A few weeks ago I facilitated a discussion with a group of leaders and asked them to share with me who their inspirational leader was and why in their opinion they are legendary. I asked them 2 questions
1. What makes them special?
2. What have they done that makes them legendary?
I had a variety of names on my flipchart which included Geoff Boycott, Sun Tzu, Britney Spears, Beyone, Sir Alex Ferguson and their best boss! It was encouraging to get someone who wasn't famous, but whom had made a positive impact on someones career.
What I found interesting about all of these people, despite all of the different backgrounds from sports personalities, pop stars and a chinese military general, was the fact that they all shared similar traits. I'm sure when you read these you will be able to think of your own legendary leader and be able to identify the traits. I sure did when I thought about mine!
Top 10 traits of legendary leaders
1. Action Plan - Make sure you know what you want your team to achieve, let them know how they will achieve and if something isn't working, be quick to change it. Think about Sir Alex Ferguson, he briefed his team before the match, observed throughout the match, made substitutions, took stock at half time, continued to observe, continued to make substitutions and debriefed his team at the end of the match.
2. Learn from mistakes - It's OK to make mistakes as long as you don't continue to make the same mistakes and you learn from them. View it as an opportunity rather than a threat. Some of the most famous leaders have nearly become bankrupt, however rather than viewing this as a failure they view it as a lesson. Take Simon Cowell for example, he came close to losing everything and now he is one of the most successful record producers and encourages others to succeed and learn from his mistakes in business
3. Role model behaviour - Don't ask someone to do something that you wouldn't be prepared to do yourself. Make sure you are your brilliant best on a daily basis demonstrating how to behave from the language you talk and the way you walk.
4. Communicate Effectively - The best leaders are great story tellers, they have an inspiring vision and are able to change their language to suit their audience. They listen to what others say, they are naturally curious with their questioning and they engage people by bringing them on the journey. Think about how Barak Obama won his presidency campaign with his "fired up, ready to go" chant
5. Celebrate Success - Whether its winning a cricket tournament, becoming number 1 in the UK hit parade, winning the Premiership league or standing on the podium to receive an Olympic medal every legendary leader has shaken the champagne bottle and had their moment of glory. It's important in business to celebrate the quick wins too because this keeps the momentum going especially when the going gets tough
6. Reward & Recognise - Everyone is motivated by different things and what legendary leaders do is "know their people" and know "how" to recognise their achievements. Some will be quite happy with a pat on the back and a simple well done and thank you. What's key here is that you keep filling the emotional bank account with lots of positive reenforcement
7. Play to Strengths - If your going to WIN, why would you get a defender to score goals and a striker to defend, you wouldn't so it's important that a leader knows how to get the best out of their team and put them in positions where they will shine and grow. This in return will move them from good to great and from ordinary to extraordinary.
8. Stretch Goals - Imagine if you kept doing the same thing over & over again and getting the same results, there would be no room for improvement. Every athlete that I can think of stretches themselves everyday they train so that when they compete they are at their brilliant best and believe they can achieve those stretched goals. They feel challenged and motivated.
9. Stand out from the crowd - If you were to walk into your normal environment would the leaders stand out or would they mingle in the crowd? A leaders image is a key to success. They should have an aura about them which others want to follow. Thinking about Britney Spears, Beyonce, Victoria Beckham, they all have a personal branding and image that makes them unique and special. They stand out in a crowd and get noticed
10. - Respect - This is earned through making the right decisions which will not always be popular. I hear the phrase "harsh, but fair", "not afraid to have challenging and tough conversations", "they may not always be liked, but they are respected through their honesty and transparency"
Thinking about yourself and taking a look at yourself in a mirror