by Elizabeth A. Bert on April 1st, 2013

Leadership is learned behavior that becomes unconscious and automatic over time.  For example, leaders can make several important decisions about an issue in the time it takes others to understand the question.   Many people wonder how leaders know how to make the best decisions, often under immense pressure.  The process of making these decisions comes from an accumulation of experiences and encounters with a multitude of difference circumstances, personality types and unforeseen failures.  

More so, the decision making process is an acute understanding of being familiar with the cause and effect of behavioral and circumstantial patterns;  knowing the intelligence and interconnection points of the variables involved in these patterns allows a leader to confidently make decisions and project the probability of their desired outcomes.   The most successful leaders are instinctual decision makers.  Having done it so many times throughout their careers, they become immune to the pressure associated with decision making and extremely intuitive about the process of making the most strategic and best decisions. This is why most senior executives will tell you they depend strongly upon their “gut-feel” when making difficult decisions at a moment’s notice.

Beyond decision making, successful leadership across all areas becomes learned and instinctual over a period of time. Successful leaders have learned the mastery of anticipating business patterns, finding opportunities in pressure situations, serving the people they lead and overcoming hardships.   No wonder the best CEOs are paid so much money.   In 2011, salaries for the 200 top-paid CEOs rose 5 percent to a median $14.5 million per year, according to a study by compensation-data company Equilar for The New York Times.

If you are looking to advance your career into a leadership capacity and / or already assume leadership responsibilities – here are 15 things you must do automatically, every day, to be a successful leader in the workplace:

1.  Make Others Feel Safe to Speak-Up


Many times leaders intimidate their colleagues with their title and power when they walk into a room.   Successful leaders deflect attention away from themselves and encourage others to voice their opinions.  They are experts at making others feel safe to speak-up and confidently share their perspectives and points of view.   They use their executive presence to create an approachable environment.

2.  Make Decisions

Successful leaders are expert decision makers.    They either facilitate the dialogue to empower their colleagues to reach a strategic conclusion or they do it themselves.  They focus on “making things happen” at all times – decision making activities that sustain progress.   Successful leaders have mastered the art of politicking and thus don’t waste their time on issues that disrupt momentum.  They know how to make 30 decisions in 30 minutes.

3.  Communicate Expectations

Successful leaders are great communicators, and this is especially true when it comes to “performance expectations.”   In doing so, they remind their colleagues of the organization’s core values and mission statement – ensuring that their vision is properly translated and actionable objectives are properly executed.

I had a boss that managed the team by reminding us of the expectations that she had of the group.   She made it easy for the team to stay focused and on track.  The protocol she implemented – by clearly communicating expectations – increased performance and helped to identify those on the team that could not keep up with the standards she expected from us.

4.  Challenge People to Think

The most successful leaders understand their colleagues’ mindsets, capabilities and areas for improvement.  They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more.   These types of leaders excel in keeping their people on their toes, never allowing them to get comfortable and enabling them with the tools to grow.

If you are not thinking, you’re not learning new things.  If you’re not learning, you’re not growing – and over time becoming irrelevant in your work.

5.  Be Accountable to Others

Successful leaders allow their colleagues to manage them.  This doesn’t mean they are allowing others to control them – but rather becoming accountable to assure they are being proactive to their colleagues needs.

Beyond just mentoring and sponsoring selected employees, being accountable to others is a sign that your leader is focused more on your success than just their own.

6.  Lead by Example

Leading by example sounds easy, but few leaders are consistent with this one.   Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall.

7.  Measure & Reward Performance


Great leaders always have a strong “pulse” on business performance and those people who are the performance champions. Not only do they review the numbers and measure performance ROI, they are active in acknowledging hard work and efforts (no matter the result).    Successful leaders never take consistent performers for granted and are mindful of rewarding them

8.  Provide Continuous Feedback

Employees want their leaders to know that they are paying attention to them and they appreciate any insights along the way.  Successful leaders always provide feedback and they welcome reciprocal feedback by creating trustworthy relationships with their colleagues..   They understand the power of perspective and have learned the importance of feedback early on in their career as it has served them to enable workplace advancement.

9.  Properly Allocate and Deploy Talent

Successful leaders know their talent pool and how to use it.  They are experts at activating the capabilities of their colleagues and knowing when to deploy their unique skill sets given the circumstances at hand. 

10.  Ask Questions, Seek Counsel

Successful leaders ask questions and seek counsel all the time.  From the outside, they appear to know-it-all – yet on the inside, they have a deep thirst for knowledge and constantly are on the look-out to learn new things because of their commitment to making themselves better through the wisdom of others.

11.  Problem Solve; Avoid Procrastination


Successful leaders tackle issues head-on and know how to discover the heart of the matter at hand.    They don’t procrastinate and thus become incredibly proficient at problem solving; they learn from and don’t avoid uncomfortable circumstances (they welcome them).

Getting ahead in life is about doing the things that most people don’t like doing.

12.  Positive Energy & Attitude

Successful leaders create a positive and inspiring workplace culture.  They know how to set the tone and bring an attitude that motivates their colleagues to take action.   As such, they are likeable, respected and strong willed.  They don’t allow failures to disrupt momentum.

13.  Be a Great Teacher

Many employees in the workplace will tell you that their leaders have stopped being teachers.   Successful leaders never stop teaching because they are so self-motivated to learn themselves.  They use teaching to keep their colleagues well-informed and knowledgeable through statistics, trends, and other newsworthy items.

Successful leaders take the time to mentor their colleagues and make the investment to sponsor those who have proven they are able and eager to advance.

14.  Invest in Relationships

Successful leaders don’t focus on protecting their domain – instead they expand it by investing in mutually beneficial relationships. Successful leaders associate themselves with “lifters and other leaders” – the types of people that can broaden their sphere of influence.  Not only for their own advancement, but that of others.

Leaders share the harvest of their success to help build momentum for those around them.

15.  Genuinely Enjoy Responsibilities


Successful leaders love being leaders – not for the sake of power but for the meaningful and purposeful impact they can create.   When you have reached a senior level of leadership – it’s about your ability to serve others and this can’t be accomplished unless you genuinely enjoy what you do.

In the end, successful leaders are able to sustain their success because these 15 things ultimately allow them to increase the value of their organization’s brand – while at the same time minimize the operating risk profile.   They serve as the enablers of talent, culture and results.

by Elizabeth A. Bert on March 18th, 2013

There are many different styles of leadership, and it’s impossible to say one is superior to the others.  When I was in the corporate world (and being, shall we say, a bit of a sports fan), I was drawn to a leadership model that was admittedly idiosyncratic: that of a point guard.  With March Madness almost upon us, and the nation’s attention turning increasingly to basketball, it seems an opportune time to describe why.

Good point guards of any gender or level – high school, college, NBA, WNBA – embody numerous qualities of admirable business leaders.   Here are six of them.

They’re selfless.  Their initial impulse is to involve others and promote teamwork. Point guards distribute the ball; they look to pass first and shoot second.  Their concern is for the good of the organization, not individual accolades.

They have vision.  They understand the environment around them.  Like visionary CEOs, point guards see the whole court – its opportunities and threats – better than anyone else on it.

They make others on their team better.  This is a key attribute of all good point guards.  Is there a more important quality for an effective business leader?

They’re great collaborators.  No complex project or enterprise succeeds without widespread collaboration.  Point guards are the glue that holds a team together.  Oh sure, now and then you’ll have a unique talent like a Michael Jordan or Lebron James who plays another position, but most often this central role belongs to a point guard.

They’re prudent risk managers.  Every business needs clear consciousness of risk.  (How soon we forget 2008.)  Controlling the pace and flow of a chaotic game is no easy task.   Too many fancy passes, or ill-advised risks (too much “French Pastry” as the late great coach and commentator Al McGuire would say), and you’re back on the bench.

They do critical but less glamorous work, content to give others the spotlight.  Is anything in basketball harder and more taken for granted than bringing up the ball against full court pressure?  Assists are less glorified than points, but no less important.  Good point guards are content to let scorers gain the attention.  In the management world we’d say, “Take accountability, give praise.”

The greatest point guard ever?  I believe few would disagree with a choice of Magic Johnson.  Coincidentally (or perhaps not), he’s an exceptional business person with an empire estimated at over $700 million.

So as you follow the NCAA tournament this year, and debate whether the best point guard is Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State… or Trey Burke of Michigan… or some dark horse from a Cinderella school most people haven’t heard of yet… this can give you another lens through which to view the action.  Another excuse to watch more of The Madness.

This article first appeared at PsychologyToday.com. Victor Lipman, Contributor

by Elizabeth A. Bert on August 1st, 2012

I know you can think of a time when you were networking and a very smiley, ambitious attendee came up and shook your hand, eagerly offering their business card and a 20 minute spiel of what they do. No matter what their line of work, you’re instantaneously bored just because of how they started the conversation. That’s because nobody actually enjoys listening to others talk about themselves. Certainly not a long ramble without an invitation.

But even though you might be annoyed by the idea, can you also remember a time when you were at a similar event and then ended up being that person?

Maybe it happened because you actually think what you do is interesting to everyone or you were nervous about what you should be doing in that environment and you were just trying to fill conversation. But doing this is how you end up further back from where you started.

When you approach the idea of networking as a ‘do or die’ situation, you’re going to get nothing (especially valuable contacts) out of it. In a world full of social media generated conversation, “building relationships” is one of the biggest buzz phrases — and with good reason. You’re not going to be remembered unless you’ve provided value. And blabbering on and on to grow awareness of what you do professionally and how you can be hired isn’t valuable.

If you’re going to attend a networking event you should strive to get the most out of it.  You need to go above and beyond to be different than everyone else by tailoring the conversation to always benefit others. These steps will help you become the most interesting person in the room (even if you’re an introvert) and grow a strong and valuable network of people:

Be picky about giving out business cards. When someone approaches me with a business card in my hand before I can even introduce myself, they’re already dismissed as someone I would be interested in learning about. You are not more legitimate to me if you printed your information on a fancy piece of paper. You’ve only wasted more trees by giving them to people you don’t know are interested in working with you. Carry only a couple of cards with you at a time and don’t even pull your wallet out to trade until you’ve had a conversation that would lead you to believe there is a possibility to work together or help grow your networks. (Don’t feel bad if you run out. You were just that popular.

Drop the elevator speech. The idea of having a pitch ready before you even arrive should make you want to gag. Because it will definitely have that effect on your unexpecting audience. You don’t need to recite business goodness to impress. Just feel out the environment and go with the flow. Obviously you’ll be asked what you do for a living because that’s what we have been trained to do in conversation. What will really intrigue is if you take this opportunity to explain how you help people reach their goals. When phrased this way, it makes you sound like a superhero. To give you an example, if you and I met I would say that “I help businesses grow brand awareness and increase sales by teaching and helping create content with social video”. That’s much more interesting than the typical ‘position, title, and opportunities I’m open to’ speech. I’ve shaped my explanation to lead to relevant conversation that will leave an impression on my audience, possibly triggering referrals or perhaps looking at their own needs to see how I can help them.

Don’t talk. Ask questions and then listen. Like I said before, no one likes to hear other people talk about themselves. But they will think you’re the most interesting person in the world if you want to know more about them. So ask questions and listen. Learn about the people you’re networking with and actually build upon a meaningful conversation that will make exchanging business cards more effective in the end. The more you ask about them, the more they will want to know about you for being interested in them.

What’s your winning strategy for networking events? Share in the comments below!



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