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10 Things A Truly Great Leader Do Every Day

10 Things A Truly Great Leader Do Every Day

The annals of history have been illuminated by tales of inspirational leaders, from William the Conqueror and Robert the Bruce to political stalwarts such as the great Winston Churchill. These individuals, though separated by thousands of years and the opportunism of circumstance, retained several key attributes that are inherent among all great leaders. Given that gifted leaders often emerge during times of austerity such as war or famine, however, the absence of these circumstances in developed economies has made it difficult for truly inspirational individuals to stand out in modern times.

Sir Winston Churchill

    This may explain the perceived lack of genuine leaders in 2014, although another argument could also be extended. A recent study by Dale Carnegie Training revealed that nearly 75% of modern-day employees were not fully engaged at work, with a lack of leadership from supervisors and management cited as one of the primary reasons for this. If this is to be taken at face value, it suggests that many of today’s leaders lack the necessary skills and natural attributes to inspire those around them on a daily basis.

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    With this debate in mind, it is worth considering how the accepted traits of great leaders may be translated into everyday actions and decision making in the contemporary age. Consider the following things that a genuinely inspirational leader does on a daily basis.

    1. They communicate in a straightforward and direct manner.

    While many of the historical great leaders have inspired through example, communication is also a crucial weapon if you are to motivate those around you. The finest leaders strive to communicate in a direct and straightforward manner at all times, without ever alienating their staff or creating unnecessary friction. Although this is an easily acquired skill, it also requires an innate ability to listen to those around you and articulate thoughts into understandable words and actions. Whether delivering good or bad news, this philosophy encourages mutual trust and helps to establish productive, long-term relationships.

    2. They delegate tasks to trusted associates.

    There is a romantic ideal which suggests that great leaders tend to stand alone, but this is often far from the truth. The majority of inspirational leaders have relied on a strong and trusted support network, whether you consider the loyal armies that followed monarchs such as Henry Tudor into battle or the political aides that helped great Presidents like John F. Kennedy to effect social change. The same principle applies today, as the very best leaders place faith in their closest allies and delegate tasks so that they can remain focused on executing a single, overall strategy.

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    John F Kennedy

      3. They put people in the right and appropriate duty.

      Great leaders have an innate ability to think analytically, and develop strategies that create a purposeful and motivated team. More specifically, they are able to analyze a group of employees or associates and distinguish between the members who offer value and those who do not. Beyond this, great leaders also ensure that roles are handed out appropriately so that each individual can maximize their own potential. This is part of a continual process, and one which aids the accomplishment of independent and team-orientated goals.

      4. They demonstrate the presence of a clear and concise plan.

      The ability to communicate directly, delegate and think analytically helps to inspire trust in others, and this forms the cornerstone of effective leadership. It is also important that every action or decision is taken with a clearly defined goal in mind, as this strengthens the faith that each individual or team of people has in your leadership credentials. While the strategies that you use to achieve your goals can be constantly adapted to suit your needs, you must remain focused on a fixed final objective and demonstrate this strength of will to those around you.

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      5. They host regular and meaningful one-to-ones.

      In a commercial environment, managers often carry out one-to-ones with individual employees in an attempt to review their performance and develop personal growth plans for the future. While this is a worthwhile exercise in theory, it means little unless the interaction is meaningful and allows both parties involved to express themselves confidently. Great leaders use one-to-ones as a medium to communicate openly and regularly with their subjects, in an environment that empowers people to find their voice and share their opinions without trepidation.

      6. They actively manage conflicts when necessary.

      In between scheduled one-to-ones, leaders may also be required to mediate and resolve conflicts in their team. This is a far more challenging exercise, as conflict tends to be emotive and therefore generates high levels of feeling between the aggrieved parties. Great leaders face these challenges every single day, and use their natural authority to create a calm and productive environment where people can share their views honestly and constructively. By using their natural communication skills to listen and empathize, they can arrive at a fair compromise which satisfies all parties involved.

      7. They exhibit leadership maturity at all times.

      The ability to mediate and resolve conflict is an example of leadership maturity, which is crucial for anyone who aims to gain respect and credibility in a management role. Great leaders understand that this must be exhibited at all times, and used to influence every single decision, action and strategy that they execute. Having maturity as a leader will ensure that you conduct yourself with dignity even during challenging times, whether you are forced to deliver bad news or make a decision that has a negative impact on your subjects. For an example, you need look no further that the former U.S. President George Washington, who was renowned for his enduring dignified and composed manner.

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      Portrait of George Washington

        8. They understand the value of “siege mentality.”

        While the term “siege mentality” hardly sounds positive, it has tremendous relevance when applied to leadership. It is a philosophy which has been utilized by sporting management icons, such as former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who would often use high profile defeats and subsequent media criticism to strengthen his players resolve and draw them together as a more unified group. This has considerable merits in commercial leadership, as it can encourage employees to improve their performance and levels of collaboration to help drive companies forward in a challenging market.

        Alex Ferguson

          9. They plan ahead for the future.

          Great leaders share a great deal in common with entrepreneurs, as they often have unusually high levels of courage and are able to inspire others in the pursuit of a common goal. Another key attribute that unifies these demographics is their vision and capacity for forward planning as they strive to establish a durable legacy for the long-term future. Great leaders are always motivated by effecting change long after they have gone, and constantly plan for a time when they are no longer able to take the helm.

          10. They learn and develop as individuals.

          Perhaps the single greatest attribute that unifies great and inspirational leaders is their level of drive, which enables them to maintain progress even during times of austerity. These characteristics also inspire them to be proactive when pursuing knowledge and personal development, as they constantly want to learn and improve as individuals. Through an insatiable appetite for life and a willingness to reflect on their own performance every single day, great leaders continually evolve and achieve new heights as they grow older.

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          The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

          The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

          It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

          Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

          “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

          In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

          New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

          There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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          So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

          What is the productivity paradox?

          There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

          In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

          He wrote in his conclusion:

          “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

          Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

          How do we measure productivity anyway?

          And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

          In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

          But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

          In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

          But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

          Possible causes of the productivity paradox

          Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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          • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
          • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
          • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
          • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

          There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

          According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

          Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

          The paradox and the recession

          The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

          “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

          This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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          According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

          Looking forward

          A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

          “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

          Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

          “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

          On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

          Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

          Reference

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