The Top 10 Things Amazing Leaders Do

Leadership.  Love that word. Makes me think of Mandela and Gandhi. Gates and Edison. Mozart and Beckham.
Bono and Bieber.

It’s a word I’ve passionately built the past 17 years of my life around, reminding so-called ordinary people that they are called to lead. And create. And contribute. And win. 

These are strange and fabulous times. Tons of challenges. Dazzling possibilities. To help you lead even without a title, I’ve distilled 10 of the most valuable and practical insights on leadership. I’ve taught these around the world to clients like Starbucks, IBM, Nike, GE and FedEx, and these ideas have helped them do great things. My wish is that they deliver the same results for you.

1. The job of a leader is to grow more leaders. I’ll be blunt: If you’re not building more leaders, then you’re not leading, you’re following. Your job (regardless of whether or not you have a title) is to help people do work they never dreamed they could do. Your job is to inspire people to own their talents, express their gifts and do the best work of their lives. That’s part of what it truly means to lead. 

2. Nothing happens until you move. Start small, dream huge, but begin today. Procrastination is nothing more than the defense mechanism of choice used by scared people. Here’s what I mean: If we actually achieved our goals and acted on our visions, we’d become ultra-successful. And spectacular success brings responsibility. That frightens most of us. And so we put off getting great things done. And blame the world for any mediocrity that infuses our lives. 

3. Your behavior reveals your beliefs. You tell the world what you believe via how you behave. Complain all day long and you reveal a deeply ingrained set of beliefs that you are powerless and apathetic. Present work that has typos and poor wording and you express a belief that average is cool with you. Mistreat others and you reveal that you’re selfish and disconnected from the humanity that surrounds you. The good news is that as you wire in the beliefs of leadership (versus victimhood), your behavior changes automatically. 

4. Ideas are worthless without execution. I’d rather have an average idea that my team and I flawlessly execute than a genius-level idea with poor execution. The best leaders and organizations are all about talking less and doing more. Fewer meetings and more delivery. Less analysis and more rolling up sleeves and getting projects done. 

5. When you learn more, you achieve more. To double your income, triple your rate of learning. Few things have better served my professional career—and the careers of the billionaires, Titans and CEOs I privately coach—than this idea. Genius is much less about natural talent and much more about out-studying, out-preparing, out-practicing and out-learning everyone around you. Almost nothing yields the return on investment that investing in workshops, conferences, online courses, books and coaching does.

6. Take care of the relationship, and the money takes care of itself. Leadership is about relationships. The smartest, fastest and most effective leaders all get that the whole game is about people—developing teammates + serving customers + making the world better by the way you show up in it. Learn to listen like a master. Commit to being more inspirational. Keep your promises. Do nice things for people. Be the most generous person you know. Staggeringly great opportunities will come your way. Trust me. 

7. Respect is not granted but earned. A title, position and a large office do not guarantee people will respect you. Nope. You’ve got to earn that gift. And the quickest way to earn respect is to give it. No need to say much more. 

8. Don’t confuse movement with progress. Yes, we live in the age of dramatic distraction. According to The Financial Times, we collectively spend 100 million minutes a day playing Angry Birds on our smartphones. Most people in business are spending the absolute best hours of their days being busy being busy. Leaders without titles are completely different. I teach a whole system of tactics to multiply productivity 20-fold. Here are a handful you can apply today: 

  • Set five daily goals and get them done before leaving the office (that’s 1,850 small wins in 12 months)
  • Use your first 90 minutes at work to fuel your most important project
  • Get good at saying no

9. Victims don’t do giant things. Victims make excuses while leaders drive exceptional results. You can spot a victim a mile away: They blame and complain and are negative and cynical. They’ve given away their power to achieve amazing things to other people and other conditions for so long, they’ve actually conditioned themselves to think they have none. You are not a victim. This day—and every one that follows—offers a platform of possibility. And the great thing about using your power to make things better is that the more you use it, the more powerful you become.

10. Life is short, so be of use. My dad is awesome. He often says, “Robin, when you were born, you cried while the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die, the world cries while you rejoice.” I always remember my dad’s striking advice and carry it with me in all that I do. 

To truly be a leader has nothing to do with ego-stroking, applause and fame. No, to be a leader is to make phenomenal contributions that make the world better and cause a lasting difference. To lead is to serve and to be of use.

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