5 Signs You’re Not As Smart As You Think

5 Signs You’re Not As Smart As You Think

5 Signs You’re Not As Smart As You Think

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

My question is this: Is your intellect an asset or liability? All one has to do is watch a very bright person defend their position to understand what I’m driving at with today’s post. Observing intelligent people lecture, spin, posture, position, cajole, argue, rationalize, or justify their beliefs in order to “get the win” is often times entertaining, but it can also be exceedingly frustrating.

I’ve come across more than a few self-proclaimed “intelligent” people who believe their intellectual acuity is far superior to the discernment of their peers and co-workers. Not only are these intellectual giants usually wrong, but sadly, by the time they awaken to a state of reality it is already too late. In the text that follows, I’ll share the keys to leveraging your intellectual assets as opposed to having your intelligence serve as a barrier to your success…

While leadership intelligence doesn’t have to be an oxymoron, it certainly can be. When a person begins to believe their own smoke, they have placed themselves on a very slippery slope. I believe there is truth in the statement “a person can be too smart for their own good.” How many times have you witnessed a very bright person fail to solve a problem a younger, less experienced, and perhaps even a less intelligent person solved with seemingly little effort? While raw intelligence is a valuable commodity, in-and-of-itself, and to the exclusion of other traits and characteristics, the sole reliance on IQ can be a barrier to professional growth and maturity.

Is your intellect standing in the way of your success? Are you so enamored with how smart you are you can’t get anything done? Consider this; is it more important to be right, or to achieve the right outcome? I tend to respect those who can lead others to the proper outcome as opposed to those who excoriate others just to prove they’re right. If your certitude overshadows your wisdom, you may want to dial it back a notch…

By nature of what I do for a living I tend to work with very bright people. It has been my observation hyper-intelligent people can tend to think themselves into trouble and out of opportunities with great ease. Whenever I find myself discussing issues of intellect, ego, leadership, etc., I’m always reminded of the cartoon which reads: “Rule number one: the boss is always right. Rule number two: when in doubt refer to rule number one.” If you find yourself rationalizing or justifying positions based solely upon intellectual reasoning without regard to culture, practical realities, timing, or other contextual considerations, you may be too smart for your own good. Just as a lack of belief in gravity won’t prevent you from falling, simply believing a particular opinion or theory to be fact doesn’t mean it is.

Often times the problem with intelligent people lies simply in the fact they have come to enjoy being right. Bright people can quickly find themselves in the position of confusing ego with intellect, and can sometimes defend ideas to the death rather than admit they’re wrong. Smart leaders fear being wrong more than being proven wrong. Winning an argument isn’t particularly difficult, but it may come at a very expensive price. This confusion of ego and intellect often stems from successfully arguing wrong positions over time such that they’ve built their persona around being right, and will therefore defend their perfect record of invented righteousness to the death. Smart people often fall into the trap of preferring to be right even if it’s based in delusion.

So how do you know when you’ve crossed over to the dark-side and can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction? The following 5 items will help you discern whether or not you are using your intellect properly, or whether you’ve just simply bought-off on your own propaganda:

1. Consistent Conflict: Do you find yourself in a perpetual state of debate? Do you find yourself thinking “why am I the only one who gets it?” Is it more important for you to be right than to arrive at the correct resolution to an issue, problem or opportunity? Are you known as a bitter, pessimistic or negative person? If any of these issues describe situations that hit too close to home then you may want to take a step back and do some self-evaluation.

2. Lack Professional Growth: I’ve often said it’s impossible for stagnant leaders to sustain growing organizations. If you prefer to rest on your laurels rather than continullay stretch your mind you’re in for a rude awakening. Warning: Leaders who don’t develop themselves professionally will be replaced by those who do.

3. Exclusivity vs. Inclusivity: Do you use your intelligence to intimidate and stifle others, or to encourage, inspire and motivate others? Do you wonder why you can’t seem to retain tier one talent or why you lose key clients?  If your brilliance is polarizing as opposed to engaging, then how smart are you really?

4. True Success: If an independent third party interviewed your peers and subordinates alike, what would that feedback look like? Do others see you as successful, or are you merely a legend in your own mind? What I think of myself is not nearly as important as what my family, friends, clients, and co-workers think of me. If those you surround yourself with don’t hold you in high regard, then you have no reason to.

5. You’re Too Busy: Saying “I’m too busy for _________” is code for you don’t value whatever __________ is. Smart leaders are never too busy to make good decisions, to invest in people, to listen, or to learn. The job of a leader is to understand the value of creating and leveraging white space both personally and organizationally.

Bonus: You’re A Bad Listener:  Stop worrying about what you’re going to say and focus on what’s being said. Don’t listen to have your opinions validated or your ego stroked, listen to be challenged and to learn something new. You’re not always right, so stop pretending you know everything and humble yourself to others. If you desire to be listened to, then give others the courtesy of listening to them. It’s important to remember you should never be too busy to listen. Anyone can add value to your world if you’re willing to listen. How many times have you dismissed someone because of their station or title when what you should have done was listen? Wisdom doesn’t just come from peers and those above you – it can come from anywhere at anytime, but only if you’re willing to listen. Expand your sphere of influence and learn from those with different perspectives and experiences – you’ll be glad you did.

The bottom line is this…the gift of intellect is an asset to be thankful for, and put to good and productive use. It is not an excuse to be lazy, arrogant, mean-spirited or delusional. Don’t let your intellect stand in your way, but rather use it as an asset to develop those around you to their full potential thereby increasing your chances for long-term success.


Does Size Really Matter

Does Size Really Matter?

Does Size Really Matter

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Does size really matter? Should you go big or go home, or does quality win out over quantity? The fascination business leaders have with size has always both intrigued yet perplexed me. Is empire building and the pursuit of category dominance a healthy thing, or the corporate equivalent of the road to Perdition? I’ll frame the debate – you decide.


The plausibility of impossibility only becomes a probability in the absence of #leadership.

No Excuses Real Leadership

No Excuses = Real Leadership

No Excuses Real Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Leaders don’t offer, nor do they accept excuses. True leadership demands the character to demonstrate personal responsibility for one’s actions, and the courage to hold others accountable for theirs. Excuses attempt to conceal personal or professional insecurities, laziness, and/or lack of ability. They accomplish nothing but to distract, dilute, and deceive. It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

The word “excuse” is most commonly defined as: a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense. History’s greatest leaders have always fostered cultures of commitment, trust, and performance, where action is valued over rhetoric. Leaders who issue or accept excuses are complicit to muting performance and fueling mediocrity.

The problem we face as a society is we live in a time where he or she with the best excuses wins. Excuses have become the rule, and performance has become the exception – a sad commentary to be sure. However the solution is a rather simple one – I’ve always said, people will stop offering excuses the minute those in positions of leadership stop accepting them.

People have overcome poverty, drug addiction, incarceration, abuse, divorce, mental illness, victimization, and virtually every challenge known to man. Life is full of examples of the uneducated, the mentally and physically challenged, people born into war-torn impoverished backgrounds, who could have made excuses, but who instead chose a different path – they chose to overcome the odds and succeed.

John Wooden said, “Never make excuses. Your friends won’t accept them and your foes won’t believe them.” The great thing about performance is it obviates the necessity of an explanation. In these troubled times inept leaders blame their business woes on the economy, while skilled leaders find a way to thrive. Challenges and setbacks are opportunities for growth and development, not permission space for rationalizations and justifications. The best leaders not only understand this, they ensure the entirety of their organization practices it.

Here’s the thing – sane people don’t expect perfection from leaders, but they do expect leaders to be transparent and accountable. Accepting responsibility for your actions, or the actions of your team makes you honorable, and trustworthy – it also humanizes you. People don’t want the talking head of a politician for a leader, they want someone they can connect to, and relate with. They not only want someone they trust, but someone who trusts them as well.

One of my favorite quotes is by Edward R. Murrow; “Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.”  The fastest way to lose respect as a leader is to focus on optics over ethics. If you’re more concerned about political fallout than solving the problem, you have failed as a leader. Even though responsibility for decisions defaults to the leader, responsibility should be a thing of design, not default. It should be readily accepted and not easily denied – this is real leadership.


15 Ways to Identify Bad Leaders

15 Ways To Identify Bad Leaders

15 Ways to Identify Bad Leaders

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

It’s important to realize that just because someone holds a position of leadership, doesn’t necessarily mean they should. Put another way, not all leaders are created equal. The problem many organizations are suffering from is a recognition problem – they can’t seem to recognize good leaders from bad ones. In today’s column I’ll address how to identify bad leaders by pointing out a few things that should be obvious, but apparently aren’t.

Big Data – Not All Metrics Are Created Equal

Big Data

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

When it works, Big Data can be a beautiful thing – what organization wouldn’t want more actionable information with which to feed better data driven decisions in the quest for a competitive advantage? But in the race to acquire Big Data, leaders can easily wander off course with devastating results. According to EMC (disclosure: client), only about 1/3 of companies are able to effectively use Big Data. In today’s post I’ll examine the pitfalls awaiting those companies in pursuit of Big Data.

Clearly some organizations (Amazon, Google, The Federal Government, etc.) are better positioned to exploit the opportunities afforded by Big Data than others. Here’s the thing – not every corporation has access to, much less the ability to collect, assess, and operationalize data in exabytes (about 1 Billion gigabytes). The amount of infrastructure and staff it takes to integrate data from disparate, yet ubiquitous inputs is staggering. The harsh reality is that for every one company able to harness Big Data, hundreds will fail in their attempt to do so.

MBO’s, KPI’s, segmentation, analytics, and now Big Data. All leaders measure things – the question is are they measuring the right things, for the right reasons, and at the right times? While I don’t dispute the value of Big Data, I would rather see organizations realistically focus their efforts on operationalizing knowledge at whatever volume or velocity they can currently handle and then worry about scale. Let me be clear – metrics are at best useless, and quite possibly harmful, if the wrong things are being measured, and especially where quantity is valued over quality. In a previous column on Forbes I caution leaders about relying too heavily on “data” by explaining not all data is good data (this is worth reading).

If you read the Forbes piece, and understand the difference between data and knowledge, we can turn our attention to which metrics you should be interested in to begin with. While there are virtually endless amounts of financial and non-financial metrics that can be assessed, I believe that most measurements can be broken down into the following 5 categories:

  1. Static Historical Measurements;
  2. Quantitative Return Measurements;
  3. Qualitative Return Measurements;
  4. Quantitative Performance Measurements, and;
  5. Qualitative Performance Measurements.

It has been my experience that most businesses at least attempt to measure items 1 and 4, but often times fail to measure the other 3 categories, which also happen to be the most meaningful measurements. The best managed companies measure all 5 categories (as well as various subsets) with their focus being on items 3 and 5.

Let’s begin by stating what should be the obvious – all businesses need to monitor the basic static financial measurements of revenue, expenses, break-even, earnings and cash flow. While analyzing these drivers will give you some basic operating information, they are also somewhat myopic. The reason I say this is while historical analysis is important, it is taking the next step of using these historical measurements as baselines to calculate forward looking return drivers that will help you fine tune your business. While the following overview is not by any means exhaustive, it provides a great jumping-off point to fuel productive thought and conversation.

Quantitative Return Drivers:
Metrics such as Return on Assets (ROA), Return on Equity (ROE), Return on Investment (ROI), Return on Cash (cash-on-cash), and Return on Human Capital (ROHC) will give you more useful information than the static calculations mentioned above. The great thing about return analysis is that each area can be broken down into several more refined qualitative return calculations.

Qualitative Return Drivers:
A great example of qualitative return analysis would be contribution margin (CM), which is a qualitative measure of segment, team, or individual performance on profit. Another example would be Return on Innovation which would be the qualitative measure of the impact on new initiatives. These types of qualitative return drivers allow you to make forward looking investment decisions that can have immediate impact to the business.

Quantitative Performance Drivers:
Measurements in this category would be items like revenue hurdles, billable time, utilization, production hurdles and service levels. These are the metrics of how an organization performs against its benchmarks.

Qualitative Performance Drivers:
Measurements in this category are where an organization truly becomes productive with analytics. These sets of metrics focus on the measurements surrounding things that generate influence, improve culture, develop talent, create engagement, build teams, manage the consumer experience, improve customer satisfaction and increase brand equity. Getting to the qualitative level of performance measurement is difficult in that it is often necessary to overcome a set of traditional leadership behaviors and beliefs.

Ask yourself this question…do you measure the metrics that are critically important, or just the ones that are obvious and easy to measure? If company leadership can make the attitudinal adjustments necessary to create accountability and focus on qualitative performance metrics, they will find it’s these measurements that help to catalyze growth, enable execution and create dynamic organizations.

Thoughts? I’d also be interested in hearing from you with regard to any measurements/metrics which have been particularly beneficial to you.

The #1 Reason CEO Successions Fail

Why CEO Succession Fails

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

With all eyeballs on Marissa Mayer at Yahoo and Tim Cook at Apple, CEO succession is a hot topic these days – and rightly so. Few things adversely impact corporate culture, shareholder value, or brand equity like a failed CEO. In today’s column I’ll share the most common reason for failed CEO successions.

Game Changer

6 Steps for Creating a Game Changer

Game Changer

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

At one time or another all great leaders experience something so big and so impactful it literally changes the landscape – it’s what I call a “Game Changer.” A game changer is that ah-ha moment where you see something others don’t. It’s the transformational magic that takes organizations from ordinary to exceptional. In today’s column I’ll provide you with a blue print for manufacturing ah-ha moments. I hope this piece is a game changer for you…

Leadership, Influence & Relationships

Leadership, Influence & Relationships

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Have you ever wondered why some people have more influence than others? It’s because they invest more “in” others. Those with influence have built into others through some form of consistent direct or indirect contribution. Those with the greatest amount of influence almost always have the strongest relationships. My hypothesis is a rather simple one: If true leadership is about influence, then influence is about relationships, and relationships are about the investments made into people. In today’s post I’ll examine the ties between leadership, influence and relationships…

You cannot be an effective leader without influence. Let me make this as simple as I can – if you’re a leader, influence needs to be a competency. The key to developing influence is understanding contacts and relationships are not synonymous. Don’t confuse a database with a sphere of influence. A database consists of information records, and a sphere of influence consists of meaningful relationships built upon a foundation of trust – a point of distinction lost upon many. Spammers and info-product sales people add contacts to a database, while savvy professionals interested in creating influence invest into people for the purpose of creating and sustaining high value relationships.

As business people nothing is more valuable than the quality of your relationships. Whether you realize it or not, your success in business (and in life) will largely be dependant upon your ability to not only establish key relationships, but in your ability to influence and add value to your relationships. We have all known professionals that have been smarter, more affable, better looking, possess a better CV, or are more talented than their peers, yet they never seem to rise to the top. These professionals who seem to have the whole package yet fail to grab the brass ring simply don’t understand the power of relationships – they’ve failed to invest in people.  Again, leadership isn’t about any single person, but rather a complex ecosystem of meaningful relationships.

Lest you think I’m overly mercenary in my approach, and only view people as pawns in a chess game, let me introduce you to Myatt’s golden rule of building relationships: ”Give, give, give some more, give until it hurts, and then when you have nothing left to give, you guessed it…give even more.” The best relationships are not built on the backs of others, but rather they are built by helping others succeed. It is by building into others and through assisting others in reaching their goals and objectives that you will find success. Reflect back upon your own experience and contrast the responses you’ve received when you ask for help from someone that you’ve previously provided assistance to, versus asking the same favor from a casual acquaintance that you’ve never lifted a finger to help.

When you closely examine the core characteristics of what really makes for great leadership, it’s not power, title, authority or even technical competency that distinguishes truly great leaders. Rather it’s the ability to both earn and keep the loyalty and trust of those whom they lead that sets them apart. Put simply, Leadership is about relationships, and the trust, stewardship, care, concern, service, humility and understanding that need to occur in order to create and nurture them. If you build into those you lead, if you make them better, if you add value to their lives then you will have earned their trust and loyalty. This is the type of bond that will span positional and philosophical gaps, survive mistakes, challenges, downturns and other obstacles that will inevitably occur.

You don’t change mindsets by being right, you do it by showing you care. Logic and reason have their place, but they rarely will overcome a strong emotional or philosophical position. Trying to cram your positional logic down the throat of others will simply leave a very bad taste in their mouths. This is a very tough lesson for many to learn, but a critical one if you take your duties, obligations and responsibilities as a leader seriously. The best leaders are capable of aligning and unifying opposing interests for a greater good. You won’t ever become a truly successful leader until you understand a person’s need to be heard and understood is much more important than satisfying your need to impart wisdom I’m going to make this as simple as I can…leadership is all about relationships. It’s the people – nothing more & nothing less.

Being right isn’t the goal – accomplishing the mission is. If you can only lead those who agree with you then you will have a very small sphere of influence. Stop and think about this for a moment – history is littered with powerful leaders who have fallen, failed, or who have been replaced, usurped or betrayed. Fear doesn’t engender loyalty, respect or trust – it breeds resentment and malcontent. A leader not first and foremost accountable to their people will eventually be held accountable by their people.

Generally speaking there are two types of spheres of influence…those that just evolve over time by default, and those that are strategically engineered. While contacts are rarely purpose driven, relationships are highly intentional. People who are influential have spent years developing relationships spanning geographies, industries, and practice areas. They have invested both time and money developing these relationships to a high level of mutual benefit.

So why is it that most people aren’t as influential as they would like to be? The answer is that most professionals, even if they intellectually understand the benefits of what I’m espousing, just don’t do the work it takes to build an influential network. Great relationships take great amounts of effort, energy and commitment. Think of the most successful people you’ve ever known and they will always seem to know the right person to call on in any given situation to influence or decision the needed outcome. This type of influence doesn’t just happen, rather it has taken years of painstaking effort. If you want to create a powerful sphere of influence start by taking the following ten steps:

  1. Create a Vision: Take pause and examine where you are currently in your professional career as contrasted with where you want to go. Think about the people who could help you reach your destination more quickly and efficiently. Don’t put any artificial ceilings on your thinking – remember that almost anyone on the planet is only a few degrees of separation away from you. Be sure that your vision is based first and foremost on adding value to the lives and careers of others. Building a great relationship has little to do with what you get out of it, but everything to do with what you put into it…
  2. Take an Inventory: Once you have a clear vision of where you want to go, take a personal inventory of your contacts and relationships. See who it is that you know, but also pay attention to who they know. Review in detail each and every relationship in your network and rank them on a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being the contacts perceived to be of the greatest value to you. Make a detailed relationship plan for each of the people that rank 3 or higher. Take a personal interest in rekindling those relationships and finding out how you can help them succeed.
  3. Participate in the Dialogue: Develop a strong core competency, and then give freely of your time and knowledge. Be visible and accessible, and don’t approach business solely based on a “what’s in it for me” attitude. Don’t be a joiner unless you can be a contributor. I belong to a number of organizations I will likely never see a paying client from, but it is through these groups I build relationships that will help me serve my clients. These relationships are only built because of the time I invest in them. Relationships don’t get built overnight, and are not built without active participation.
  4. Value Your Network: It is critical you develop a keen understanding of the following point – your network is your business. The core value of your business is not actually steeped in the conventional thinking imparted to you in business school. The reality is the true intrinsic value of a business is in your network, which adds value to your products, services, brand, stakeholders etc. A strong network = sustainability.  It’s your network that will provide you much needed resources, influence and leverage in both good times and bad.
  5. Focus on the Positive: Don’t waste time with those who only see problems and flaws, but cannot ever seem to create solutions. The world is full of bitter people, small thinkers, naysayers and those who just get their kicks out of sniping from a safe distance. Remove these people from your network. Associate with energy gainers and not energy drainers. People do business with people they like, and avoid doing business with people they don’t like – it’s just that simple. Are you approachable, positive, affable, trustworthy, a person of character and integrity, or are you someone who is standoffish, pessimistic and generally not to be trusted? Those who fall into the camp of the former as opposed to the latter will find themselves having more influence and success.  The key take away here is that being a jerk doesn’t lead to the creation of influence.
  6. Quantity and Quality Both Matter: Successful networking requires an understanding there needs to be a balance between quantity and quality. Well built spheres of influence are both inclusive and exclusive, and while the emphasis should always error on the side of quality, this assumes you have sufficient numbers to create leverage and scale to your networking efforts. You want to avoid at all costs the appearance of simply being in it solely for the numbers, but it is also important not to be viewed as a networking snob who doesn’t reciprocate.
  7. Influence is built upon a foundation of trust: If a person is not trusted there is a firm limit on their ability to create and use influence. People will rarely make a leap of faith for someone who hasn’t earned their trust. However most people will gladly take a blind leap of faith for someone whom they have come to trust. Trust matters.
  8. Influence is built upon making others successful: This is often times referred to as the law of reciprocity. The theory is that if you invest yourself in making someone else successful, then they in turn will likely be predisposed to helping you become successful. While this principle will not always pan out, in my experience it has held true across the overwhelming majority of my interactions through the years. True influence is rarely built upon the backs of others, but rather by helping others achieve their goals.
  9. Influence is most often possessed by those with authority: It is important to realize that there is a reason for the statement “the highest authority is that which is given, and rarely that which is taken.” Authority is most often given to those who display honesty, competency, empathy, expertise and wisdom. With authority comes credibility, and with credibility comes influence. While influence can be wielded by those without authority, it will be limited in both scope and scale. Those with the most authority will always have the most influence.
  10. Value and scarcity drive influence: Understanding the value of your position, brand, authority, resources, access to people or knowledge and any number of other items as it relates to fulfilling the needs and desires of others creates influence. To the extent anything under your direct or indirect control is scarce or proprietary your ability to create influence will increase significantly.

Keep in mind the purpose of developing influence is not to manipulate for personal gain, but rather to facilitate for mutual benefit. Take a sincere interest in the success of others, work on your likability factor, become adept at gaining commitment, develop your authority, secure access to things of value and/or scarcity, and your influence with others will increase.

Bottom line – engineer a relationship development plan built upon service, trust, giving and adding value – then work the plan. Before you whine about how much time this will take, consider if you will the potential rewards at stake and ask yourself this question: Can I afford not to do this?

If you have any additional tips or advice to add to what you’ve just read, I’d love to have your feedback and input in the comments section below…

Leadership and Order of Operations

Successful Leadership Requires The Right Order Of Operation

Leadership and Order of Operations

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Ever heard the following statement? “Focus on the what, not the how.” While this may appear to be sage advice, it’s actually quite the opposite. I find it troubling at two levels: Firstly, it’s a horribly incorrect and incomplete message. Secondly, far too many people in leadership positions seem perfectly content to follow this bad advice. In today’s column I’ll share the reasons underpinning my strong disagreement with using what as a leadership driver.

Why Your Leadership Is Overrated

Your Leadership is Overrated

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth 

How are your leadership skills? Likely not as good as you think. There’s no shortage of independent empirical data generated over the years supporting the fact most people tend to overrate their leadership ability. The best leaders the world has ever known had room for improvement – so do you. I’ve always said leaders need to get over themselves and get on to the practice of leadership. In today’s post, I’ll offer 8 things every leader should evaluate with regard to their capabilities.

People arrive at a position of leadership in many different ways – some individuals openly and aggressively seek out positions of leadership, while leadership is thrust upon others. Whether leaders are elected, appointed, anointed, or self-proclaimed, and regardless of whether it’s by design or default, once in a position of leadership they all carry the burden and responsibilities associated with being a leader. The question is, do most leaders live up to their responsibilities?

Leader Beware – ignorant bliss, no matter how enjoyable, is still ignorant. If you’re in a position of leadership and don’t feel you have any blind spots, you’re either very naïve or very arrogant. All leaders have blind spots – the question is what are they doing about them? The reality is most leaders invest so much time assessing the cultural and functional dynamics of their organizations they often forget the importance of critically assessing themselves – big mistake.

It has consistently been my experience, leaders who are not growing are simply incapable of leading growing organizations. Moreover, leaders who fail to continue developing will always be replaced by those who do. A leader who fails to understand the value of self-awareness fails to understand their own true potential as a leader.

It’s at the C-suite level an executive must be on top of his/her game as they have the broadest sphere of influence, the largest ability to impact a business, and they also now have the most at risk. It is at this place the leader should make the heaviest investment in refining their leadership ability, because increased performance will pay the biggest dividends. Let me be as clear as I can – the more responsibility a leader has, the bigger their obligation to be on the forward edge of learning, growth and development.

Think about this – YOU are the single biggest threat to your role as a leader. This means YOU are also the single biggest risk to those whom you lead, your employees, your family, and to your friends. If you are in a position of leadership, you will lead – you will either lead people toward the right things or lead them astray, but you will lead.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates had a few guiding principles that today’s leaders would do well to adopt: Socrates said, “Know Thyself” and “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Those leaders who actively pursue gaining a better understanding of themselves will not only reduce their number of blind spots, but they’ll also find developing a sense of awareness is the key to increasing emotional intelligence. The better you know yourself the more effective you’ll be, and the better you’ll relate to others.

Following are 8 things I suggest you reflect upon should you desire to continue to develop as a leader:

  1. Never Stop Learning: I’ve never understood leaders who make heavy investments in personal and professional development early in their careers, who then go on to make only minimal investments in learning once they have reached the C-suite. Learning and development are lifelong endeavors. The learning journey doesn’t come to an end just because you reach a certain station in life – or at least it shouldn’t.
  2. Context Matters: Just as life is not static, neither is the environment you work in. Leadership isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. The best leaders apply their craft contextually based upon the needs of those whom they serve. If you don’t know how to nuance your leadership skills you will simply miss opportunities others won’t.
  3. Be Kind: People go out of their way to help those whom they like. Likewise most people won’t lift a finger to help those they don’t care for. Smart leaders are purposed to build into those they lead. They understand leadership success is found by ensuring those they lead are better off for being led by them. Self-serving, arrogant, or belittling behavior may feed your ego, but it doesn’t serve your best interests as a leader.
  4. Surrender: A leader simply operates at their best when they understand their ability to influence is much more fruitful than their attempt to control. Here’s the thing – the purpose of leadership is not to shine the spotlight on yourself, but to unlock the potential of others so they can in turn shine the spotlight on countless more. Control is about power – not leadership. Surrender allows a leader to get out of their own way and focus on adding value to those they serve. Forget span of control and think span of influence.
  5. Begin the Process of Unlearning: Just as important as learning is shedding the emotional and intellectual baggage trapping you in the past. Human nature causes most of us to hold onto wrong, unhealthy, or outdated ideas, concepts, thoughts, feelings or practices. The fastest way to become a better leader is to challenge your own logic. If you’re really serious about finding the flaws in your thinking, ask others to help you identify gaps or faults, and then listen very carefully to what they share with you.
  6. Likeability Matters: While becoming a great leader shouldn’t be reduced to a popularity contest, the fact is most great leaders are both well liked and respected. They have the full faith and trust of their stakeholders, and possess strong positive relationships across constituencies. What do you reflect, and what do people see in you? If you are not well liked and respected then you will have consistent, self-imposed obstacles placed in your path that inhibit your ability to be an effective leader. Ask yourself this question – If an election for CEO were held today, would your stakeholders re-elect you in a landslide victory? If not, why not?
  7. Attract Don’t Repel: If people see you coming and quickly run the other way, you have a leadership problem. If people shy away from you versus clamor for your attention, you need to work on your leadership.The simple truth is people strongly desire to work with and for great leaders. Great CEOs are talent magnets…people want to be led by those who have much to offer. If you struggle with recruiting, team building, and leadership development your leadership skills are in need of improvement.
  8. Results: Great leaders produce great outcomes. If you have vision, strategy, talent, culture, or performance problems you have a leadership problem. Remember, businesses don’t fail – leaders do.

Becoming a better leader isn’t difficult, but it does take effort. It requires you to place humility above hubris, and to place a higher value on truth than you do on your ability to rationalize and justify your thinking. It means placing more emphasis on the right outcome than being right. I’d encourage you to view yourself as a lifelong student of leadership more than a master of leadership – it will serve you and those you lead well.