Wouldn't it be fantastic if you had the finest leaders and leadership experts as your mentors?
Every leader and aspiring leader needs a mentor - actually everyone needs a mentor, full stop.
Do you have one?
If you do, great.
If not, get one.
One of my former mentors gave me this advice about leadership and it made the world tilt on its axis for me.
He said "You don't have to wait for someone else to give you permission to become a leader. You can just start leading. Leaders don't wait for permission because they're not looking for approval"
Up to that point I had been waiting for someone to tell me I was good enough.
After that point I realised that I was the only person that could really make that decision.
I changed my thinking and stopped seeking approval and permission before I did anything, and I stepped up to take a lead.
Whether or not you have a mentor yet, what you want from them is a chunk of their wisdom and experience to learn from so you can accelerate your development and avoid making the mistakes that will hold you back.
So who wouldn't want to learn from the wisdom and experience of the very finest leadership experts?
People that have been exceptional leaders and/or mentored exceptional leaders, from all walks of life.
How do you get hold of their advice though?
These are busy people who only coach and mentor the world’s most successful leaders. You could read their books - and I recommend that you do - but that will take you a loooooooooong time and sometimes what you want is something short and to the point.
You can follow them on Social Media and join their online programs if they have them, and I recommend you do that, too.
But if what you’re looking for is the one thing that has made a difference to them, and that those experts think might make the difference to you?
Where do you start?
That’s a lot of work for you to do to find the golden nugget you’re after.
So I’ve done the hard work for you.
I have reached out to some of the most influential leadership experts in the world for you and asked them to share some very special thoughts.
I asked them to give me either their own very best piece of leadership advice, or the best piece of leadership advice they were ever given, and what difference it made to them.
Advice is all well and good but what’s really helpful is what you learn when you put it to use because that’s what helps you grow.
They have been incredibly generous and helped me put together a truly remarkable resource which I know you’re going to keep coming back to over and over again.
Some of these people have been personal heroes of mine for longer than I care to remember, some are more recent discoveries, but all of them are now sources of wisdom and inspiration for me and, I hope, for you too.
Almost everyone on this list took the time to respond to me personally. Those that didn’t had their staff reach out to me. In most cases they gave me some specific words and thoughts in reply to my question - a couple gave me permission to take what I thought most useful from their blogs.
You can’t begin to imagine how I felt when I started to receive personal emails from some of my heroes, who had taken the time to connect with me personally to share their wisdom.
To me, that was an inspiring example of next-generation leadership right there and it made me feel like a million dollars.
So, get yourself a nice cup of tea and a couple of biscuits (I’ll wait) and then settle down to learn from the experts.
David is a consultant, facilitator, change management expert, conference speaker and executive coach in progressive organizational development. He is a co-founder of CoQuora, where his focus is on Changing the World, One Big Question at a Time and an author. You can find out more about him at www.davidfirth.com
"WHAT WAS THE BEST PIECE OF LEADERSHIP ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?"
My mind immediately went to an interview I'd read in the late 1990s with Arny and Amy Mindell, a pair of therapists, teachers and authors most famous for their Process Work. And in this context, what I received from that interview fits as 'advice' (when normally we'd think of advice as something given directly to a known individual) because Process Work suggests that the deep feelings, dreams, signals, and events that are going on in any situation are as much a source of growth and development as our individual intentions.
But the advice was not about Process Work!
The advice was something Arny said in response to a question I don't recall - and the magazine (remember those?) is long since lost.
He said: 'We don't need more leaders. We need more awareness.'
This struck me with the clarity of truth and caused many shifts to happen, including these three:
I realized that leadership is not simply held in an individual, but is part of a system of interactions and events in which we all always play a part. This was significant to me, because much of the leadership literature in the 80s and 90s had been in the Great Leader vein: Jack Welch, Lee Iacocca and the like. The future was coming, and it wasn't going to be Large Company & Male Driven. It felt like time to get over that hero worship.
I realized from this that our desire for Great Leaders is a rejection of the capacity we are all born with; that our desire to give away our own power to those who appear to 'have' power, diminishes us - and there is great value in inquiring into why we'd want to do that. Because one way or other, we create our leaders as much as they influence us.
I realized that leadership is something that emerges to meet the demands of a situation, as long as we are all aware that's what's happening. That is why humans gather to do extraordinary things together - without much instruction or control, if any - in response to natural disasters, terrorist attacks etc. At those times, we are intimately connected and we know what the right thing is to do (an old definition of leadership, funnily enough). It no longer felt like 'leader' and 'follower' was the right language.
So that one piece of advice shifted the foundation of my work from individuals to the collective. For which, Arny, thank you.
If human beings know what to do, and can organize effortlessly to make that happen in times of crisis, how can we can access some of that potential and innate capacity when there's no crisis - just opportunity?
Maybe the first step as an individual leader is to be aware that the potential and innate capacity is always out there. Maybe hiding. But always accessible.
Dr Marshall Goldsmith
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith has been recognized as one of the Top Ten Business Thinkers in the World and the top-rated executive coach at the Thinkers50 ceremony in London since 2011. With a PhD from UCLA, Marshall is a pioneer 360-degree feedback as a leadership development tool. His early efforts in providing feedback and then following-up with executives to measure changes in behavior were precursors to what eventually evolved as the field of executive coaching. With nearly 40 years of hands-on experience, Marshall Goldsmith is the leading expert on leadership and coaching for behavioral change. You can find out more at www.marshallgoldsmith.com
Dr Goldsmith sent me this article, which first appeared in Forbes magazine. He gave me permission to edit it or otherwise change it in any way I wanted, but I decided to leave it alone.
It is February - half of all New Year's resolutions have already been broken. It is probably a good time to revisit your goals and think about what you really want to change.
Take a deep breath. Take a deeper breath.
I want you to imagine that you're 95 years old – and on your death bed. Before taking your last breath - you're given a great gift: the ability to travel back in time - the ability to talk to the person who is reading this column - the ability to help this person be a better professional and, more importantly, lead a better life.
The 95-year-old you understands what was really important and what wasn't, what mattered and what didn't, what counted and what didn't really count. What advice would this wise "old you" have for the "you" who is reading this page?
Take a few seconds to answer this question – personally and professionally. Jot down words that capture what the old you would be saying to the younger you that is here now. My next suggestion is simple - just do whatever you wrote down! Make that your resolution for this year and next.
A friend of mine actually had the chance to interview people who were dying and ask them what advice they would have had for themselves. The answers he got provide wonderful advice for all of us.
One recurring theme was to "find happiness and meaning - now," not next month or next year. The great Western disease lies in the phrase, "I will be happy when . . ." The wise old you has finally realized that the next promotion, the next achievement, or the corner office really won't change your world that much. Many older people said they were so wrapped up in looking for what they didn't have that they seldom appreciated what they did have. They often wished they would just enjoyed life as they were living it.
Another common response revolved around friends and family. You may work for a wonderful company, and you may think that your contribution to that organization is very important. When you are 95 years old and you look at the people around your deathbed, very few of your fellow employees will be waving good-bye. Your friends and family will probably be the only people who care. Appreciate them now and share a large part of your life with them.
Older people offer other valuable advice: "Follow your dreams." Figure out your true purpose in life, and go for it! This doesn't apply just to big dreams; it is also true for little dreams. Buy the sports car you always wanted, go to that exotic locale you always imagined yourself visiting, learn to play the guitar or the piano. If some think your vision of a well-lived life is a bit offbeat or even goofy, who cares? It isn't their life. It's yours. Old people who pursued their dreams are always happier with their lives. Few of us will achieve all of our dreams. Some will always be elusive. So the key question is not, "Did I make all of my dreams come true?" The key question is, "Did I try?"
I just finished a major research project involving more than 200 high-potential leaders from 120 companies around the world. Each company could nominate only two future leaders, the very brightest of its young stars. These are the kinds of people who could jump at a moment's notice to better-paying positions elsewhere. We asked each of them a simple question: "If you stay in this company, why are you going to stay?"
The following are the top three answers.
"I am finding meaning and happiness now. The work is exciting and I love what I am doing."
"I like the people. They are my friends. This feels like a team. It feels like a family. I could make more money working with other people, but I don't want to leave the people here."
"I can follow my dreams. This organization is giving me a chance to do what I really want to do in life."
The answers were never about the money. They were always about the satisfaction. When my friend asked people on their deathbeds what was important – and I asked young, global leaders what was important – we got exactly the same answers!
So do the reverse New Year's resolution. Don't look ahead. Look behind. Be happy now - enjoy your friends and family – and follow your dreams. This is great advice for everyone who wants a fulfilling career. It's also great advice for everyone who wants to live a meaningful life.
Chris is a dynamic Leadership and Management Coach that has successfully leveraged nearly a decade in uniform serving as a leader in both Military and Civilian Law Enforcement to create highly effective business execution strategies. Melding both worlds together as “The Business Sergeant,” he encourages Entrepreneurial Leadership Teams to adopt a more military mindset, and stop accepting poor leadership, accountability, and results. Within months, his teams start to execute like a well-oiled military unit that can accomplish nearly anything that they put their hearts and minds to. He provides a fun, energetic, fast-paced learning environment that keeps his leadership teams challenged and highly engaged. You can find out more at www.tractioninc.com
The best leadership advice I've been given is:
When building a team, you can lower the bar or you can raise it, it is entirely your choice. It's much faster and convenient to hire average people who are eager and available, compared to diligently searching and selecting the best possible fit for your team. The nugget is, whatever time or effort you think you'll save, you'll actually invest 10x your time and frustration on that average person over the next year trying (usually without success) trying to make them the person you weren't willing to find in the first place. Keep the bar high, reward and hold people accountable, and after a while, you'll find yourself in a special place where you can accomplish whatever your elite team commits to.
John P. Kotter
Regarded by many as the authority on leadership and change, John P. Kotter is a best-selling author, award winning business and management thought leader, business entrepreneur and Harvard Professor. His ideas, books, and company, Kotter International, help mobilize people around the world to better lead organizations in an era of increasingly rapid change. You can find out more at www.kotterinternational.com
Best advice: don't just talk about it, write about it, think about it, do it. Lead.
Why important: the latest research I've been doing confirms again and again that the world desperately needs not just a few more people helping out with the leadership chores but vastly more. From all parts of society.
So what have I done: at a time in life when people who have been thought of as thought leaders began to fade, among other reasons because they allow themselves to fade, I am trying very hard not to let that happen. Whatever I can do in providing thought leadership, I'm going to. Also, I'm now the chairman of a fast-growing management consulting company, named after me, Kotter international, and what I am doing there is a real challenge for me, which is to provide organizational leadership. At this point in my life I could be taking it easy. I'm not. And frankly, this is a lot more fun. Trying at least to make a difference.
A catalyst for conversations that matter, relationships that work and results that inspire, Susan Mazza serves leaders and their organizations as a Leadership Coach, Change Agent and Motivational Speaker. Named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders by Trust Across America/Trust Across the World in 2013 and 2015, and a Top 100 Leadership Speaker and Top 50 Thought Leader in Leadership in Inc., Susan is a recognized thought leader and leadership expert. Find out more at www.randomactsofleadership.com
The best advice I have gotten that has shaped my leadership is this: If you are not being heard, chances are you are not listening. You can't possibly influence someone if you can't understand them - what matters to them and how they see the world. This one simple statement serves as an important reminder to me on a daily basis that if my message is not getting across or when I don't feel heard, I need to stop speaking and start asking questions. I value practical leadership advice, and what I like about this advice, in particular, is that it isn't just conceptually sound. It is clearly actionable.
Kate Nasser is The People Skills Coach™ and President of CAS, Inc.She is currently celebrating 28 years in business and has an upcoming book on leadership and morale. You can find out more at www.katenasser.com
"Lead everyone from the gray zone to the end zone. Network your courage and your inspiration. It starts with showing respect and communicating from there. This works because it builds trust and empowers others."
Tanveer Naseer is an award-winning and internationally-acclaimed leadership writer and keynote speaker. He is also the Principal and Founder of Tanveer Naseer Leadership, a leadership coaching firm that works with executives and managers to help them develop practical leadership and team-building competencies to guide organizational growth and development. Tanveer’s writings and insights on leadership and workplace interactions have been featured in a number of prominent media and organization publications, including Fast Company, Inc Magazine, Canada’s national newspaper “The Globe and Mail”, The Economist Executive Education Navigator, and the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. Tanveer is the recipient of several awards and recognitions as one of the world’s top thinkers/writers in the leadership sphere, including being recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the Top 100 Leadership and Management Experts. You can find out more at www.tanveernaseer.com and at BnextR
The best piece of leadership advice I got was to remember that being a leader means putting your team's need before your own; that we not use our authority over others to override our responsibility to do what's in the best interests of those we lead, instead of just ourselves.
Tom Peters is co-author of In Search of Excellence—the book that changed the way the world does business, and often tagged as the best business book ever. Sixteen books and almost thirty years later, he’s still at the forefront of the “management guru industry” he single-handedly invented. What’s new? A lot. As CNN said, “While most business gurus milk the same mantra for all its worth, the one-man brand called Tom Peters is still reinventing himself.” His most recent effort, released in March 2010: The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence. Tom’s bedrock belief: “Execution is strategy— it’s all about the people and the doing, not the talking and the theory.” Find out more at www.tompeters.com
Tom was too busy to create something new for me but he gave me permission to use something from his blog. I found this piece he had written after attending Warren Bennis' funeral.
Warren made you feel clever—and at the center of his universe. This ability, in addition to its ultimate expression of humanist existence, may be the effective leader's most valuable attribute when it comes to engaging the mind and heart and soul and energy of others.
Try and translate this into the/your daily practice of leadership. It's not that I think you—or I, for that matter—can match the intensity or sincerity of Warren's engagement. But we can at least be aware of our oft straying attention amidst a harried day. Warren's days were doubtless more harried than yours or mine. But for the duration of the time you were with him—10 minutes or two hours—his ability to make you the star of the drama was matchless. At the very least you can acknowledge the importance of this state of affairs—and raise your personal awareness of your moment-to-moment state of mind. You can also practice attentiveness—one manager reports that she writes "Listen" on her hand before a meeting.
There is, by the way, a virtuous circle process that emerges here. Your attentiveness is fun—that is, you learn a helluva lot about the person, their motivations, and the task at hand via the process that one keen observer calls "fierce listening."
Robin is the founder of Sharma Leadership International (SLI), a global consultancy with a single focus: to help organizations develop employees Lead Without a Title. SLI's clients include many of the best companies on the planet such as Starbucks + GE + Nike + The Coca-Cola Company + IBM + FedEx + RIM + Microsoft + GlaxoSmithKline + Ritz-Carlton Hotels + Turk Telekom + Panasonic + Dorchester Collection + The Royal Bank of Scotland + Yale University. Find out more at www.robinsharma.com
Robin was too busy to create something new for me but he gave me permission to use something from his blog.
All too often we postpone taking charge and driving change forward until we receive more responsibility and get a bigger title. But the best time to be the leader you’re meant to be isn’t some imaginary time into the future. It’s today. Right now.
No matter what you do in the organization you’re in: Lead Where You Are Planted. Start from where you are. Your bold act of leadership just might transform your organization. And if you get super lucky, the course of the future.
Jesse Lyn Stoner
Jesse Lyn Stoner, founder of Seapoint Center, works closely with leaders helping them create collaborative, engaged organizations that make a powerful and positive impact on the world. A business consultant, coach, former executive, and bestselling author, Jesse has worked in a wide range of industries including Fortune 500s, small startups, government agencies, and nonprofits. Her clients include Edelman, Marriott, SAP, Stanley, Skanska, The Hartford, and Yale University, to name a few.
Jesse is coauthor, with Ken Blanchard, of the international bestseller Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision which has been translated into 22 languages. She is also coauthor of Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard et.al. And as a senior consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies, she helped create many of the programs and materials in the areas of vision, teams, and organization excellence. Find out more at www.seapointcenter.com
"Start with the end in mind. If you take care of the beginning, the end will take care of itself." My advisor for my doctoral program, Don Carew, used to say this. So often as leaders, we are tempted to rush into things without thinking through whether it's the right thing to do and without taking the time to ensure everyone is on board. After making this mistake a few hundred times, I realized he was right. Going slow in the beginning allows you to go faster later on.
What's the best piece of leadership advice anyone has ever given you, and what difference did it make to you? Please comment below.