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4 Ways to Be a Leader Who Matters


Wed Jan 02 2013


(From inc.) -- The greatest need we face in business today is leadership that makes real, positive change in the long term.



Because of the financial market's short-term focus on results, the media's need to fill columns with stories linked to current events, and a culture that fetes celebrity, we reward the new, the counter-intuitive and the loud.


And yet the most important challenges we face are none of these things.


Our greatest challenge is to to build companies that grow and are profitable in the long term, which provide valuable and rewarding employment, and which contribute to a just and fair society.



Achieving this requires leaders who are prepared to do more than simply rush to the next opportunity and extract the maximum short-term gain. Leaders who think, act and value the long-term. Leaders who change lives, and who leave a legacy.


I get to spend every day with leaders from businesses of all sizes and types, and over the years I've come to believe that most want to do just this, but find it hard to break free from the insistent demands of the urgent, to focus on the quieter needs of what is important and lasting.



I've also watched as many have achieved true greatness--those who have become leaders who changed industries, cities, lives. Here are the four steps I've seen all of them take, in becoming a leader who makes a difference:


1. Find a place of solitude. Every great leader needs a place where they can think. Somewhere away from the constant clatter of incoming information, somewhere quiet, somewhere contemplative. A blessed few leaders have the mental strength to achieve this state of abstraction anywhere--in a crowded office, or anytime during the hurly-burly of a busy day.


The rest of us need to work at it.


For me, walking my dogs twice a day gives me the time I need to think consciously, unpolluted by the dopamine-inducing ping of incoming email or the lure of conversation (tip: leave the cell phone behind or switch it off). Other leaders I know use a visit to the gym, the act of making a meal, or have a favorite chair in a quiet room.

Where's your place of solitude?


2. Discover your contemplation trigger. Solitude is a worthwhile state in and of itself, but we're considering it here as a vehicle--a means to think clearly and deeply about matters of importance. But with all the manifold possibilities, with the myriad of issues that press in on us every day, what should we spend time thinking about in more detail?


It's alarmingly easy to emerge from an hour of solitude to discover that our lizard brain has hopscotched from topic to topic, or dwelt on matters of (merely) tactical importance. Here's what I use as my "contemplation trigger": "What is the single greatest challenge I face today that will profoundly affect the success of my enterprise one year from now?"


The one-year horizon works for me in most cases because of the nature of my business. However, at least once a year, I set aside a week's contemplation to dwell on a three-year horizon. (Your mileage may vary.)

Read more.

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