leadership: watch. apply. repeat.

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As a kid, I was told if you want to be a great baseball pitcher, watch the pros. Study their moves and mimic what they do. Today, that would mean studying KC Royals pitchers. Seems like sensible advice.

In business, the formula is the same: identify pros in the industry, those you find extremely effective, and study, observe–even mimic. And then watch your style improve into something great.

The Race is On. 

Years ago, I heard international speaker Brian Tracy explain a study on race horses, which showed something that forever changed my work style. The study found the horse that came in first in aggregate over several years won 10 times the prize money of the horse that came in second. Ten times!

So, Brian asked, do you think the first place horse was 10 times faster than the second place horse? Five times? Twice as fast? No. They found the first place horse beat the second place horse by just a nose, just a fraction of a second. Yet, the reward was 10 times greater.

This tells us we don’t have to be 10 times, five times or even twice as good as the next person. In business, we only have to consistently be a little bit better, and that can make all the difference. That means we would come to work just a little bit earlier, stay just a little bit later, and when we’re there to work, we WORK.

Making those small adjustments will propel you forward in your quest for leadership. Why will you stand out above the others you work with? Because NOBODY else is doing that. (Or virtually nobody. Honestly.) In this day of “I want more, so pay me more” without contributing more, the idea is not a sustainable approach. Future business leaders will see that is not the way to long-term happiness. Current leaders are the winning race horses of today.

Mr. Tracy provided another related gem: If you’re going to work 8-9 hours a day, why not be the best at it? That will be a fast track to accomplishing more, earning more and being more fulfilled. It only makes sense.

Along with recommendations to work harder and smarter, leaders have found deep rewards in being passionate in what you do. Steve Jobs told Stanford graduates to do what you love so you can love what you do. Observers have said even Steve Jobs wasn’t working his passion at first. But then he found what he loved, worked it and turned that into his passion. The rest is history, and the world is better because of it.

Leaders Communicate.

Collaboration, communication and being team-centered over the individual is key to becoming a leader. Utah Jazz superstar John Stockton was famous for crediting his team for game wins when the media spotlighted him and his incredible playing. And John deserved the attention. For many winning games, John carried the team. Even at that, he would defer the glory and instantly, naturally and routinely focus it on his teammates. John knew those wins came because of a lot of aspects, one of which was communicating and collaborating up and down the court.

Working in such a collaborative fashion with a strong team shows leadership and brings success quicker than individual accomplishments for most people. As former U.S. president Ronald Reagan said, “I find we accomplish a lot of good when we don’t care who gets the credit for doing it.”

When NOT to Follow the Leader.

Another insight into great leaders is to see what makes horrible leaders. Here are just three:

  1. Micromanager. I’ve found those who micromanage workers chase talented people away. It makes no sense to micromanage others who have a measure of raw talent. After all, the talent they bring to the project is why they’re hired.
  2. Boss Bullies. A phrase I’ve found to be true is when some people get a little authority over others, they take advantage and make unreasonable demands. First, no one should be treated like that. Second, those with talent will go elsewhere. That cycle will continue until something changes. Bullying others is not a long-term strategy for leaders, and it causes a lot of damage before people figure that out.
  3. Indecisive. Leaders must make decisions. All. The. Time. Those who can’t hurt morale and stall progress. I was taught, “The moment of absolute certainty never arrives.” Therefore, the better plan would be to assess the information given, answer all questions, ponder unintended consequences and make the decision. If it was in error, then learn from it and apply new understanding to future decisions.

Want to take a huge step toward leadership today? Follow these initial steps and keep your eye on the pro who has demonstrated success in the field you love.

By tim brown
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