Friday, March 26, 2010
The old way of leading is dead. Many of our best-known organizations have fallen and some of our most revered leaders have lost face. The global economy has now transformed and with all the new media ranging from Twitter to YouTube, everyone now can build a following. And lead their field.
We have just entered what I call The Decade of Leadership. Leadership has become democratized. I'm not at all suggesting that we don't need titles and people at the top of organizations to set the vision, manage the team and take overall responsibility for the ship. What I am offering is that we now work and live in a world where leadership isn't just something executives do. It's something everyone needs to do - for their organizations to survive, in this period of dramatic change.
For the past 15 years, I've had a simple mission that has become my obsession: to help people in organizations lead without a title - and play at their best in all that they do. This mission has taken me into client companies like Nike, FedEx, GE, Panasonic and Unilever where I've not only helped their best people grow even better but learned what world-class teams and enterprises do to create wow. This mission has allowed me to serve as the private leadership advisor to many billionaires and celebrity entrepreneurs. And this calling has caused me to meet people from every walk of life in every industry and learn what keeps them from stepping up to their leadership best when that's exactly who they are built to be.
I've distilled everything I've learned into a step-by-step formula that I've shared in my new book "The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life" (Simon & Schuster). Here are 9 smart moves you can make today to start changing the game and creating exceptional results:
1. Remember that you need no title to be a leader. Leadership has less to do with the size of your title than the depth of your commitment. I've seen front-line employees, taxi drivers and carpet installers doing their work like Picasso painted. Leadership isn't really about authority. It's about a choice you can make to do your best work each and every day, regardless of where you are planted.
2. Shift from Victimhood to Leadership. No great career, business or life was ever created on a platform of excuses. Too many people play victim at work. They blame the boss or the economy or the competition or the weather for their less than mediocre results. Leaders Without A Title are different. They get that they have power. It may not be the power granted through a title like CEO or SVP. But they have power. And that's the power to see opportunity amid crises. That's the power to drive positive change. That's the power to encourage everyone on your team. And it's the power to step into the person you've always longed to be.
3. Innovate or Stagnate. To Lead Without A Title is to leave everything you touch better than you found it. Mediocrity happens when people refuse to change and improve all that they do. Look what happened to some of the big car companies because the slowed down their devotion to innovation. The competition ate them for breakfast. And put some out of business. The best leaders and the best enterprises have a hunger to improve. It's such a deep part of their culture they know of no other way to be. And that's the edge that makes them great.
4. Become a Value Creator versus a Clock Watcher. Success comes from the value you add rather than from the busyness you show. What's the point of being really busy around the wrong things? Leadership is a game of focus. Focusing on fewer but smarter activities, the ones that create real value for your teammates, customers and the world at large.
5. Put People First. "The business of business is people" said Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher. We have a ton of technology yet less and less humanity. Yet let's remember that people do business with people they like, trust and respect. One of the clients we've done leadership development work with is RIM. Yes, they are a fast and innovative technology company. But they also get that excellent results come from people playing at excellence. So build your team. Meet your customers. Deepen human connections. Treat others with respect. And put people first.
6. Remember that Tough Times Build Strong Leaders. Look at any exceptional leader and you'll find that they stepped into their leadership best during a period of crises versus calmness. To Lead Without A Title is to hunt for opportunity amid every adversity. Every setback has the seeds of an opportunity. Companies like Apple, Google and Amazon were built because their people leveraged disruptive times into brilliant wins. And because their people refused to give up when faced with difficulty.
7. Go to Your Limits. The more you play out on the edges of your limits and take intelligent risks, the wider your limits will expand. The more you leave your comfort zone, the bigger your comfort zone will grow. Each day at work, do the things you know you must do but are scared to do. That's how you grow, build your leadership capability and access more of the leader within you. There's zero safety in staying within what i call "The Safe Harbor of The Known". That's just an illusion that bankrupts too many businesses and breaks too many human beings.
8. Lead Yourself First. "The Leader Who Had No Title" isn't just a book showing you how to create exceptional business success and win at work; it's also a handbook for personal leadership. Because how can you lead other people if you haven't first done what it takes to lead yourself? Get to know your values. Think through what you want your life to stand for. Become physically, mentally and emotionally strong. And have a remarkably good relationship with your family. What's the point of becoming super-successful yet being alone?
9. Give Back a Legacy. Success is good. Significance is even better. Sure profit and peer recognition and doing great work is mission-critical. But even more important than that is what you give - and all you leave behind. As I write in the book, "even the longest life is pretty short. And all that matters when you get to your last day is the difference you've made and the people you've helped." So as you Lead Without A Title and step into your leadership best, stay focused on adding value. And making an extraordinary contribution.Robin Sharma is one of the world's most highly respected leadership experts, with a client list that includes Microsoft, GE, NIKE, FedEx, Yale University and IBM. In a survey of 22,000 business people ranking top leadership gurus, Sharma was in the top 5, along with Jack Welch. His books such as The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and The Greatness Guide have sold millions of copies in over 60 countries. His new book is "The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life" (Simon & Schuster). Robin's blog is at robinsharma.com.