Skills, Attitudes and Habits that Make Us Better Leaders

Posted on Posted in Leadership

We all know (either by experience or by research) that people who like us and trust us are much more likely to work with us or refer us or our services to their peers, friends and social circles.

In his book “Top of Mind“, John Hall talks about some rules, skills and habits that can help us become more likeable, trust worthy and top-of-mind, as he calls.

These are:

Shift the spotlight:

This is easy to say but extremely difficult to do. A lot of us enjoy being in the spotlight and find it difficult to leave it, let along shift the spotlight to others. However, good leaders have the uncanny ability to shift the spotlight to their team members, customers or partners when it is time to praise and shift it on themselves if there is something to be questioned or blamed.

This ability to shift spotlight requires us to be engaged and mindful about us and our surroundings all the time, which is why it is not easy.

Listen More, Talk Less:

We all know that we all like to talk about ourselves, our interests, our challenges, our issues, our passions, our goals, etc. Good leaders know this and allow others to do bulk of the talking and are engaged in active listening. This means that they are attentive to what is being said and are able to keep the conversation going with others wanting to continue to talk more.

My first boss had this uncanny ability to get us all share much more than we intended to by just using questions (which in reality were never questions – and, hmm hmm…, Ok, each followed by a pause) and pauses which cause some sort of vacuum in the conversation. More often than not, the other person tends to want to fill the vacuum by adding something else and the process would continue.

Don’t Practice Selective Hearing:

We are all guilty of practicing selective hearing. My son knows this and makes the most of it. He knows that when I am working on my laptop, my full attention is on the work that I am doing on my laptop, he will come and ask me if he can watch TV or play on his tab or read something on his kindle. If I am not mindful enough, I would return to my default answer, which incidentally happens to be ok. He has used this strategy so successfully, so many times, that now I sit up and pay full attention when he asks me of something.

By default, our brain does selective screening of all our senses to make sense of the world around us. If we add to this filtering, further filtering, we will miss most of the contextual information, which is where most insights, intelligence and opportunities lie.

We are all guilty of checking our phones when talking to someone or watching TV when playing with our kids or talking to our spouse. This is what leads to selective hearing. We need to try to be fully present and gift our full attention to the people or task in front of us.

Give Before They Receive:

The very act of giving our full attention to someone is a gift that we give them. This then leads us to better understand the person we are engaging with and that is the second gift that we give them. Once we have the understanding of what is important to a person, good leaders ensure that they practice, what I call small acts of kindness with everyone that they come in contact with.

They give (time, attention, money, at times, or anything else) because they feel that it is the right thing to do and not to keep score or with expectations. This is what amplifies the small acts of kindness into joy and happiness.

Choose their words carefully:

As the old saying goes,

An arrow that leaves the bow and the words that leave our tongue can never be reversed.

Good leaders understand the criticality of this and err on saying little when they are emotionally charged rather than err on saying more.

The tone and the body language in which they speak are as important to a conversation and being top of mind as the content of what is spoken as well.

Deal with Failure (Their own and others):

When it comes to failures, good leaders

  1. Don’t discuss the failings and failures of others publicly.
  2. But readily admit their failings and failures publicly.

What they do afterwards is what makes them good or great. They talk about the learnings from these failures, their own and others.

Either ways, they don’t shy away from dealing with failures as they understand that success and failures are part and parcel of the experience called life and as Benjamin Zanders and Rosamund Zanders had said in their book – “The Art of Possibility”, everything is invented. So, lets invent something that works better for us.

Conclusion:

If you look at most of these, we can see that the ability to be mindful is the foundation on which all the other practises are built. So, apart from having a good, strong, moral character, these are all skills and habits that each one of us can cultivate within ourselves.

We need to realise and accept is that it is extremely difficult for anyone to be able to practice and exhibit all of these behaviours at all the times.

So, the first step is to take stock of our current behaviours and identify the areas where are naturally good in and areas where we need to put in deliberate attempt and effort to get better. Once we have done this, we could look at applying some or all of the following to help fasten the process of improvement:

  1. Identify and get an accountability buddy.
  2. Create a commitment device and publicly commit to improving in a specific area.
  3. Try to see if there is anything that you can change in your environment that can help increase/decrease something that you are working on.
  4. Focus on building habits using the Trigger, action, reward framework.
  5. Identify the emotion behind the act and let it be.

As long as we try to make these habitual, we will tend to go back to our original selves due to psychological and emotional inertia.

 

Do share your thoughts and continue the discussion