7 Habits of the World’s Best Business Leaders

They don't fear criticism, nor do they seek out fame. Here's what else distinguishes the best from the rest.
Author, Profit First
October 02, 2012 Before I tell you how they work, let me first define whom I am talking about when I say “the world’s best leaders.” I'm not just speaking about Steve Jobs, although he was one of them. The world’s best leaders are the people who get things done. The people who take a business from struggle to success. From idea to world-changing reality.

These people are not necessarily at the helm of the company. A leader could be a salesperson who finds a way to both better serve the client and to cut costs while doing it. The two women at Best Buy who introduced Results Oriented Work Environment are leaders for turning the company into a test bed for a whole new way to work. The world’s best leaders can be anyone who has taken charge of having a major, positive impact. That’s whom I am talking about.

Not surprisingly there is a common thread that separates the world’s best leaders from everyone else, and it's not those with the biggest ego, but rather the people who live the following seven habits.

1. They don't seek fame. Fame is merely a natural consequence of what great leaders do. They make decisions that are in the best interest of their customers, their company and their community. They seek to have everyone come out winning. They surely don’t do what they do for media attention. They do what they do, because it is the right thing to do.

2. They don’t fear criticism. The world’s best leaders make decisions that are in the best interest of their customers, their company and their community. Sound familiar?  Just like fame is of no importance, neither is criticism. The outside world will always have detractors and critics. This does not dissuade them. Great leaders clearly delineate what's right from wrong and take action accordingly.  

3. They don’t make superstars. Just like they don’t put themselves on a pedestal (even though the media may), they don’t put anyone else on a pedestal either. To great leaders, the hero is the team. While participants are individually recognized and shown appreciation, everyone on the team is expected to outperform. All the wins are team wins, all the loses are team losses.

4. They are part of the team. 
Great leaders know they are simply serving a role. They have absolute clarity that they are people like anyone else, and while specific roles may have greater importance in getting things done it does not mean the people filling those roles are greater than the others. Great leaders value all the people on their team highly and equally, and this includes themselves.

5. They kill “the cancer.”
 The best leaders know when something isn’t working in the business it is their role to remove it immediately. This could be a dud product, or a rogue employee. Whatever the roadblock is, great leaders instinctively remove it so that the rest of the team can do what they do best, unabated.

6. They ask ten times more questions than answers. 
The late, great Stephen Covey (talk about world’s best leaders) said that highly effective people “seek to understand before they seek to be understood.” Great leaders do this by asking questions far more than they wield answers. Questions are the most powerful tool in a world-class leader’s toolbox.

7. Their “God” is the vision. 
Great leaders know that they must ultimately answer to the vision they have set. The vision is the beacon toward which they lead their team. Even when morale is down, detractors are everywhere, great leaders always answer to the vision. Every great innovation that has ever happened, first started with a vision and ultimately came to reality because of a staunch commitment to that vision.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I explained that anyone can be a great leader.  It is true. But to close, I still want to share a story about Steve Jobs. I think his story exemplifies what I just shared.  

Jobs was known to beat the drum of Apple’s vision relentlessly. During one of the early iPhone iterations, his team came in with a prototype and he said it was not compact enough. They told him that is was impossible to make it any more compact, that there was no room left to make it smaller. Jobs then dropped the phone into a fish tank, and bubbles came up from the phone. He said, “Look. See those bubbles. There is more room.” That’s staying true to the vision.

Mike Michalowicz is the CEO of Provendus Group, a business growth consulting agency that helps companies whose growth has plateaued to move forward again. Michalowicz is the author of The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurial topics. His popular small business blog shares strategies and techniques for entrepreneurs.

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