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10 Incredible Secrets I Learned about Leadership Success from 1000 CEOs

We live two lives, one we are given upon birth. The second, we make” — Solomon Trujillo

From this point forward your success is your choice — that’s right, it’s a choice — you chose your decisions and leadership style.

Mark Twain wrote, “The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can’t.” I couldn’t agree more after I read 1000 CEOs — published in 2009 by DK Publishing it had been sitting, un-read, on my bookshelf for 6 years ’til I pulled it off the shelf this week. It’s full of secrets.

I stay hungry for real-time information and love “on-demand” environments. Routinely, I consume a broad diet of traditional and social media, various topics and developments; I’m a passionate consumer of media with a particular interest in the news. The proven, winning strategies and compelling leadership anecdotes in 1000 CEOs are for anyone interested in developing their leadership influence. Reading biographies may not be your thing, but the mini-stories in this book are incredible. As a friend from Zimbabwe, Kenneth Mtetwa [a Geologist with +20 years’ experience in Mineral Exploration and Development in South, Central and East Africa] reminded me on social media recently, “The cream always rises to the top” — these great secrets will certainly boost your influence.

Not to get ahead of myself.

Here is the top-secret: The “life-is-what-you-make-it” idea might be a timeless topic, but if truth be told, if we want to carve a path to influential success we are 100% responsible for our decisions and leadership style.

“We live two lives, one we are given upon birth. The second, we make.” Said Solomon Trujillo, CEO of Telstra Australia’s largest telecommunications and media company. So true.

What could I possibly say, that would be profound? Becoming a leader is a complex undertaking. Leaders ought to understand the opportunity to fulfill their

[1] personal Motives

[2] wants

[3] & desires

while giving to a larger whole. Let me provide us with some ideas and maybe provoke some thought. Maybe, just maybe, we will succeed at not only impacting this day, but that we will recall some details as we go through life.

This is only scratching the surface, but I’d like to share 10 observations from the book that are true secrets on successful leadership.

1. Be an innovator — To thrive, innovate. It doesn’t have to be a new technology. It can be a new process, a new way of doing things, a new version of a concept. Find a way to expand your learning to have an increasing understanding of the potential of the internet. Granted, we won’t all be Mark Zuckerberg, but do challenge yourself to innovate. Don’t stay cocooned and sheltered — don’t plateau. I’ll place prime emphasis on continued learning and accomplishment. When you’ve stopped coming up with a new idea — let someone else lead.

2. Be a Start-up — As Sam Walton said: “There is only one boss. The customer.” Estée Lauder, born Josephine Esther Mentzer [husband’s family changed the last name from Lauter to Lauder] is the example of the much talked about notion in business that “we’re all sales people” so be devoted to the task. If you remain devoted to the task you will succeed.

3. Be a motivator — Stir up success, motivate. Seek out ways to accelerate your team’s success. Flatter peoples’ intelligence. Even when you’re talking to a group, people should feel as though you are speaking directly to them individually. To be an influential leader you ought to galvanize and inspire so be heedful about how you shape your relationships. If you are without formal qualifications like high school drop-out Quantas Airways Ltd CEO [2001–2008] Geoff Dixon, you can be self-taught and not let that lack of academic accomplishment prevent you from reaching the top.

4. Be an organizer — Move to collaborate, organize. Knowing how to build coalitions around you is useful because you shouldn’t overestimate your own ability or underestimate the challenges that you will face.

5. Be a strategist — Your First 100-days; strategize. Although what usually comes to mind is the legendary metric for the success of the first-term of an American president, what I’m emphasizing is the significance of early accomplishments. In the world we live in today, new leaders are judged precisely by what they do at the start of their tenure. Try not to waiver, but know that your performance or lack of outstanding strategy will be measured to predict your future feats. Develop negotiating and diplomatic skills early to achieve win-win outcomes. Win-lose situations will make future negotiations problematic. Be sure to surround yourself with smart people.

6. Be a rebuilder — Lead a turnaround; rebuild. Whether it’s about saving a sinking ship or repairing trust, successfully taking advantage of a window of opportunity is required to rebuild and turnaround for success. Be conciliatory. Breaking down walls, regular networking and brainstorming should be de rigeur. Establish mutually beneficial alliances because success in the modern world depends on network-building. The sooner you learn, the better. Like Josh Silverman, ex-Skype CEO, aptly puts it: “foundations need collaborations.” Being a change master is incredibly tough but an admirable skill. From reversing your fortunes to recovering your image or correcting a weakness it can be especially difficult for any leader. Keep your cool because I’m here to remind you that unfortunately, encountering crises of one kind or another will happen one day.

7. Be a value squeezer — Drive & increase efficiency; squeeze. To get the best bank for your buck you’ll need to maximize efficiency. Streamline.

8. Be a visionary — See the vision; focus. Visionaries are future-focused. To have a successful vision, you need to have a specific destination. To get to that destination, you need a mission — how you will get there; the specific actions you will take to fulfill your vision. Inspire your team to do more. Seek advice. Get a second opinion. Search for wise counsel. When Walt Disney wanted to name the mouse Mortimer Mouse, he asked advice from his wife, Lillian. She said, Mickey Mouse.

9. Be a controversialist — Exude polished confidence; PR. A leader is at the helm. Showing confidence is at the crux of everything a leader does. Nip problems in the bud. When Rupert Murdoch Chairman of News Corp sees what he wants he goes for it. There’s nothing wrong with ambition and determination. Be the sharp operator; be the maverick. Be blunt when necessary, but not rude. Go out and seize the moment remembering that diplomacy is key.

10. Be a globalist — Think of opportunities; glocal. Stephan Persson Chairman of Swedish company, H & M [previously Hennes & Mauritz] said it best: “…think globally anticipating and collaborating with others overseas.” Companies like Starbucks went from six coffee shops to a sure presence in the world and rivaled the throne held by McDonalds. My observation is this: Negotiate smart and always have a detailed command and knowledge of the facts at your fingertips. If not, you will be outflanked. Know what your best and worst case scenarios are so you know when to be satisfied or walk away at the negotiating table.

We all know that one of the perfect ways to learn is by soaking up, poring over and getting the hang of “it” from the experience of others. Learning from a different generation, a different background or a completely different set of influential leadership experiences will give you a brand-new angle. In truth, most great innovations come from taking an idea from one situation, discipline or industry and adapting it to another.

Leaders must be readers

The argument that we should read more is probably not misplaced. It’s not difficult to make reading part of your ‘success’ habit. In 2014, The Atlantic said The Pew Research Center’s report shows that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in that past year — “… hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audio book while in the car. Quite unbelievable. I agree with Jon Coleman’s statement in the Harvard Business Review: “…[reading is]underappreciated as an essential component of leadership development.” Whether you read quotes from Nathaniel Moikabi, a writer for Thrive Global or books; read.

What leadership success secrets have you read about or picked up from others? Do you see yourself as a visionary leader, a strategist or an innovative influencer? Or perhaps tell us how many books a year you read to get you on your path to success? Or better still enlighten us on how you gain business leadership insight from reading.

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