Falling to my knees, I yearned for help. There was a lot of tension in our home and I wanted it to dissipate. “How”, I wondered “can I restore peace, love and trust here?”
I just graduated from college and my wife and I chose to move from the small college town of Logan, Utah to the bustling valley of Salt Lake City. A time like this comes with two things: change and choices, two things that have the potential to spark more conflict than just about about anything else.
What’s changing? Well, for one thing, where we live. For another thing, how we live since I’m no longer in school.
What choices do we have to make? We need to choose where to live, we need to find a couch, we need to find a new gym to work out at, we need to find a new internet provider, we need to choose how to spend our time. The list goes on…
As the change and choices in our lives began to pile up, we could feel stress building with it. With stress came sarcasm. A witty remark here, a sarcastic jab there… sarcasm is the lowest form of humor, and no one’s life was ever made better because of it. Inevitably, sarcasm led to conflict.
It led me to wonder: “how do we navigate all the change and choices of life with success?”
When it comes to creating positive change, I have learned it all comes down to leadership. This isn’t a novel idea… in a way, I already knew it. You probably know it too. The question is WHY and HOW.
Newton’s Third Law is that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In the leadership context, think of it like this: everything you do is either an action or a reaction. In the cases where you are acting, you are leading (either yourself, other people, or things). When you are reacting, you are following (either yourself, other people, or things)
Leading v. Following Yourself
“The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.”David O. MacKay
Great leadership starts with personal leadership. It starts with putting off human impulses and tendencies. When we cave and follow our impulses, like overeating, staring at a phone, yelling at another person, we are not leading ourselves but instead are following ourselves. It’s our natural inclination to follow ourselves, but we need to change and become leaders of ourselves.
You lead yourself when you control your eating, put the phone away to spend quality time with the people you love, and exercise patience instead of anger. Act, don’t react to your impulses.
Leading v. Following Other People
When you’re with other people, are you leading or following? It’s not bad to be a follower in social settings unless you are following a destructive leader. In fact, great leaders often begin as mighty and humble followers.
Leading v. Following Things
This is a big one… are you allowing your “things” to lead your life? Does your cell phone control you and your appetites? Are you weighed down with stuff? Do you allow material possessions to dictate the course of your life?
How you deal with “things” is a great measure of your strength of personal leadership.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The question lie in whether you are the one acting or reacting in your life. When you act, you are leading. When you react, you are following.
I make this point to show you WHY leadership is so crucial: it’s inevitable. You can’t escape it. When you’re alone, when you’re with your peers, and when you are handling your things, leadership is happening. Knowing that it effects every part of our lives provides a motivating foundation for understanding the attributes that make a great leader.
5 Attributes of Remarkable Leaders
It turns out that there are 5 distinct attributes I am confident that all great leaders have.
Let’s look at all 5…
I’ve done a great deal of research on empathy and human connection, so when faced with conflict during some of the change and choices my wife and I have faced, I decided to start with empathy. There was only one problem… it’s hard to show empathy when you’re filled with pride.
You see, my intent in showing empathy was so that she would be more receptive to listening to me. That’s poor intent, and people can sense your intent. This approach wasn’t getting us anywhere. True empathy is born from humility.
Humility comes when you are actually willing to be wrong, not when you are looking for ways to be right. My original attempt at being empathic was motivated by my desire to be right and be heard. I went to bed that night with the realization that without humility there was no way either of us would make progress.
Having trouble with humility?
Practice expressing gratitude. One of the most over-talked-about but under-practiced methods for improving the overall quality of your life is writing in a gratitude journal.
Actively expressing gratitude each day breeds humility because it helps you focus in on what truly makes your life great. You begin to see where your true strengths and weaknesses lie, where your true strength comes from, and the people who you simply couldn’t live without.
Humility equips you to be truly effective in showing empathy! Empathy is the ability to feel with, understand, and appreciate others. Their are 5 steps to showing truly effective empathy:
- Feel the Need: there has to be a true desire and real intent for showing empathy. This is where humility really comes in handy. Independent of whether you are right or wrong, whether you agree with someone or not, or if you stand to gain from the relationship, there should be a real and felt need to connect with another person.
- Balance Selfishness & Selflessness: the incomparable Simon Sinek has said “There is a paradox to being human. We are at all times both individuals and members of groups. Every day we must struggle with the decisions with the decisions that are both selfish and selfless. It’s not about one or the other, it’s about trying to find the delicate balance between the two. Tip too selfish, we suffer and so do our relationships. Tip to selfless and we suffer too.” The essence of balancing selfishness & selflessness is to always go for the win/win.
- See Perspective: the key with seeing perspective is to be the person not just see the person. The tendency in most people is to see perspective by imagining how you might respond to what someone else is experiencing. The flaw here, however, is that you will respond differently to the circumstances of my life than I will. Seeking perspective requires going beyond what is happening right now; it requires that we consider the vast range of experiences in a person’s history that have led to this moment. It’s by imagining the experience in the context of a person’s whole worldview rather than our own that we gain the true power of perspective.
- Refrain from Judgement: Nothing will kill the connection with another person like negatively judging them and their story. Don’t.
- Communicate with Vulnerability & Emotion: Be vulnerable, let go of your pride, and communicate your understanding of the other person (or people).
A Story of Empathy
In the case of my wife and I, we are big fans of Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages. After opening up with humility and empathy, we had a length discussion about our love languages.
We took the time one night to talk extensively about how each of us wanted to be treated, what our love languages were, and specific things we could do to show love to each other. her love language is acts of service.
The next day, I communicated my understanding of her needs by making lunch for the family before she got home from some errands. I knew she was feeling pressure from everything on her to-do list, and even though I was busy, I stopped to make lunch. You could instantly sense the relief she felt when she walked in the house to see lunch was ready!
“Communication is the most important single activity of man.”Stephen R. Covey
Learn to communicate with humility and empathy and I can assure you that you will make remarkable strides as a leader.
It’s simple: do you do the right thing?
It takes courage to do what’s right rather than what’s popular. In an office setting, you may feel tempted to follow (there’s that word again) the inclinations of the group and cut a corner here, make a hasty decision there, gossip over here, and slowly cause the organization to crumble.
Courageous leaders say “no” to those things and “yes” to the right things. They don’t gossip. They don’t cheat. Leaders do the right thing not because it is expected or because it will help them “climb the ladder”, they do it because it is the right thing.
Some of the most courageous leaders are the ones without a official title of authority. When someone with authority makes a questionable decision or does something wrong, leaders are the ones that challenge the authority. And that takes courage.
Great leaders are inquisitive – that is, they ask questions.
Captain David Marquet, author of Turn the Ship Around! and retired U.S. Navy Captain is a master of asking the right questions. He created a culture on his submarine of intent.
That means that rather than ask for permission to do things, his people would approach him with intent and he would ask the questions to ensure the right decision was being made.
Captain Marquet’s questions focused on two things: competence and clarity.
To ensure the competence of people making the decisions he would ask questions like “is it safe?” in response to someone’ intent. This would ensure they had run through all the checks and balances and were about to do something that wouldn’t hurt the submarine or its people (or your company and its people).
To ensure that there was clarity he would ask “is it the right thing to do?” This question relied on people understanding the mission of the submarine (or your company). Is the decision that the person intends to make in line with the current objectives of the company?
You can become a more inquisitive leader by adopting these two simple questions into your organization: is it safe? is it the right thing to do?
Once Captain Marquet had asked these questions to ensure the competence and clarity of his people, he would say “very well.” Nothing more needed to be said! he had given his people control to make decisions and his inquisitiveness allowed him to continue leading even though he wasn’t the one making all the decisions every day.
This is the one thing that can change everything.
Do your people trust you? Do you extend trust to them?
We trust and are trusted based mainly on two factors: our competence and our integrity. What that means is we trust people based on whether we think they can do the job and based on if we think they would do the right thing.
For example, you might trust that John is the best salesman in the company. He’s a hard core closer and you know he’ll get the job done when you need him to. But… you wouldn’t trust him to go grab your wallet from the office, or to watch your kids while you go out with your spouse.
On the other hand, you may trust Sally with your life. You would let her watch your kids any day of the week and would feel comfortable with her watching your house while your on vacation. But… you would never trust her with that huge client. It’s just not worth the risk.
You increase the moral trust by giving it first and being a good example. You increase the competence trust with training and responsibility!
In either case, you have to give trust and be worthy of it in order for it to ripple throughout your organization.
Ask yourself… does my team trust me to get the job done? Would they trust me to help them in their personal lives?
Leadership Cheat Sheet
Now that you know why leadership is the key to all positive change and choices, and what the 5 attributes of remarkable leaders are, let’s give you some tools to develop these attributes within yourself and the people around you.
Self-awareness is the name of the game in leadership. Follow these steps each week to develop yourself as a leader.
- In 7 words or less, describe the leader you want to be to yourself
- Do the same to describe the leader you want to be to the top 3 groups in your life (example: my company, my family, my church)
- Describe the leader you want to be over your things as well
- What’s the number one thing you can do to get closer to your vision of yourself as a leader in each category (self, others, things)?
- Each day, write the thing you are most grateful for that day (even if that day sucked)
- Read for at least 20 minutes a day
- Write something every day. If you don’t know what to write, follow the advice of the great Ernest Hemingway: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
- Each day, choose one person to connect with on a personal level.
- Figure out what that person’s “job to be done” is, and do it. Watch this video of Clayton M. Christensen to learn more about the “job to be done.”
There is an important lesson here: you need to be there for one person at a time. One by one is the way to serve. And, if you remember the story about my wife and I discussing our love languages, you need to understand what the person really wants in their life. In my wife’s case, it was acts of service. That was her “job to be done.” Pick on person at a time, discover their “job to be done.”
- Think about a situation that might trip you up. This should be a situation where you don’t normally show up and do your best. Write it down, and try to describe how you usually show up to that experience. What are the thoughts that run through your mind? Describe the feelings those thoughts create? What actions do you usually take as a result of those thoughts and feelings?
- Now, level up. Right down how you will change your thinking next time that situation arises. How will you choose to feel next time? What actions will you take? This is how you begin to exercise courage where you previously would not have.
Following the steps outlined above will help you become a more inquisitive leader. Here are some additional ways to improve your inquisition:
- When a person you seek to lead has something they want to talk about, ask them “tell me more.” Just listen.
- When there is a problem the team doesn’t know how to solve, ask “what’s the goal here?” and then “what’s missing?”
- When someone approaches you with the intent to take some action, follow Captain Marquet’s example and ask “is it safe?” and “is the right thing to do based on our mission?”
Like inquisition, trust is a natural byproduct of the steps above. Here are some additional things to try:
- Be trustworthy
- Pick a person you would like to have more trust with. Extend trust to them in some way, and have a vulnerable conversation. Tell them “I’m worried about our relationship. I want it to be strong, but I feel like we may drifting apart. What do you think?” That’s a tough conversation, and it takes real courage.
Leadership is about positive influence. In the words of the lat Stephen R. Covey, leadership is communicating to others their worth and potential so clearly they can see it in themselves.
To navigate the endless sea of change and choices in our lives, we need great leadership. We need leadership over ourselves, over those around us, and over our things. It helps me navigate hard times with my family, my friends, and the people I work with. It can help you too.
Be humble, be empathic, be courageous, be inquisitive, be trustworthy, and you will become a great leader.
P.S. If you’re reading this part of the post, that means one of two things: either A) you just read that entire blog post and deserve a prize, or B) you skipped all the way to the bottom for the big “how-to” advice. In either case, you’ve shown you’re someone who wants to get to the bottom of HOW to achieve results in your business.
If I’m right, I think you would be wise to schedule a Strategy Session with our team. We’ll teach you how to implement our famous Pattern for Excellence, and, of course, we’ll ask some questions to see if any of our coaching programs are right for you. Schedule a free strategy session here —> The Customer Service Strategy That Will Change Your Business Forever
Zac Garside is the Marketing Manager here at Power Selling Pros, but his title is “The Dark Knight”. He’s never really sure if he should write his bio in the 3rd or 1st person… so for now, he’ll stick with the 3rd person. Zac is hugely passionate about leadership and marketing as the most powerful forces in business. If business was a marvel movie, they would be Iron Man and Captain America.