As I wrapped up my motivational leadership talk on 'The Unstoppable Leader,' at the head office of a fashion house in Paris, Paul approached me. 'Mam,' he said smilingly, 'may I talk to you on a matter of utmost concern to me. I asked him to give me a few minutes to wrap up, and later we sat at the company's cafeteria for coffee. "I have been working in this company for around eleven years', he said without any excitement though. 'I have been a great worker, and have the skills to get into the leadership role. But I have had no luck,' he said while trying to hide his frustration. Some of my colleagues managed to get into the leadership roles, but they too remain stuck in that position for years now, he said with a heavy sigh and gloomy look. 'Payal, I admire your talk and techniques on unstoppable leadership. I am desperate to change my life and would like to know more about what can I do to get into leadership?
Paul's question reminded me of thousands of people who have similar issues. Despite all the talent and hard work, despite being in an age of information technology where there is a wealth of information on success and leadership, people are struggling to step into leadership roles. And some who are in the leadership role, face fierce competition in keeping up with their position. In my book 'Success Is Within,' I point out that leadership starts and ends with you.
In this age of information technology, purely gathering information about leadership isn't the key. Think about it, like you, millions of people on this globe access the same information, yet how many have become leaders like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson or Ambani. Mediocrity is infecting the majority. And average is infusing the herd. We ignore the more profound and subtler elements of leadership that make a great leader. In my work with successful and super successful leaders and entrepreneurs globally, I get to closely associate and observe their life and day. And it is contrary to what we believe about these leaders. Most of us believe that great leaders are born. That leadership is about title, position, and power. That once you get into leadership roles, things are smooth. We get smitten by their life and travel. But it’s precisely the opposite. Leadership is about influence and working on yourself. Most literature on leadership comes before the dawn of the digital age. The demands on today's leaders increase in complexity when artificial intelligence (AI) is being considered more as an "employee," rather than, as advanced machines. So, what does it mean to be an effective leader in an environment characterized by increasing digital disruption? I have been able to identify many key competencies and business behaviors of Agile Leaders who thrive in this type of environment. Let me share with you here a day in the life of a leader and five of their habits that each one must develop to lead in this digital era.
Take things personally
In a digital world where people want instant success and provide immediate services, exceptional leaders take things personally. They aren’t in a rush to simply get the next level. They take their work personally. They focus on the ideal outcome. They care so much about those who are associated with them. They work so hard to help people rise. They are devoted to their craft, and they want everything they release to be their best. You have primal genius and dormant greatness within you. And this greatness cannot be released until you begin to take ownership of your results and actions. Begin to work as if success depends on you. Begin to value relationships and people as if they are your own. Take responsibility for your words and actions. Display a genuine passion for your work.
Leadership must be driven by an attitude of openness and a genuine hunger for knowledge. Today, leaders need to deal with unprecedented changes and an unpredictable and challenging future. The advent of new technologies drives this revolution
Have a morning routine
What does your morning look like? Do you wake up to emails and messages on your phone? Do you wake up late on weekends and take things easy? I once coached a client who said that the first thing he does as soon as he wakes up is to respond to all emails that come from his India and China team. He admits this pattern of his actions hasn’t got him any success in his job, and he remains stuck in the role of a senior manager. Leaders who I have shadowed have a different morning. They have a strict morning routine. Technology isn’t on their mind. They start their day with meditation, exercise, and journaling. Your morning can dictate the rest of your workday. Develop a morning routine that will help you to be happy, healthy, and successful. A morning ritual will help you to avoid mental fatigue.
In a constantly connected world, it can seem hard to get anything done. A never-ending stream of emails, notifications, and messages mean there are endless demands on our attention and time, and it's increasingly hard to focus on one specific task. Most people feel that successful leaders have "superhuman" ability to concentrate without distractions. In this age of technology, distractions have drained the human mind and made us average thinkers. Successful leaders navigate through distractions by using what I call ‘Chunking Time’ technique. And one the elements of this technique is pre-planning. Most of my high-end executive client’s days are pre-planned the night before. They intentionally plan out their day by chunking it down by every hour for productive and result-oriented tasks. Chunking time is very different from a to-do list that most of us create. Compartmentalization allows them to focus on a particular task without being distracted about what's coming up in the next compartment. It is action-oriented and proven to increase productivity. They are time protective. There is a good amount of time allocated for deep thinking and creativity.
In a digital world where people want instant success and provide immediate services, exceptional leaders take things personally. They aren’t in a rush to simply get the next level. They focus on the ideal outcome. They care so much about those who are associated with them. They work so hard to help people rise
Leadership must be driven by an attitude of openness and a genuine hunger for knowledge. Today, leaders need to deal with unprecedented changes and an unpredictable and challenging future. The advent of new technologies drives this revolution. It can be tempting as a leader to get wrapped up in the day to day grind of running a business. Successful leaders are known to think ahead, always searching for opportunity. They have an ‘always be learning attitude.’ In an age where disruptions in the industry take place almost daily, you’ve got to keep an open attitude towards being a constant learner. Don’t get too comfortable with your knowledge and success. Push yourself to learn continuously and to come up with new ideas. Read voraciously and be curious to know more. No matter how high your level of mastery, there is always more to discover.
There is one unique quality that you can develop that will guarantee you greater success, accomplishment, and happiness in life. This quality is so essential that, if you don’t develop it to a high degree, it is impossible for you ever to achieve what you are truly capable of achieving. It is the quality of Self-discipline. I have studied successful men and women for more 20 years and found the element of a disciplined life in each of them. As Lou Holtz rightly puts it, ‘without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.’ You can play video games for hours each day or become the undisputed master of your craft. But you can’t do both. Checking your social notifications, watching the news, surfing the web and shopping online steals the self-discipline that could be used for developing a core skill, scaling your business, getting ultra-fit, or strengthening your inner world. Discipline is the gateway to the achievement of your goals. Learn how to use discipline in your life to achieve your dreams. Each day make a conscious choice of what you must absolutely do versus what you want to do.
It’s possible to achieve your leadership dream. There are no “lucky coincidences” and the notion that one can “stumble into success” is a myth. Being a leader is more than just skillsets and training. It’s got to do a lot with your mindset. Begin to develop a leadership mindset in the age of a digital mindset and see the difference.
This article by Payal Nanjiani is published in People Matters Magazine.