One of the many joys of the LIFE business for me is learning about leadership. Afterall, anyone choosing to build the LIFE business, just as any other business, must become an effective leader if they want to have lasting success. And one of the keys to success that LIFE teaches is reading good books. One such book is The Magic of Thinking Big.
Recently, I finished my second reading of The Magic of Thinking Big. I highly recommend it. The last chapter is titled How To Think Like A Leader, and the author, David J. Schwartz, discusses four leadership rules. Of course these aren’t the only rules of leadership, but these are a good foundation. Here is a short summary of each of the four rules.
1. TRADE MINDS WITH PEOPLE YOU WANT TO INFLUENCE
The value of this principle is learning to see things from the other person’s point of view. Rather than assume because we think a certain way or have certain likes and dislikes, so too will the other person, we need to learn to put ourselves in the person’s shoes that we are hoping to influence. Not everyone thinks like us. There are four different personality types and combinations of each. Men tend to think different from women. People may have different world views based on their upbringing, the community they grew up in, or the dynamics of their family life. As a leader, trading minds is simply learning to see things through the eyes of those whom you are leading.
The best example of this is in marriage. I certainly brought many pre-conceived ideas into my marriage with expectations of how it would be and how my wife would be. Ironically, these ideas and expectations were conceived before I ever knew Courtnee. So obviously I was setting myself up for some friction-filled moments.
Perhaps the greatest skill I have learned since being involved with my business is how to lead my wife. My wife has a very strong personality that doesn’t do well with certain approaches to being led. The problem is that I had pigeon-holed a husband’s leadership role to be a certain way. But it wasn’t until I learned to understand my wife and her personality, her love language, her upbringing, and the fact that I must continually learn and grow as a man, did I learn to effectively lead her. It took trading minds with my wife to begin the process of being an effective leader in my home.
2. THINK: WHAT IS THE HUMAN WAY TO HANDLE THIS?
This rule is one that directly affects how we treat people when we face a difficult matter involving people. It reminds me of my good friend Cyrus’ Become A Human project. “All people desire to love and be loved.” I would even say that all people desire to be respected.
To think, “What is the human way to handle this,” in every situation is to treat people with the highest level of dignity and respect. It’s to remember that people are more than just subordinates or tools in a person’s quest for success. When using this principle we learn to avoid sarcasm, being cynical, and trying to somehow make someone feel they are on a level playing field with us. It is avoiding “putting others in their place.” When using the human way to handle things, we learn to let our actions show that we put people first.
I had a great supervisor the final years that I worked in the recreation field. Even though he was a very strong personality, he was also very conscientious of people’s circumstances when dealing with discipline issues. At one point, I was having a difficult time staying focused on my duties as recreation director, because I allowed our personal life to interfere with my work life. We were going through a bankruptcy, and I wasn’t feeling too great as a father and a husband. It was showing up in my work performance.
My supervisor called and asked to see me. He informed me that my work wasn’t as consistent and done with as much excellence as he had seen from me. Rather than simply point it out and issue a warning and send me my way, he asked me how I was doing. After sharing with him what was going on, he showed me tremendous respect by listening and making efforts to understand my situation. He even offered some advice. Of course, he still let me know I needed to step up my performance, but because he treated me as a human-being and not just a subordinate, I was more than willing to correct my shortcomings. That was the human way to handle the situation.
3. THINK PROGRESS, BELIEVE IN PROGRESS, PUSH FOR PROGRESS
The author breaks this principle down a little further into two more steps. Schwartz says that to develop a progressive outlook we must learn to think improvement in everything we do, and secondly, think high standards in everything we do.
This one sometimes is tough for me. There are parts of my personality that can tend towards just getting by. I once heard someone say that in this day and age, employees work just hard enough to not get fired, while employers pay people just enough so they don’t quit. Those are examples opposite of this maxim.
Leaders are people who, as LIFE stands for, Live Intentionally For Excellence. Leaders set the bar for their followers through their actions. It is very difficult to expect subordinates to do things with excellence when their leader doesn’t. It is often said in my business that people will duplicate 50% of what you do right and 100% of what you do wrong. So it would be wise to simply work at doing things 100% right.
This principle can be seen best with children and their parents. Just today, I heard a three-year old in our daycare saying some words that I absolutely know she did not understand. And let me say, they weren’t good words. She was repeating them over and over. I went to her and kindly let her know that she is not to say those words ever again. I’m pretty certain she picked those words up from her “leaders,” and I’ll have a “human” conversation with her parents when they pick her up.
Simply put, as Schwartz says, “Over a period of time, subordinates tend to become carbon copies of their chief. The simplest way to get high-level performance is to be sure the master copy is worth duplicating.”
Remember, think, believe, and push for progress in everything you do. Don’t just do it at work or with sports or in only a couple of areas of your life. Create the mental discipline to think, believe, and push for progress as a husband, father, employee, business owner, friend, and leader.
4. TAKE TIME OUT TO CONFER WITH YOURSELF AND TAP YOUR SUPREME THINKING POWER
At first glance, I hesitated to embrace this rule. I’ve met people who I would highly recommend to not be left alone with their own thoughts. For even as Schwartz said, both good and bad leaders have taken to this principle. Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, and Marx picked up their belief systems while having ample time alone in prison.
But the principle is this. Time alone brings clarity of vision. Basically, whatever information we have been feeding on (hopefully good information), at some point needs to be digested, pondered, and meditated on. After all, the primary job of a leader is thinking. Leadership requires difficult decisions to be made. It requires well mapped-out plans and mental habits that are conceived while thinking. Leaders gain much insight and understanding related to their purpose or plans that have an uncanny way of being exactly what is needed during times of solitude.
Schwartz recommends thirty minutes a day. And the more I’ve taken time to think about this principle, the more I realize it is something I earnestly desire anyway. Sometimes my wife makes fun of me because I tend to take long showers. Well now I know why. It truly is my time of solitude and “think-tanking.” I love just soaking in the hottest possible water and thinking. I think about business, people, my family, my faith, everything. And there is no agenda either. I just think. It’s like a personal pep rally for my soul. I’ve received many revelations while showering. And honestly, I tend to get cranky if I don’t get the opportunity. Therefore, just as he recommends, so do I. Spend some time in managed solitude every day and find yourself thinking like a leader.
Thanks for spending some time with me thinking leadership. I trust these rules will give you some things to ponder during your time of solitude. And be sure to pick up a copy of the Magic Of Thinking Big while you’re at it. And as a bonus, here is a great video about leadership by Chris Brady.