23 Unconventional Leadership Lessons For Future Super-Stars.

It's a tough job being the leader.

It's even tougher jockeying to get in the position to be the leader.

Right?

You have to push and prod and prove your way to the top.

But once you get there you might find yourself unprepared and a little confused.

Heck, you're a little concerned you should have paid a little more money to get into a better MBA class.

It's not too long until you find yourself running to your local Barnes & Noble to read the all wisdom you can conjure from the business aisle.

Which from your current confusion seems not hardly enough.

It's hard work being the boss.

And even harder if you listen to all the conventional wisdom you read.

Here are a few unconventional (and transformational) leadership lessons you won't find at your local bookstore.

  1. The crowd is loud but always wrong. -- Those around you might appear to be convincingly boisterous in their "logical" explanations for why you need to join in their mission, but that is is aways the absolute wrong decision.  Volume does not mean value.  Ignore the common sense of the masses and  run the opposite direction.  Instead of "eating dust", you'll be moving mountains.
  2. Your gut is more accurate than the textbook. -- What you "feel" and "know", that you might not be able to easily define, explain, or diagram, is the most valuable business advice you can ever give yourself.  It's fear and pain and uncertainty that drives you to not listen to what you know you should already be doing. Do the things that scare you most -- even when you might not be able to get the numbers to look good on a spreadsheet.
  3. Even morons have good advice. -- Your best advice will always (sadly) come from the people who hate you the most.  So, while it's only natural to want to throw things at these jerks, you can learn a lot by clueing into the naked, insensitive, (and cutting) criticism they readily serve up.  If excellence is your goal, then feedback is what you need to get you there.  You'll never be at a loss with this posse.
  4. You're never working hard enough. -- All that "putting in 110%" is just crap.  Rarely, if ever, are you putting in the level of insanely obsessive effort that it takes to be successful.  That's just how your brain works.  It's trying to protect you, so it creates somewhat logical excuses that you can use to justify why not doing more is really the key to you being successful.  Do more.  Start now.
  5. Life isn't fair, kind, or forgiving. -- The bigger problem isn't that life isn't fair, it's that we unrealistically expect it to be that way.  Despite bad luck and nonstop set-backs on our journey as humans, we still cling to the romantic notion that life will serve up exactly what we expect when we expect it.  Plan for things to go horribly, unavoidably wrong and you'll end up with better focus in the long run.
  6. Trusting others isn't weakness. -- Giving others a chance is part of your own maturity.  When you can "let go" and let other people rise to the challenge, you are in a position to do some incredible things.  Is it always going to work out?  Of course not.  You are going to get hurt and taken advantage of.  A great leader knows that trusting others is the first step in leveraging reproducible results.
  7. Indignance is a waste of time. -- Stop all the "guffawing" and incredulation when things don't go the way that you expect.  That whole "throw your hands up in the air" thing is just a complete waste of everyone's time.  Learn from the mistakes you might have made and move on.  Frankly, all the emotion is really only there because people are looking at you.  Otherwise  you wouldn't be making a scene.
  8. No one can make you do anything. -- You can attend conferences until the "cows some home", but it won't help your business.  You are the only one who can help your business.  All the coaches and consultants in the world can't make you be as outrageously successful as you say you want to be.  It's all just talk and wasted money until you do something with the knowledge you have.
  9. Apologize as hard as you celebrate. -- It's OK to screw-up when you understand the power of being apologetic -- when you can look someone you have hurt in the eye and say with every ounce of your being that you are deeply and truly sorry for the results of your actions.  Want to be a man?  Get sincere about saying "I am sorry" and make sure you mean it.
  10. Your standard is the only one that matters. -- Just because someone else has an opinion and feels like sharing it  doesn't mean that it accounts for a "hill of beans".  Frankly, anyone can be "wrong" and loud about it.  Set the bar for yourself.  Make it scary and purposeful.  Instead of looking around you for what other's think is amazing, take your expectations for yourself to the next level.
  11. Never stop standing back up. -- You are going to fail quite a bit along the way.  And there is no way to ever get used to it.  The remedy is to get good at standing back up.  You're hurt.  You want to run and hide.  You have an urge to make excuses and rationalize.  The only thing that matters is that you get back on your feet -- one knuckle and toe at a time, if that's what it takes.
  12. A smile makes anything easier. -- Instead of grimacing, scowling, and raising your eyebrows, how about using a smile to make the situation that much more pleasant.  It works on a sales call, an interview, or when you have to downsize an employee who has been with you for the last two decades.  Your smile helps you let those around you know you care.
  13. Being right isn't always right. -- Perspective matters.  You might be altogether confident in your prowess -- and indeed you might be irrefutably correct -- but shoving that down someone else's throat is never right.  Kindness is.  So is empathy and compassion.  It's not about being right, it's about helping those around you be right alongside you.  That takes more than facts.
  14. Don't believe all the compliments. -- You may have done some things right recently.  And the press may love you at the moment.  But never forget that the sharks still circle below the surface.  It's easy to forget how absolutely average you really are.  You may be brilliant at some parts of your life.  But pride will cripple your internal guidance system and leave you gasping for direction.
  15. Big goals take longer to happen. -- Nothing amazing happens over-night.  Big audacious goals take big amounts of time to make happen.  Along the way you are going to fail a heck of a lot of the time.  You are going to wonder to yourself why things aren't moving as fast as you would like.  But the important thing to remember is that "it takes time".  Plan for it.
  16. Stop advertising, justifying, and defending. -- The best defense against unfair criticism is "time".  Waging an email battle wins you nothing but distraction and more paranoia.  And you still end up looking like a fool.  People don't remember the unfair accusations.  They remember your outrageous reactions to ridiculous insights.  Be firm.  Deny lies.  And keep moving.
  17. The experts don't know anything you don't. -- Sure they have more experience talking on television than you do.  And yes, they probably have more books and magazine article being published than you do.  But that doesn't make them better prepared to create your destiny for you.  You know more than anyone else about that.  Stop acting inferior to the gurus.
  18. Shortcuts aren't really short. -- Stop yourself when you feel the urge to take the easy path.  It's usually a tangled web of nonsensical mania three or four steps down the path.  There is nothing worth gaining that is easy to get.  That lesson was easier to understand in caveman days when a "7 step ,work-from-home, spear-making program" meant building a crappy spear and probably being lunch for the next sabertooth tiger.
  19. Pay more for more talent. -- Take your job offers off Monster.com and start asking your super-stars to bring their friends to your company.  And then when you have them there, pay them more than Human Resources thinks is practical for that position.  One incredibly motivated employee is better than a crowd of mediocre "position fillers".  Start paying them like they are incredible.
  20. Inspire instead of demanding. -- That whole "winning flies with honey" idea applies to business at a deeply neurotic level.  People, in general, want to believe in a purpose bigger than the measly paycheck you can afford to pay them.  Stop using profit and loss as your only reason for decision-making.  Make what you do a religious experience for everyone involved.
  21. Teach your team to break the rules. -- Of course you need basic decorum to keep your enterprise from melting down.  But innovation largely evolves from discontentment with the norm.  Reward risk-takers when they are successful.  And encourage those who attempt and fail.  You'll end up creating a culture where you're start failing your way to mind-blowing success.
  22. Focus on "being" and the doing will follow. -- It's easy to just go through the motions and hope that all your activity is leading you to long-term victory.  Instead of checking-off tasks on your list of annual goals, spend time in meditation or with a therapist or coach keeping your head in the game.  What you think about most you eventually become.
  23. Just because you're lonely doesn't mean you can be a lunatic. -- Sure it's hard for those around you to understand how difficult and intense your position is.  No matter how hard those around you try to understand, they won't be able to.  That's no excuse to lash out with passive agressive "you just don't understand" conversation closers.  You're just being a jerk.  And they don't really care in the first place

Lead like a champ.

Or get out of the way and be a part of the crowd...

Believe that you can be a super-star.

It's within you.

But it requires you looking at life a little differently.