It is true that leaders are readers. As Taleb says, only the autodidacts are free. But it is deeper than that. A real leader learns from experience. They notice that less than 20% of performance ratings have anything to do with actual performance. They might notice that close to 95% of performance rating systems are dismal failures. They notice, they learn and they take action. The leader refuses to keep doing the same thing and expecting to get a different result.
If you don't know what you are getting into, there may be a "gotcha" somewhere down the line. Great leaders eliminate the fine print, literally and metaphorically. They treat others with respect. They love transparency. You know what they stand for and their word is truly their bond. This is how the most successful businesses operate and this is where the future of leadership is headed.
The category of rejuvenation is huge. Without it, we simply are not very effective. Leaders take their rejuvenation needs seriously. They get enough sleep, they get silent time and they may read something inspirational first thing in the morning. They may also schedule a "do nothing day" periodically as our friend Ralph White advises.
Too serious? Laughter is one of the highest things on the planet. There is power in an environment filled with laughter and it is a close cousin of love.
Numerous studies have confirmed that lots of laughter each day is what really keeps the doctor away. The book Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient (Twentieth Anniversary Edition) by Dr. Norman Cousins tells the story of how he recovered from a life threatening illness by applying laughter therapy. He literally watched his favorite funny movies every day for months until his illness disappeared.
Dr. Madan Kataria from India pioneered a practice known as laughter yoga. Every morning, people gather to laugh for 20 minutes (without movies). His book the Inner Spirit of Laughter- 5 Secrets from The Laughing Guru tells the story of this amazing technique.
How can you lighten up your team? How can you have more fun while delivering over the top service?
Generally, there is a gap between where you are and where you want to be. It might be the additional 20lbs. It might be an additional sale. It might be that extra step needed to get a project completed. Whatever it is, the job of the leader (you) is to recognize the gap and then work to close it. Leaders love to close gaps. This is actually where the fun shows up.
One of my personal favorite leaders of all time (this includes statesmen, business, military and spiritual) is Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines. He once said that the “business of business is people.” This was not a mere platitude written by a speech writer. This was a direct reflection of his core values. It informed everything he did, including the way he treated every employee of the company.
So, how do pranks come into this?
It turns out that Herb Kelleher (and many other top leaders) loved to play pranks. They are the kind of pranks that make everyone laugh and causes people years later to write about it. Herb Kelleher was famous for:
- Occasionally hiding in the overhead luggage bins on planes and then jumping out mid-flight to the surprise and delight of all the passengers (and crew).
- When challenged on a trademark issue, he challenged his "opponent" to an arm wrestling match.
- During the annual BBQ bash, he would show up on a Harley wearing a costume.
- He would appear in airports dressed in a costume to greet passengers as they boarded.
Are you free to make customers smile and even laugh? Does your organization exercise the freedom of delighting the stakeholders?
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
The best organizations spend lavishly on training. They know that their mission depends upon it. Training benefits the organization, the individual and the larger society within which they operate.
The best leaders invest extravagantly in their own ongoing program of education and training. They do not wait for permission. They find a way to “always be learning” from books, audiobooks, webinars, masterminds, coaches and courses. The top CEOs we know are learning machines. They set the example for the entire company.
The key of course is to not just attend a course but to put it into action. To implement what you learn as soon as you return to the office (or the field).
How much do you personally invest in your own learning and development? Does your organization have a meaningful program that actively encourages everyone to receive training every year?