Success Secrets

Influential Leader

Leadership is a topic that will typically interest businesses, managers, and CEOs. We will address the concept of leadership through the lens that leadership should try to understand what makes a good leader and who will benefit from developing leadership skills. Most examples will pertain to leaders within organizations – whether those are charitable organizations or whether they are massive corporations. 

Leadership is a Life Skill 

That said, leadership is a life skill that should appeal to many!

That’s because leadership is something that we are all called upon to provide at some point. One of the most common examples given is the parent-as-leader. As a parent, you must provide your children with guidance, teaching, mentorship, and discipline. 

There will be times when you must inspire your children to be the most excellent versions of themselves. But there will also be times when you must provide strict and stern instructions that could save their lives! 

And, of course, there will be battles when trying to send them to bed! 

An influential leader will know how to listen and make the child feel heard while at the same time giving them the space and the protection they need to grow. 

Leadership is a Superpower 

Then there is the leader who emerges in a crisis. 

Imagine that you’re in a public space when suddenly the roof collapses. Trapped beneath the rubble, everyone is panicking and trampling on each other. You must work together to get help, ration food, and care for the injured. In this situation, leadership is a superpower.

The person who rises to become the leader will be the person who is the most informed and the most confident. If no one takes that mantle, the situation could end poorly. 

Being an influential leader is something that everyone should be capable of so that they can rise to the occasion when needed. 

Leadership Outside of Work Environments 

Finally, leadership can make your social and dating life much more enjoyable. There is a power structure in every relationship and group dynamic. Being the leader means getting to call the shots, deciding the activity, and taking responsibility. 

So while leadership primarily pertains to businesses, we all should strive to cultivate it. 

Chapter 2: What Makes a Good Leader? 

Leadership is precious, but unfortunately, it is not simple and easy. In fact, to demonstrate just how challenging leadership can be, remember that many people – including those in leadership roles – have no idea how to be a leader! 

We have an image of leadership and often think of it as being “in charge.” That means we need to micromanage our staff, and if they do something wrong, we must shout at them. Right? 

This couldn’t be further from what a good leader is. 

Many leaders make the mistake of thinking they should act almost like a parent – where their team consists of children. That means shouting when someone does something wrong, setting strict rules, and taking a “what I say goes” approach. 

This is entirely the wrong attitude! When you approach your leadership role in this manner, you effectively smother the creativity and innovation of your team, leading to a higher chance they will not perform at their best work. It also means they’re likely to spend their time feeling stressed and producing less. This could lead to their resignation. 

Many offices have slowly crumbled as a result of staff being driven out of their organizations. 

Apart from anything else, it is not your place to shout at or reprimand your staff. You simply have no right to do so. If someone fails to hand work in on time, or if they are repeatedly late, and you then admonish them like a child in front of the entire team, what kind of message does that send? 

Do you think they are going to be at all likely to do their best work the next day? 

And what about their colleagues and friends? 

You are not their mother or father. They are free people who can act as they wish. You don’t have any real authority over them, and you certainly aren’t superior to them. 

Of course, if their behavior isn’t congruent with what you need from your team, then you can politely end the agreement between you. But that is not the same as yelling at someone until they run out of the office crying. You are equals who have made an agreement and they have simply chosen to terminate the agreement. Understand this. 

Likewise, don’t make idle threats about their employment or their position. Some managers will tell their staff that they “have the power to fire them.” Again, do you think this is going to encourage optimum performance? 

Don’t you think they will end up disengaging and leaving the office? 

So how do you go about motivating a team that isn’t working its best? We’ll get to that more in future chapters, but the idea is to guide and not force. Your team was selected because they each should bring important new skills to the table. Your job is to create an environment where they feel comfortable flexing that muscle and employing those skills. 

At the same time, you must inspire them to want to work and help place the right person on the right task so that they feel enthusiastic and excited to get to work. You need to provide clear and concise instructions, but then also step back and let your team’s skills come to the forefront. 

Being an influential leader is about nurturing, protecting, inspiring, guiding, and sacrificing. 

 

Chapter 3: Communication Skills 

One of the most important skills for any influential leader to cultivate is communication. Your ability to write and speak will greatly impact the way people treat you, and the way they respond to your instructions. 

In the next chapter, we’ll talk about how to command respect, but this chapter is about sharing your point of view and your goals in a way that your colleagues understand. 

 

How to Give Instructions Without Sounding Demanding 

One of the most common ways that a leader will communicate is by giving instructions. In other words, you will provide either verbal or written steps and tips that can help someone to know what you need from them. 

If you do this well, then you can ensure that everyone you speak with is providing the best possible work. But if you fail to provide concise and clear instructions, you’ll find that people do the wrong kind of work – even when they mean well and have the best intentions. 

In future chapters, we’re going to discuss the importance of allowing staff some element of control when choosing how they go about their work. While that’s important, you will still have some factors that are not a matter of choice. You might have a specific deadline, you might have a particular budget, and there might be crucial points that need to be done either for safety or financial gain. This is what you need to communicate for your team to operate as a well-oiled machine. 

Consider these tips for providing clearer instructions: 

  • Provide all instructions right from the start. “Need to know basis” does not apply here. 
  • Don’t assume anything. This is related to the above point. But if you have a strict requirement, you cannot assume that your recipient will know that and plan their work around it. Don’t wait until they’ve wasted hours doing something unnecessary to point out the precise specification! 
  • Be clear and concise. You can write more detailed instructions, but make sure that the key specifications are written in a bulleted list that is extremely simple to follow. A long paragraph runs the risk of being overlooked or ignored. People just want to get on with their work and detailed instructions are counterproductive. 
  • Demonstrate where possible. This is a very useful tip as it will help to show exactly what it is you’re looking for. If you can’t demonstrate, then finding a useful example or analog of what you’re looking for is also a good option. When asking a team to design a website, for instance, it is a good idea to provide an example of the kind of design you are looking for. 
  • Ask questions. If you ask questions then you will also be able to see if the person understands what you’re saying. Likewise, allow them to ask questions if they have any. 
  • Make sure you have their full attention

If you are in a crisis, or a parent, then providing a written checklist for your followers to read through is likely not an option. In this case, you can still list tasks that need to be done and your requirements. Again, it’s about being concise and making sure it sticks in their minds. For example, “Call the police. Tell them that we’re at X address. Then get back here as quickly as possible. Do you understand?” 

 

Explain the Why 

Another very big and important tip when providing instructions as a leader is to explain why. In other words, don’t just tell your team what to do, tell them why they need to do it.

That means you should be explaining to your team why it is that what they are doing is important, and what the end goal is. Instead of saying: do X, Y, and Z, you should say “We need to accomplish N, so do X, Y, and Z.” 

This does a few things. First, it shows you trust the individual, and that trust can have a positive impact on their willingness and enthusiasm. Likewise, knowing why they are doing something is important, it can also provide additional motivation. 

Second, it empowers individuals to think on their feet. If you provide clear instructions but the person doesn’t understand the “why,” then they won’t be able to adapt if the situation changes. If they understand what needs to happen, then they can work around those problems to ensure that the outcome is still the one that you are looking for. 

The idea that you must trust your team will come up time and again in this book.

 

Chapter 4: How to Command Respect and Speak So Others Will Listen 

One of the most common questions regarding leadership is, should you be feared or liked? 

Some leaders are effective because they frighten their team into submission. When you are a strict leader who has been known to reprimand the team, this can gain you a reputation for being no-nonsense. People, therefore, don’t want to upset you and will do precisely what you instruct. 

The other approach is to try and be liked. The idea here is that you become someone whom people enjoy spending time with, and who can enjoy socializing as a part of the team. You are a friend to your team, which means that they will want to please you out of respect and kindness. Thus, when you ask them to do something, they do it! 

Which is better? 

Ultimately, neither. Your aim should be neither to terrify your staff into obedience, which simply creates ill feelings; or be the class clown, which will undermine respect. 

Instead, be yourself. At the same time, be somewhat detached from the goings on of the office, such that you can take an impartial view when helping to settle disputes or help with personal issues. Think of your role as a “friendly guardian” or “kindly magician” more than “disciplinarian dictator” or “everyone’s mate.” In doing so, you command more respect by maintaining that slight air of separation, while giving your staff every reason to like you and no reason to think less of you. 

The other reason to maintain a little detachment from the rest of the team is so that they can feel more relaxed and free to enjoy work. When you step in, it will be more of a novelty and people will listen because it’s so uncommon for you to speak in the first place.

It’s all about the way you speak. 

Speak So Others Will Listen 

You’ve been in your office allowing your team to talk among themselves outside, checking in now and then to ensure everyone is okay. Now it is time to talk and to provide some strategy or direction. How do you do this so that people will listen and take what you have to say to heart? 

Being able to speak in a commanding manner is one of the most important aspects of leadership outside of the office too. If you want your children to pay attention to you, or if you want to rise to the occasion during a crisis, you need to know how to command attention. 

Speak Slowly 

Tip number one is to speak slowly. Doing this will make you seem calmer, which in turn will make you appear more confident in what you say. At the same time, speaking slowly makes your voice sound lower, and more intelligent. You’ll also be less likely to stumble over your words. Think of pretty much any heroic leader from fiction, and they will normally have a measured, deep, booming voice. You can accomplish this by simply speaking more slowly. 

Leave Silence 

Another tip is to recognize the power of silence. Don’t be afraid to ask a rhetorical question and then let it hang. Don’t be afraid to build some suspense for what you’re about to say next. It is often the silence between the individual statements that have the most impact. It shows poise, control, patience, and confidence. 

Speak With and To Emotion 

Another extremely powerful tip is to speak to and from emotion. In sales, when trying to sell something, you are told to focus on the “value proposition.” That means thinking about what it is that people gain from the product. Does your product make them happier? Healthier? Richer? 

This will create an emotional hook, and emotion is what dictates behavior. Including attention. And if you want people to listen, then you need to address something that seems pertinent to them and appeal to their emotions. That means speaking about pride, about a challenge, about success. It doesn’t mean talking about numbers, or strategy. 

Find the emotional hook and use this to elaborate and bring your point to life. 

Likewise, you should try to channel that emotion yourself. How does this make you feel? Whether you’re extremely happy, confident, or something else, let that form your choice of vocabulary.

Gesticulate

When you feel strongly about what you are saying, you will naturally gesticulate with bigger gestures. This unconscious signal makes us appear more congruent, matching our bodies and face to our feelings. People will respond with engagement and trust in what we say. Consider anyone you typically think of as charismatic, and you’ll find they all use these kinds of large gesticulations as they talk. 

But Know When to be Still 

When you aren’t talking and getting your point across, learn to be entirely still. This will help you evoke confidence and calm, which will create a powerful aura around you that makes other people want to listen. 

As you continue to read this book, you’ll see that many of these strategies go hand-in-hand with techniques that make a better leader. These body language and language tips are indicative of and correlate to the traits you are trying to cultivate.

 

Chapter 5: The Crucial Importance of Emotional Intelligence 

We’ve discussed a few examples of bad leadership in this book so far, and unfortunately, these examples are not uncommon. There are too many bad leaders out there, and it’s seemingly quite rare these days to find employees happy with their management! 

Why is this? 

A big part of the problem is that many organizations don’t look at leadership as a quality that needs to be trained. They don’t see leadership as a quality at all it’s just a position.

This perspective is apparent in hiring and promotion activities. An organization might have a team of data analysts, ad managers, sales representatives, and accountants. They’ve all been working there for years under a successful manager. 

Then one day, that manager leaves, and a power vacuum is created. Either that or the organization offers the manager some meaningless promotion. Whatever the case, the company now needs a new manager, and what they end up doing is looking at their existing staff and choosing a member whom they think deserves the position. This is typically someone who has been working there for a long time, or who has been doing a good job. For our example, let’s say that employee is a data analyst, Jeff. 

But Jeff is not a leader, but now he is in charge of 20 people. He has neither learned the skills necessary to be a leader nor been blessed with them naturally. He lacks emotional intelligence. 

This also tends to put former teammates in awkward positions. Jeff is not just fulfilling a role, but also calling out co-workers and assigning them work. How the team responds to this role switch will depend upon how Jeff handles the new responsibilities. If Jeff lacks the inherent leadership skills needed to be successful, he and his team will struggle. 

What is EQ (Emotional Intelligence)? 

Emotional intelligence refers to our ability to recognize and identify emotions in ourselves, and others, and the impact of our behavior on others’ emotions. That means being able to spot when someone is unhappy but also understanding why they might be unhappy. It means being able to prevent making someone angry, by empathizing with them and understanding how best to handle their current situation. 

Emotional intelligence can make a drastic difference to your success in a leadership role, and the happiness and productivity of the team. Imagine that you’ve spent all day working on something, and you’re proud of what you have accomplished. You submit the work and then you get the following response: “Please fix the error on page 3.” 

Or worse: “Thank you for this work. A good effort overall, but this does NOT conform to the style guidelines set out in the last meeting. Were you even listening? There are three mistakes right toward the end. Please be careful to pay attention when working as it creates more work for everyone else when you don’t.” 

Oh, and for added good measure, these responses were placed in a public forum where everyone could see or hear the feedback. 

Let’s examine what is wrong with those responses. Even though the employee made mistakes that needed correction, the manager/colleague used polite language and even said “good effort,” a team member will not react positively to someone critiquing work they spent time and effort on. And that approach is hardly going to make the team member want to fix the problem. 

A far better approach would be to acknowledge the hard work and share a positive about the final product. This acknowledgment immediately wins the favor of the person receiving the feedback and shows them that you value the effort they’ve already put in. 

You might then follow this up with a compliment or two. This can help to balance out the negative feedback, again keep morale high, and demonstrate that you do respect their work and effort. You can then include the negative feedback subtly while being sure to show an understanding of what led to the issues before following it up with something more positive. This is often referred to as the “sandwich” approach to feedback. 

This leaves the person more likely to make the change, without feeling insulted or overlooked by their management. Add a personal note about what helps them to work their best, and you can respond in a way that will be motivating, encouraging, and practical. There are countless interactions every day that will require this kind of sensitivity.

Consider the first response. A simple fix could make all the difference (leaving aside for a moment the failure to acknowledge all the hard work): “Please could you fix the error on page 3?” 

The only change here is that the “please” has been moved to the front of the sentence. While that might seem small, it creates a different impression. Placing the “please” up front shows the reader that you are genuinely asking them to do something and you are grateful. 

In contrast, when you start the sentence with “fix this,” it sounds like an absolute command. The “please” now becomes an afterthought that just so happens to be there. If you are trying to get someone to do something and that person isn’t strictly someone that you have authority over, this type of response will become even more frustrating for them. Now it looks like you think you can boss them around. It comes across as curt, arrogant, and presumptuous. 

Again, it might not seem like a big deal, but moving one word a few places can make a huge difference in the response you will receive. 

Imagine countless interactions with hundreds of people in a single day, and hopefully, you can recognize the crucial role of emotional intelligence.

 

Tools 

Ultimately, the best improvements in emotional intelligence will come from life experience and knowing yourself. Life experience is important because it teaches you sensitivity, and it teaches you never to assume what is going on in someone’s life. Consider for a minute that someone comes into work looking scruffy and untidy, so you tell them that it isn’t good enough and that they need to do better if they want to keep working with you. They either burst into tears or huff out of the room. 

Why? Perhaps their parent died last night, and the only reason they came to work was that they were behind and trying to be conscientious. 

You can never know what is going on in someone’s life without asking. You should always give them the benefit of the doubt. By having richer life experiences, you can experience this reality firsthand, and gain a better understanding of what someone might be going through. Spending time with a wider range and variety of people can also help a great deal. 

Listen with open ears, don’t jump to conclusions, and give people space to explain what is going on with them. This kind of life experience and understanding takes a long time to cultivate. That’s why you should focus on learning to know your thoughts and feelings better. By understanding what makes you tick, you’ll be better able to understand and help manage the emotions of others. 

One way to do this is by practicing cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness. That means spending time reflecting on your thoughts and motivations and being more consciously aware of where your attention is, what you’re thinking about, and how you’re feeling. 

Managing your own emotions is also an important aspect of leadership so that is a great bonus, as we will discuss in a later chapter. 

For Parents 

This is one of the tips in this book with the most obvious payoffs for parents. When trying to help your children to learn and grow, understanding their emotions is key. In particular, you must understand the importance of letting them feel heard. 

When a child is upset or angry, a parent can often try to calm them down by telling them not to be. This will not usually help, as it tells them not to feel the way they are feeling, which can make them more angry and upset. Instead, show that you understand their emotions. For example, you can say,  “that must have made you angry, right?” or “I understand why you’re upset.” 

In a Crisis 

In a crisis, your job is to keep the mood of everyone in the situation calm. You are now managing the emotions of everyone present, to try and ensure the very best outcomes. This means making sure that you stay calm yourself, so you can instruct clearly and recognize the role that panic and stress can play in the efficiency with which tasks get carried out.

 

Chapter 6: Why It’s Important to Know Your Team 

As a leader, your job is to achieve some kind of goal or reach some kind of target by encouraging your team to do their best work. Again, it is not your job to micromanage that team or to do the work for them. Rather, you are simply encouraging them and giving them a safe place to exercise their inherent abilities. 

Be Genuinely Interested in Knowing Your Team 

One of the most important aspects of getting the most out of a team is knowing them well. That means taking a personal interest in them as people, as well as having a solid understanding of what it is they do for your organization and how they work best.

This allows you to anticipate how a team member is likely to react, and it allows you to put them in the best place at the best time, on the most appropriate projects, and generally help them to perform at their best level. 

One of the most fundamental aspects of this is to recognize what the key skills of each member of your team are, so you can put them to the best use. If you have a member of your team and you’re failing to maximize their potential, then you are simply wasting money. 

Imagine for a moment that you run a website on a complex topic such as programming. You have hired some technical writers and you’re paying them a lot to write in-depth tutorials and articles and to stay up-to-date with the latest information. But you have those same writers uploading their articles to the site. And you’re incredibly strict about formatting. You want them to make sure that they use the right fonts, that they are using the right sizes for images, and that they add the right meta tags. 

To make things more complicated, your formatting guidelines change every few weeks. You have the writers jump back into their work to add those updated changes. And if they miss some formatting? Then all hell breaks loose and you yell at them until they change their ways.

That sounds rather destructive, right? But it’s how a lot of teams will handle this kind of situation. The worst thing is this means the programmer is now being paid a LOT of money to do work that anyone could do for a fraction of the price. Why would a top writer spend all day changing image sizes? 

Instead, you could hire someone for a fraction of the price, and could use your best talent to generate meaningful work. You’d double your output, keep everyone happier, and end up with a much better result. 

What’s more, your staff will become miserable if they are spending all of their time doing work that doesn’t engage, challenge, or reward them in some way. 

Putting Your Team Together 

Another important reason to know your team is so that you can know who works best with whom, and make sure they are paired according to that information. 

This is more complex than simply putting people together if they get along. That’s because people who get along can end up distracting one another instead of working diligently. It may even benefit you to pair people together who challenge and improve each other. 

Think as well about when to mix up your team, or how staying together could ultimately hurt performance. We’ve all heard how Steve Jobs introduced open-plan offices to Pixar to encourage chance encounters between animators, scriptwriters, actors, and the rest of the team. 

Consider factors like “convergence and divergence.” This tells us how people placed in groups will typically grow more alike over time, while also becoming more different from those around them. This process can result in a “tribe-like” attitude, which might ultimately create problems within the office. 

 

Chapter 7: Getting the Most Out of Your Team 

Finding ways to get the most out of staff is a constant struggle for business owners and managers who are constantly told different things and given different information. One minute it's a good idea to incentivize staff with potential bonuses, perks, and rewards, but the next, it’s not. How do you know what to believe, and when? And why is there so much disagreement in the first place? 

Motivating Your Team 

The question comes down to how you define motivation. There is of course more than one type of motivation and as the needs of the organization vary, so do the best ways to get more out of staff changes. It turns out that when you're trying to encourage creativity and out-of-the-box thinking specifically, then incentives are more damaging than helpful. 

And to understand why this is the case we need to break things down further and examine exactly what we mean by creativity. How do you define creativity? How do you measure problem-solving ability? 

While opinions vary on this matter, one aspect that is generally agreed to be indicative of wider creativity and problem-solving skills is what's known as 'functional fixedness.' This term refers to the ability or inability we have to think of objects in ways other than their intended use. So if you were to take a hammer, for instance, functional fixedness would be the bias that prevented you from thinking of using it to scratch your back. It's a hammer, not a back-scratcher. 

A great demonstration of this flaw in our thinking is something called the candle box experiment. Here participants are given a box of tacks and a candle and they're asked to attach the candle to the wall in such a way that it can burn while being poised there. Most people will try to tack the candle to the wall which will of course meet with disaster, but after a while, they will start to think of alternative solutions at which point they get over their functional fixedness, and realize that the box itself is a valuable resource, and then tack that to the wall to stand the candle on.

The reason this is relevant to this particular discussion is that incentives and external motivation have been shown to make participants slower in coming up with a solution. The motivation can create stress as you feel the need to amp yourself up to work towards the reward. This in turn can result in a type of tunnel vision as you approach your work, focused hard on the task at hand. 

Conversely, creativity occurs when we step back and relax. This in turn helps us to allow our minds to wander and enables us to see more connections between ideas. And many believe this is what creativity is: the ability to combine unconnected ideas in unique new ways. Other studies show that a sense of ownership and pride in their work can also encourage staff to be creative and original with their thinking. Interestingly allowing discourse between team members has been shown to incubate the generation of new ideas too. 

So if you want your staff to provide data entry then you can help them to do this by providing incentives and rewards. Because this kind of role does not require creativity, a reward would be a suitable motivator. For other more creative tasks, it may be better to help them to relax, take a step back, and provide a safe space to work.

Protection 

If stress can dampen creativity and prevent your team from producing their best work, the logical alternative is to reduce stress for your team as much as possible. In turn, that means you need to take the flack. And that’s a huge part of what it means to be a leader. Being a leader means taking responsibility. 

The bad leader will shout at their staff when things are going badly and blame them for their failure to take responsibility.  This is even when the bad leader has micromanaged every tiny decision, leaving the team with no freedom to have failed on their own. But a good leader will let the teamwork in the way they do best and will take the flack from upper management when things don’t go as planned. Why? Because when your staff feels as if they are protected and safe, they will do their best work. We’ve already seen how this can improve creative problem-solving. It also helps to improve work satisfaction and ensures your team is happy working away. 

Being a leader ultimately means taking the hit, and being willing to sacrifice your sanity for theirs! 

 

Chapter 8: The Power of Ownership 

At this point, you have a team that is happy to work and that feels safe and protected doing so. But we still haven’t honed in on precisely how you motivate them to get down to it. 

Give Others Freedom To Work On What They Want To Work On

Give your team ownership over the work that they do. That means letting your team make decisions about how they’re going to work, what they’re going to focus on, and even what it might end up looking like. You can even let them create their projects. 

This means giving them the freedom to experiment along with a sense of ownership. There's a reason that Google gives its staff free time to work on their projects,  and happens to be one of the largest and most transformative businesses in the world! 

When you do this, you make someone innately and inherently invested in the project, and you ensure that they love what they are doing. 

Don’t Force Someone To Do What They Don’t Enjoy 

Here’s the stark reality: you can’t force someone to do what they don’t enjoy to the best of their ability. If you force someone to work on a project they find dull, they will work on that project, but they won’t give it their all, and much of the work will be sub-par. 

Conversely, if you get someone to work on their passion project and this project has their name on it, suddenly they become far more invested and they want to go to work. They’ll work harder at the project because it has their name on it, and because it makes them feel alive. This could improve their career, and it’s something they can be proud of at the end of the day. 

When you micromanage someone and control every small decision that someone makes, they are given zero control or ownership over that thing. This in turn means that they won’t be invested or interested in it. 

Likewise, if you refuse to listen to their point of view, or if you know they have big problems with the way that the work is being approached, you shouldn’t be surprised if they lack motivation and don’t do their best work. This is why the job of the leader is to take on a lot of responsibility for what happens to protect their team, while at the same time giving the team more creative control. That’s why it takes a lot of bravery to be a true leader. 

In a Crisis 

In a crisis, the same approach applies. You can’t be everywhere and do everything. Your job is to give instructions to the person attempting to do the job, and then to let them make the key decisions about how to do it. 

 

Chapter 9: How To Deal With Difficult Decisions 

Sometimes being a leader means making the hard call. Remember, the job of the captain is to go down with the ship. You are trying to protect your team so that they feel confident to do their best work. And that sometimes means taking a serious hit. Here is how to deal with things when the going gets rough. 

How To Stay Calm As a Leader 

What do you do when you lose your biggest client and you think that your company is no longer able to afford to employ everyone? What do you do when your family is in debt and you need to tell them that you have to downsize your home? 

The single and most important job of a leader is to remain calm. Remember, you are protecting your team and taking the hits so that they can do their best work in a safe environment. That extends to remaining calm in a crisis so that they don’t have to panic. 

If your team is worried about layoffs, then how are they supposed to focus and do their best work? This can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy if allowed to escalate. Consider that your team will look to you to set the tone. If you seem panicked, then they will panic. If you seem calm, then they will see that you have it under control. 

You also need to appear more confident in your leadership, and ultimately it is only by being confident in yourself that you can inspire confidence in others. This is not the same as hiding the truth from your team. One of the worst things you can do for a team from a communication standpoint is to lie and tell them everything is okay when it isn’t. While this might seem as though it would further the cause of helping your team stay focused on their work, the truth will eventually come out. This means you’ll lose the trust of your team, and they won’t know how best to prepare themselves for the coming event. Be truthful, reassuring, transparent, and calm. 

How to Handle Difficult Team Members 

Another issue that you will find yourself struggling with is the occasional mutinous individual. Whether you are the captain of a ship, or you are a team leader on the meat aisle, you will find there are always people who don’t want to do as you say. 

So what do you do in this situation? 

Do not reprimand, threaten, or punish the individual. This is not only morally a dubious position to take, but it is also simply a bad strategy. Isolating, alienating, and aggravating someone who already intends on disrupting your leadership is a bad idea. Doing this will only cause that person to recruit more of your team to their cause, and to spend their time thinking about how wrong your style of leadership is. 

Ever heard the saying “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer?” This is a saying that Italian autocrat Mussolini believed in strongly, which is why he coined the phrase “Transformismo” to describe the way he would deal with dissidents. This meant giving that vocal opponent a position of authority within his organization. 

This strategy can work wonders, as it turns that critic into someone who is now working with you to improve your leadership. They can see first-hand the challenges you face, and that perhaps life isn’t quite as simple as they once believed. It ensures they feel valued and cherished by the organization, rather than ostracized. And it lets you keep a close eye on them.

 

Chapter 10: Challenges for Modern Leaders 

Being a leader today is different than it ever has been before, and this is particularly true within organizations. If you are a leader within an organization, then there is a high chance you will find yourself dealing with a range of new situations and tools that alter the way you lead. 

For instance, you might need to lead remotely. You are going to be using collaboration tools to work with distributed teams all around the world. This can make life much more difficult, as you won’t be able to know precisely what each team member is doing, or whether they’re carrying out the work you set for them to do.

Likewise, parents need to deal with new challenges, including mobile phones and the internet. This prevents parents from knowing everything that is going on in their children’s lives, making it harder than ever for them to protect and guide their children. 

There are several ways that we can react to these changes. One of the most common is to try and reign in our followers more and place stricter, more controlling rules on them. The hope is that we can better understand the idea of what they are doing and control their actions. 

The most powerful way to motivate someone miles away from you is to make sure the tasks you give them are inherently motivating. That is to say, they should be rewarding in their own right – because they offer a sense of ownership to the person completing them, and a sense of being highly involved. But the truth is that doing this often has the opposite effect. 

If you notice that someone is falling behind, don’t assume it is because they are lazy! Instead, ask why they aren’t motivated enough to complete the work you have set for them. 

And so it is with the internet: try and block or restrict your child’s internet access and they will find a way around it. But give them that access and tell them that you are doing so because you trust them, and you might find they are less likely to betray that trust. 

Your job as a leader is to protect, inspire, and guide. It is NOT to control. This is true even when you are dealing with the modern, complex challenges of leadership. That only makes this approach even more vital.

 

Resources

How Great Leaders Inspire Action 

This is a talk by Simon Sinek that discusses the Golden Circle and the importance of knowing your “Why.” The why for a business in this context means the mission statement: it means understanding what it is that your business is about and what you are trying to achieve. 

This is something that the most successful companies in the world such as Apple understand. Apple is not just a company that makes computers to earn money. Apple is a company that makes stunning, user-friendly computers that are aimed particularly at creative individuals. This understanding of who their target audience is and what their design language should be in service of that helps them to create not just customers but true fans.  

At the same time, having a Why is an excellent way to inspire and motivate your team. Make sure that they understand what the business is about, and why it’s more than just making money!

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe 

This is another TED talk from the excellent Simon Sinek. Here, he talks about the importance of leadership creating a sense of safety among its staff – something discussed in this book too. 

When you make your team feel safe and secure, they can flourish and do their best work. On the other hand, if you keep talking about how your company is going to “need to make cuts,” you create a huge amount of pressure that can cause arguments within your business, and that could even cause people to jump ship. 

Believe it or not, some highly ineffectual leaders believe this is a  good way to inspire their team to be more effective.

Myers Briggs 

The Myers-Briggs personality test is one of the biggest and most well-known psychometric tests in all of the business. This one is based on four aspects of a person’s personality – such as their level of introversion and intuition. 

The results of course are not infallible, but they are more accurate than many other tests out there. And with no other options readily available, Myers-Briggs can provide a very useful snapshot of what is likely to be a  person’s rough personality type. This can help you to better understand how they work best, and how to get the most out of them. 

For example, you won’t place the introvert in a leadership role!

Headspace 

Headspace is an app and website providing guided CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) meditations. The idea behind CBT is to help people to better recognize their own emotions and to cope with them. When you use CBT yourself, this can help you to become a better leader by giving you the power to control your nerves and temper. That lets you present a much calmer and more level-headed voice; which others will find inspiring and commanding. 

At the same time, CBT is a tool you can teach to your staff to help them gain better control over their own emotions and thus stay productive even when they might be feeling tired or panicked. 

Charisma on Command 

This is a YouTube channel that shares useful tips for boosting your charisma, your ability to persuade others, and your ability to speak in public. Charisma on Command can help you to improve your ability to deliver speeches and instruct your team. It can also help you with emotional intelligence and several other key skills as a leader. 

Google’s 20% Time 

An article discusses the use of free time by Google to allow staff to pursue their projects and ideas. This has led to some of the best products to come out of the company, and it also gives those employees a much greater sense of ownership and commitment.

 


Books 

The Art of Leadership by Cal Newport 

This is a book that discusses the value of letting staff simply get to work.  This is something that is too often overlooked by managers who keep sending emails and holding meetings where nothing gets said. Stop  “playing at business” and instead sit down and get real work done that helps you move closer toward your concrete goals.

Deep Work by Cal Newport 

This is a book that discusses the value of letting staff simply get to work.  This is something that is too often overlooked by managers who keep sending emails and holding meetings where nothing gets said. Stop  “playing at business” and instead sit down and get real work done that helps you move closer toward your concrete goals. 

New Thinking by Dagogo Altraide 

This book from YouTuber ColdFusion takes the reader on a tour through the history of great technological breakthroughs and inventions. He discusses not only the technologies themselves but also the people behind them and the conditions. 

This can be very inspiring for any manager or CTO hoping to do big things. 

Thriving in the Gig Economy by Adam Sinicki 

The way we work is going to change in a big way, and managers and leaders are going to need to get used to hiring staff from around the world, and managing their workflow through tools like Asana and Slack.  This book, published by Springer, discusses this shift and gets you ready for change. 

Start With Why by Simon Sinek 

This book by Simon Sinek discusses the Golden Circle and the power of why. It’s an excellent read for anyone serious about creating a compelling brand and a business that the staff is proud to work for! 

The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman 

This book attempts to provide an entire MBA education in a single book.  This idea is grandiose of course, but it still does a great job of conveying several very useful key concepts that you can utilize to become a better business owner – and certainly a better leader.