A weekend of leadership learning

I really wanted to focus on leadership learnings this weekend after starting the current Techstars cohort this past Monday. Leading a cohort is so similar to leading a startup - one that goes from 3 full time staff to over 50! I wanted to pull back and make sure that I'm re-baselining my leadership goals, priorities, and practices.

A couple of sources that I referred to were:

1) The 7 TED talks every leader should watch: TED is a great repository for unique video content and themes. Always a great resource.
2) Stanley McChrystal's interview on the Four Hour Work Week blog: Stanley McCrystal is a retired United States Army general, and described by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates as, "perhaps the finest warrior and leader of men in combat I (have) ever met.". His Army career is highly decorated and his views are always great
3) Brent Gleeson's Inc.com articles: Brent Gleeson is a Navy SEAL combat veteran, the co-founder and CMO at Internet Marketing Inc., and writes a ton of articles on SEAL leadership in the business space.

Source 1

The one video I focused on was What it takes to be a great leader. Essentially, the talk suggested that leadership in the 21st century demands three questions:

  • Where are you looking to anticipate change? - who are you spending time with? Where are you traveling? What are you reading? How are you distilling potential discontinuities?

    "Great leaders see around the corner"

  • What is the diversity measure of your professional and personal network? It's a great indicator of how well you can may find different solutions

  • Are you courageous enough to abandon the past? Great leaders dare to be different - and take risks.

Source 2

The following were a few quotes and learnings that resonated with me:

  • on the best indicator of good soldiers at West Point: 1) not academic prowess, but high peer reviews. And those that know how to live life tended to have high peer reviews.
  • on accessing and vetting people: 1) Ask the candidate what someone would say their weaknesses are
    2) "What will people that don't hold you in high regard say about you?"
  • On how to gain mental toughness: 1) pushing yourself beyond your limits - like long foot marches
    2) put yourself in situations where you need to face fear (live fire training)
  • What is one thing politicians can learn from military leaders: 1) Modest servant leadership

"a decent decision now is considered a better decision than a decision in the next 48 hours"

  • A framework on improvement: 1) have a running list of 3 people that you're always measuring yourself against: Someone senior that you want to emulate, a peer you respect, and a subordinate that's doing a better job than you did
  • On developing people: 1) Every minute [spent on developing others] has exponential return

Source 3

The four articles and corresponding quotes (bolded content is mine) that I found poignant were:

"Leaders embrace the necessity of growth, both personal and professional. If the mind and body are not in a constant state of growth, eventually things stagnate and progress stalls. Instilling the importance of learning in the team is one thing, but leadership has to embrace this first. Great leaders are always seeking knowledge, developing their minds, and maintaining their bodies. Mental and physical wellness is essential for optimal leadership."

What great leaders have that good leaders don't

When you think of strong leaders, you probably think of people who are decisive, bold, confident, and fearless. You’re not wrong. Good leaders have all of these qualities. But how many good leaders are also loyal? I don’t know, but I know that every great leader is.

  • Never throw anyone under the bus
  • Never leave anyone behind.
  • Try to be as candid as possible with your employees, and never lie to them
  • Give employees your unconditional support.

Earn your leadership role every day

  • Always be learning. Learning and professional development are paramount to leadership. As our organizations grow, our industries evolve, and technology becomes more advanced, team leaders have to stay on top of their game to stay relevant. Spend a few minutes every day developing your knowledge or skills. Never stop training.
  • Lead and be led. Nobody is born a great leader. Yes, some people have certain traits inherent for leadership, but great leadership is learned over time. It generally starts with being led by someone else. Find a mentor and learn as much as you can from him or her. The best way to learn how to give orders is to first learn to follow them. Even when you make it to the top of the food chain, make an effort to do a little “following” each day.

5 ways elite teams MUST be led

  • Always eat last. Traditionally, in the military the officers eat last at chow time. This is a simple but impactful gesture of leadership. When you sacrifice for your team, they will sacrifice for you. It is the team that must execute on a daily basis and therefore it is imperative they have the resources to do so, even before you do.

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