Successful Leadership Requires 6 Critical Resources
Leadership is a chess match. Every decision you make influences your next five decisions. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t realize the implications of each of their decisions. It’s like an entrepreneur who battles long and hard to reach their desired goal, and stops 90% of the way, not knowing they only had 10% more to go to get there. When you don’t know what it takes to cross the finish line, it makes it much more difficult to know the critical resources you might need to win the race.
Successful leadership is a by-product of those resources that you are able to access throughout the course of your career. Resources that are not given to you, but rather earned as a result of hard work, sacrifices, respect from your peers and career coaches, and the failures that taught you lessons along the way.
Successful leaders are extremely aware of how to detect, enable and maximize their most critical resources – and they know exactly how and when to use them. For example, I’ve had to make several difficult decisions throughout my leadership career. My experience has taught me to “detect the patterns” that have influenced the situation at hand and then course correct. More often than not, I’ve been able to make the right decisions. However, there have been times that I get stuck and find the need to reach out to a member of my advisory board.
When I do, I am prepared to succinctly explain the situation, associated tension points, inherent risks, financial implications and desired outcomes. I never take my resources for granted always valuing each advisor’s time. As such, when requesting assistance, I will express the full-scope of the situation as I understand it, which makes it easier for my advisors to immediately respond and provide their feedback and/or recommendations. I don’t want to risk losing a resource I worked so hard to earn by wasting their time.
Every resource that you have in your leadership portfolio is a responsibility and must be managed wisely if you want to use that resource more than once.
As a leader, raw talent will only get you so far. To help you become a more successful leader, here are the six most critical resources you will need to earn and foster throughout your career.
1. The Trust of Advisors
This resource goes well beyond mentors. These are advisors that you have earned the right to know both personally and professionally – trusted relationships with people that will share their wisdom without keeping track of how many times they have helped you. Your advisors are people that understand your business and are keenly aware of your strengths and weaknesses. They have observed you along your career path and witnessed your growth as a leader – as well as all your vulnerabilities. They are the ones that stuck with you during your failures and always had your back.
Because no one is keeping score, don’t give your advisors any reason to change their mind. Be extremely respectful of their time and be mindful to reciprocate – by sharing your momentum and success as you deem it to be of benefit to them.
2. The Knowledge from Failure
Failure is the most powerful experience you can lean on. If you haven’t failed enough, you can never earn the knowledge from this invaluable resource. Failure is the most powerful source for know-how and understanding. It teaches you about survival, renewal and reinvention – of yourself and the organization you are leading. Failure ultimately shapes you as a leader and without it; you will lack the mental toughness to navigate through difficult times.
My failures have enabled my success. I am now able to anticipate the unexpected and manage risk. Change management has become my new best friend as I’ve learned to practice patience and become a more effective listener.
My failures have taught me the real definition of significance. I’ve learned that respect is much more important than recognition. That in the end, it’s all about the legacy you leave behind — that benefits others.
3. The Diversity of Thought from Your Team
You don’t have all the answers and if you think you do – you will frequently make bad decisions. As such, you must build a team that’s made to last. Earn their respect by being transparent enough to share difficult issues, and you will enable a crowdsourcing environment of problem solvers.
Diversity of thought is an inherent dynamic that exists within great teams. Know how to find it and you can pull great things from this powerful resource. Take the time to identify the diversity that lies within your team(s) and learn how to put it to good use. As a leader, this requires patience, careful listening and observation. Earn the right to leverage the value and intelligence of your team and you will soon find good fortune on your side.
4. The Fresh Perspectives from Think-Tanks
Broaden your observations and learn about new and different ideas and best practices that will make you a smarter and wiser leader. When you earn your way into a think-tank or any organized networking group of leaders representing multiple industries, you can’t help but be exposed to fresh perspectives, ideas and ideals.
For example, I am a member of Renaissance Weekend, which hosts invite-only meetings throughout the country. Every gathering is fueled with knowledge and I’ve encountered some of the brightest minds and most successful people in the world there – sharing ideas and learning from others across industries in an open and safe environment. The ultimate goal is to make the world a better place by advancing community and commerce. You leave every event with a different experience and a plethora of fresh perspectives.
5. The Wisdom Inherent in Unwritten Rules
Successful leaders have earned the right to know “the unwritten rules” that exist within the organization they serve. Many times, understanding these unwritten rules is the difference between success and failure. Those who are unaware of these rules have not been invited into the “circle of trust” and thus are at risk of falling into a trap of stifled advancement and opportunity.
The culture of your organization is fueled with unwritten rules – those things that you should or should not do or say if you want to get noticed, discovered or taken seriously by senior management. For example, I had a client once who preferred that men wear white French cuff shirts with dark blue or black suits. Those that followed the unwritten dress code were more apt to fit the corporate culture and uphold the identity of the organization sought from its leaders.
6. The Sound Judgment From Your Instincts
Successful leadership requires sound judgment – and that often comes from your own instincts. Your instincts can be your most powerful resource, once you trust yourself enough to go with your gut. I’ve said that the most successful leaders do 15 things automatically, every day. This is the result of learned behavior and sound judgment that becomes unconscious and automatic over time.
Instincts are a by-product of your experiences and they strengthen throughout your leadership journey. As such, your ability to trust yourself is a learned skill. It requires a deep understanding and acceptance of who you are and what you represent. It allows you to enable sound judgment from your instincts at the right place and time.
Leadership success ultimately boils down to the sustainable impact and influence that you can create. These six resources will enable your best – and in turn, you will be able to enable the best in others. As the collective efforts of individual strengths are unleashed in ways that come most naturally, you will increase your ability to effectively and efficiently see and seize opportunities for the betterment of the organization.
Glenn Llopis, Contributor
I share the immigrant perspective on leadership & workplace innovation