tidy, easy and fun as you think. There are a lot of myths. A lot of articles written by others who mostly seem to name the traits they’d like to see in a boss. Those aren’t always what you get, or is possible if you are going to build a billion-dollar company.

Here are ten things I have found that do actually make great leaders that get results.

To be a great leader you don’t just need followers and employees, you need a whole team of leaders under you. Think Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway, and all of their companies.

Think about the structure of any military. The leader in command is only as effective as the leaders of the smallest groups of troops in training, technology development and execution in the field.

As a fun fact many of the guests that I have interviewed on the DealMakers podcast, where some of the most successful entrepreneurs share how they did it, used to be in the military.

2. Cultivate admiration

This doesn’t necessarily mean being a nice guy who is friendly and is everyone’s best friend in the office. Not by a long way. People are scared when they finally get to level up to meet with people like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates.

They often have a reputation for being hot-headed and tough but are not necessarily regarded as tyrants.

If you’re great at what you do, you can have great personal conversations with these leaders. Admiration comes from respect. Not necessarily likability, but recognizing the leader’s talent and the way they do their job.

Richard Branson has been named one of the most admired entrepreneurs of all time, but you can bet he is demanding too.

3. Self-care

We’ve all heard that we need to lead by example.

Those we have influence with are much more likely to copy what we do without saying a word than to do what we say and don’t do ourselves. This applies to every area of business. Though today’s leaders are also talking a lot more about self-care.

Being wary of burnout. Having a real life. We want our teams and vendors and partners and even investors and board members to work hard. Yet, if paying attention to, and actually following through actions required to avoid burning out so we can perform at our best is so important for us, it is really important for teams too. Show them by example.

4. Be inspiring

To lead you to have to inspire others.

You have to inspire cofounders to join you. You have to inspire yourself to leap and keep going. You have to inspire workers to join your team. You have to inspire investors to take a risk on you. You have to inspire customers to buy from you.

5. Be humble

This may not be the first trait that pops into the mind when thinking about many leaders. Business or otherwise.

Yet, off-screen, when you really talk to those that are most successful, they are often far more humble and generous than you would expect. They are eager to learn what they don’t know, to hire those who are more talented and experienced than themselves, and to consult others for help.

6. Put the mission first

Great leaders put the mission, business and others first. The best definitely put their investors and staff before themselves. They do this when it comes to making big and tough decisions for the business itself. It’s not what will best satisfy my ego or bank account, or what is easiest, but what will create the greatest result.

That may mean jumping in to wash the dishes, hiring an outside CEO to lead, accepting someone else’ input, or selling the company to an acquirer who can take it to the next level.

7. Extreme ownership

Even if you have co-founders aboard, it is really up to you as an entrepreneur, CEO or chairman to make it work. You might get some credit when things go well. Though you’ll definitely get all the blame when it doesn’t, and have to own that.

Approaching this with the right mindset from the start can make a huge difference. Hold yourself accountable, own the need to make decisions and whatever the results are.

8. Be curious

The number one trait that you’ll find in the greatest leaders is their curiosity. They’ve been through enough to realize they often don’t know what they don’t know. They’ve been wrong enough to want to hear other ideas. They wouldn’t have gained the chance to lead unless they were curious in the first place.

Allow yourself to be curious. Just a few minutes of curiosity can be as good as a few moments of courage.

9. Listen

I believe we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. You don’t have to act on every critical review or change your mission based on the harshest investor rejections. You don’t have to adopt every idea your staff comes up with. Though do listen.

Do ask for input. Do learn. Do log that data. Just taking the time to listen can make a huge difference.

10. Think big, not fluffy

There’s a lot of talk about thinking big, dreaming big, and being a visionary. This isn’t a pass to just get lost in fluffy daydreams and be overly optimistic. You do have to be pragmatic. You do have to be willing to start with very small steps and to do those pressing tasks.

Great leaders will embrace what others believe is impossible or maybe ten years before their time. Yet, they also use the data and they strategize.

They breakdown the mission to tangible steps. They know their total addressable market. They find ways to compel enterprise-level clients to buy, invest and even acquire them.

Whether you are looking at building your own business or scaling the ranks in the corporate sector you will always need to surround yourself by the right people. This could be an executive coach, fundraising consultant, etc.

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