It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.
- Deng Xiaoping
I recently traveled to Shanghai, Moganshan and Chengdu for the EYES China Summit 2013. During my stay, I met entrepreneurs, young and old, business men and thought leaders as well as people who are active in politics. Here are some of the lessons we can all learn from China’s good leadership:
- Relationships: It is incredibly important to care about personal communication and the building of relationships. The Chinese take this so much more seriously than many others. Take the time to really care about people and thus earn their friendship and trust. You will be a good leader.
- Value creation: The two-character Chinese word for business, sheng yi, literally means “create new meanings.” Enough said?
- Value your people: Emperor Tang Taizong, of the Tang Dynasty, one of China’s most admired leaders ever, famously said, “With a bronze mirror, one can see whether he is properly attired; with history as a mirror, one can understand the rise and fall of a nation; with people as a mirror, one can see whether he is right or wrong.”
- Change, but not too fast: China is opening to the world, step by step. They are incredibly smart in the way they control their people and gradually give them more freedom and opportunities. A sudden change would result in chaos. Their gradual approach is promising.
- Value the team and the cause: Do not put yourself into the centre, work for the team and share the pride of good results. Sometimes we try too hard to portrait ourselves as great individuals. Remember, we are only here because we made a team effort.
In the last ten years it was all about “Made in China”. For the next ten years it will all be about “Bought by China”, and in the years after that it will all be “Paid in Yuan”.
Traveling is not about seeing new places… but it is about learning to see with different eyes.
Here is General Mark Welsh, at the time Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, speaking after lunch at the Air Force Academy in November 2011. I encourage everyone to watch the speech in its entire length. It may just be the greatest leadership speech you’ve ever heard:
Here are six lessons that we as entrepreneurs can take away from his speech:
Lesson 1 – “You will make a difference”
He says this in the light of young airmen wondering whether what they will do will make a difference in their career or not. Every entrepreneur get to ask that question at least one: “Will I make a difference?” A friends once said: “Entrepreneurship is in itself a social activity, because you are creating jobs.” Rest assured, you will make a difference.
Lesson 2 – “Make sure you have credibility”
Entrepreneurs have to show credibility all the time, be it in front of investors or in front of your first customer or employee. A leadership trait that carries just as much value for entrepreneurs. If you don’t have it yet, make sure you work on it. Be credible.
Lesson 3 – “Pay attention to detail”
“Ups, that mistake just cost us $50,000. I wish I had noticed earlier.” Gen. Welsh mentions attention to detail as a deciding factor between life or death. In Entrepreneurship this may well mean the life or death of your company. Detail is important.
Lesson 4 – “You will need to be brave”
No pain no game, no risk no fun… no matter how you want to put it, every successful entrepreneur will tell you that there are ups as well as downs. If you are scared and can’t get back up on your feet when you just got a slap in the face, then you are in for a ride. Entrepreneurs need to be brave.
Lesson 5 – “Thank your people”
“I just wanted to thank you for the awesome job you’re doing.” When was the last time you said this? You know that your achievement is not yours alone. Be proud of the people who you work with and let them know.
Lesson 6 – “Know their story”
Especially during the start-up phase of a business, it is easy to get caught up in work and forget that you are leading PEOPLE. A good entrepreneur knows his people and is sensitive to the individual employee’s background. Know their story.
General Mark Welsh is one of the Top 6 Senior Leaders in the Air Force and serves as a military adviser to the Secretary of Defense, National Security Council and the President of the United States.
“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln
This study will shock you:
- At Zenger/Folkman they analysed 17,000 worldwide leaders who had participated in their training program, who hailed from companies in virtually every sector throughout the world.
- Their average age was 42. (Maybe just what you would have expected.)
- However, get this: The average age at which they got into a leadership position within their companies was around 33! This means that they had been leading, on average, for about 10 years before actually getting trained for it.
- Notably, less than 10% of the leadership training attendees were under 30; less than 5% were under 27.
This is yet another proof for the sometimes less than obvious fact that we ignore our leaders. We do this with astonishing consistency starting at early childhood education and continuing right through college and eventually our workplace.
While it is never too early to start leadership training with kids, we don’t have to go that far just yet. They don’t have to lead us right now. But could we at least agree that junior managers, like the ones in this Zenger/Folkman study, need to get their leadership training when they need it and not 10 years later?
How much longer can we afford to ignore our leaders?
“I have a dream…”
- Martin Luther King
We all know this line. It reminds us for the importance of leadership.
Leaders take a special place in our society, don’t you think?
Leaders are the ones who get a team together, motivate and inspire everyone on a Sunday night to finish the job that needs to be ready for the Monday morning. Leaders are those who advance science to the point where we make phone calls with a handheld computer that fits into our pockets.
With the lines “I have a dream…” Martin Luther King inspired a generation. He changed the life of millions, who were previously treated like second class citizens, just because their skin colour was slightly darker than ours.
Leaders show initiative. They show courage and perseverance. They defend our values and they move our society forward.
So then… if leadership is so important, and leaders are so precious to us, then surely you would think that we spend most of our time educating, training and fostering the next generation of leaders, those who are young, starting out and who want to learn those skills that will help them take over, right? What could be more important?
Well, the sad news is that we don’t. Our education system does not spend much time, if any at all, on educating our next generation of leaders.
We tend to ignore them.
“Only 42% of employers believe that graduates entering the workforce are adequately prepared for the job.” – McKinsey & Company
If colleges were scored on to how well they prepare students for their careers, they would get a whopping 42%. That’s a solid E/F, or a GPA of 0.00 – 0.99.
Or said differently, if you are going to college, there is a 58% chance that you are not being well prepared for your future. This means that, if you are not aware of it and concisouly doing something about it, then you will fall into the sills gap.
The Skills Gap
This is what is commonly known as “The Skills Gap”. It is the difference between the level of the skills you currently have and the level you need to attain in order to be successful. The size of your skills gap determines just how successful you are at what you are doing. Not exclusively, but to a large extent.
Here are 17 skills that are tipically not taught at School or University, but that are absolutely essential for your journey to inspire, create and excel:
- public speaking
- effectively leading a team
- taking risks and taking responsibility
- building and maintaining meaningful relationships
- inspriring others (SALES anyone?)
- using and interpreting body language
- think finances (personal and business)
- conflict management
- stress management & lifestyle balance
- time management
- quick thinking and prioritising
- coaching & teaching
- personal development
This list is not exhaustive, but it is a good start at what we should focus on when educating the next generation leadership.
As already mentioned in my article on the imperative of going to college:
“Managing time, money and connections, gaining and maintaining meaningful relationships, effective public speaking, creativity, leadership and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. All of those, you will agree, are pretty essential for leading a successful life… yet when and where are these taught at college?”
You have to train yourself. Make sure you know how large your skills gap is and then make it a priority to gain those skills.
How big is YOUR skills gap?
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
― Jack London
I am fortunate to know a lot of people who are passionate, motivated, and inspired to achieve all they want to achieve. They build companies, they create movements, they change things. Everyone in their own right makes the world a little better, every day. And as it turns out, in the end, “being inspired” and “being inspiring” is really one and the same thing.
On the other hand, I meet a lot of people who are the complete opposite. They don’t know what to do in their lives, they are not passionate or enthusiastic about anything specific… and as a result, they never make an impact. But why?
This is what I call “The Inspiration Gap”.
What if it was in our power to inspire people to be inspired?
What if those people in turn inspired more people to be inspired?
Here are 10 things you can do today to bridge the inspiration gap:
- Be a good example. People watch what you do more than they listen to what you say. Be someone worth emulating.
- Care about others. People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. Ask questions. Take a genuine interest in people.
- Encouragement. Everyone goes through tough times. When you support people and encourage them through these times, you’ll be inspiring them to see the best in themselves and in the situation.
- Be inspired yourself. Look for people, ideas, environments and knowledge that you find inspiring and motivating.
- Share from your own experience. You have more to share than you realize. Mine the rich experiences of your life and share your wisdom from your unique point of view. You may be the only one who can touch someone with your inspiring message.
- Be vulnerable. Be willing to share your failures as well as your successes. Others will relate to you. They’ll understand that they’re not the only ones with challenges.
- Tell stories. Facts tell and stories sell. They inspire, too. We learn best from parables and we all need to develop our own inspiring stories.
- Be a good communicator. Increasing your ability to communicate effectively is a critical element for you to inspire others. Watch how you speak and what you say. Invest in your communication skills.
- Challenge people. Many of us have had teachers who at times seemed more like tormentors than mentors. They challenged us to do our best, and we were better for it. Practice “carefrontation”—the careful and caring confrontation of others.
- Read. It may not follow that all readers are leaders, but certainly all leaders are readers. Stay informed. Share what you read with others. Tell people about books that have inspired you. Share the knowledge.
Who have you inspired today?
“I learned law so well, the day I graduated I sued the college, won the case, and got my tuition back.” – Fred Allen
Recently, a friend of mine insisted that his children would have to go to college, no matter what. While I agree that college is, by and large, a good thing, I do not believe that college is the single BEST thing you can do at the age of 18 to 22. Neither do I think that college is the right thing for everyone. Here are six points to support my argument:
1. College education is “standardized”
The famous quote “We are all individuals…” still holds true, even 30+ years after Monthy Python. You cannot expect a standardized learning system, that is focused on transferring masses of knowledge from books into your brain, to fit the needs of the individual. Students need to think for themselves, learn things that are specific to their need and talents.
2. You won’t necessarily earn more money.
College grads earn an average 62% more over the course of their careers than high school grads. But economist Robert Reischauer of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., argues that those numbers are skewed by the fact that smarter kids are more likely to go to college in the first place. In other words, the profitability of higher education is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Besides, after college, all you will be doing is “begging for someone to hire you”.
3. In fact, you could probably make more money if you invested your tuition.
Put $160,000–the approximate cost of a Harvard education–into municipal bonds that pay a conservative 5%, and you’ll have saved more than $500,000 in 30 years. That’s far more than the average college grad will accumulate in the same amount of time.
4. You don’t need to be in a classroom in order to learn something.
Are you telling me that the only way you can learn is by sitting in a classroom? Truly motivated learners can teach themselves almost anything with a couple of books and an Internet connection. Want to learn a hands-on skill or trade? Consider an apprenticeship.
5. Plenty of other people did “just fine”
Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Quentin Tarantino, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, David Geffen, and Thomas Edison, among others, never graduated from college. Peter Jennings and John D. Rockefeller never finished high school.
6. Colleges and Universities teach you close to nothing
Managing time, money and connections, gaining and maintaining meaningful relationships, effective public speaking, creativity, leadership and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. All of those, you will agree, are pretty essential for leading a successful life… yet when and where are these taught at college? Close to nowhere.
Still think everyone needs to go to college?
“My goal wasn’t to make a ton of money. It was to build good computers.”
This video by “Tragedy and Hope” is beautiful as it gets straight to the point. Much of my experience with young and ambitious people has shown me that it is not so much about what you do, or how you do it, but really that it is about “why” you do it. Watch:
Unfortunately our education system fails to produce people who know “why” they want to do what they want to do. Often you hear no more than superficial reasons like “I want to get rich”, “I want to travel the world”, …that obviously lack the substance to serve as a truly fulfilling goal in life.
What are you passionate about?
If you wake up 10 days in a row, wondering why you are currently doing what you do, then you haven’t found something that truely motivates you. Or it is time to move on. You see, life is to short, to spend your time doing things you don’t really feel like doing. Life is too short to fulfil other people’s expectations and not your own. Life is to short to never take a shot at your dreams. So lead the way.
“Wealth flows from energy and ideas.”
The title “What if Money Were No Object?” calls upon you to open your eyes to a world full of opportunities and ideas that go beyond “earning money”. Yes, money is important, but it does not create wealth… energy and ideas do. If you are passionate about something, you will find others who are passionate about it. And if you are good at it, then others will want to learn from you.
What would you do, if money were no object?
“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.”
What is it that sets successful people apart from those who enjoy less success in their lives? Is there a success gene? If so, has anyone decoded the success gene? Is there a chance that you are born to be successful and will nothing be able to stop you?
I strongly believe in successful people drawing from a strength that is their attitude. It is a system that feeds on itself, as it promotes you to the top. Here is a list of behaviors and attitudes that successful people display together with how they can help you get better:
1. They compliment. (Unsuccessful people criticize)
Everybody likes to receive a compliment. It is not only nice, but it also motivates you to move forward. Besides, if you say something nice to someone, then they will enjoy being around you and in turn see you as a nice person. It is nice to be nice.
2. They share information and data (Unsuccessful people think they know it all and either try to impress, or keep the information for themselves.)
People who have something to share are more interesting. If others see you as interesting, then they will want to work with you. Sharing knowledge helps everyone get better, at which point we come to the next point:
3. They want others to succeed (Unsuccessful people secretly want others to fail)
“A successful man never walks alone” and “two hands achieve more than one”. The result of helping and genuinely wanting other to succeed is that others will help you succeed too.
4. They embrace change (Unsuccessful people fear change)
Nothing great has ever been achieved by “leaving everything as it is”. If you want success, you have to be comfortable with the uncomfortable: change. Those who fear change will stay at home, those who embrace change will venture out. They organize and improve things and will find their golden nugget.
5. They take responsibility for their failures (Unsuccessful people blame others for their failures)
Every successful person that has ever lived and will ever live, has failed at something at least once in their life. It is not bad to fail, but it is bad to pretend you had nothing to do with it. Others will respect you for acknowledging you were there. And they will be happy to continue working with you.
6. They give others credit for their victories (Unsuccessful people take all the credit)
If you for one moment think that your success was 100% “made by you”, then think again. The very least you can do is to give credit to those who have helped you in getting to where you are. Share the success, make others successful and proud of what you have achieved together. It is always a team effort. The team then helps you be more successful.
7. They think of how they can help others (Unsuccessful people only think of how they can help themselves)
We have already established that you want others to be successful. Now is the time to think about exactly HOW you can help them. You help them, and they help you. Stop thinking only about what you can do for yourself, and start thinking about how you could help others and make the world a better place. It will come back to you many times.
8. They set goals and develop life plans (Unsuccessful people life by the day, don’t know what they want to be and the vague goals they set for themselves, they don’t achieve)
Everybody knows how productive you can be if you have a goal that you are passionate about. As a matter of fact, it is less important WHAT you are passionate about, than to be passionate about something. The plan may change over time (in fact it certainly will), but having a plan and direction is key to making progress. And by the way, if you have a plan, then chances are that others may follow you because they like your plan.
9. They read every day (Unsuccessful people watch TV every day)
There’s interesting stuff on TV… but here is the point: Use every day to learn more and get better. Still, after so many years and so much hi-tech, the best way to learn is to absorb information through reading. And with that I don’t mean reading the newspaper, but read something of substance and forget about the constant entertainment that only serves to distract you.
10. They keep a positive mindset at all times (Unsuccessful people think the world will end tomorrow)
Who would you rather be surrounded by: Someone who exudes joy, or someone who exudes anger? Positive energy motivates, and anger de-motivates. What you need to be successful is a LOT of motivation. In fact, as much as you can get. You olny have 24 hours in a day… How many of those hours do you want to spend being negative about things?
BONUS: They are generous, they work for free and don’t count the pennies. (Unsuccessful people work everything out down to the penny and only do something if they get paid for it.)
There is no sure path to success, other than defining success as something you already have. Notwithstanding, these 10 behaviours of successful people will come up again and again wherever you see a great person at work.
What are your successful habits?
“Not the cry but the flight of the wild duck leads the flock to fly and to follow.”
- Chinese Proverb
Sandra is a fountain of good ideas. She literally comes up with one brilliant idea after the other. You will often find her talking to her friends and family about a great new idea, but nothing ever happens. Recently she has grown more and more frustrated, because nobody does something about the things she sees wrong in the world. What’s stopping Sandra from taking the initiative herself?
As obvious as it may seem: You do things by doing them, not by talking about them. So start by starting… there’s enough people who talk about things, being smart and analyse the life out of them. Let’s be fair, nothing has ever been achieved by people talking about things. It has always come down to some courageous leader, entrepreneur or revolutionary who took action, and with that action inspired others to follow.
Don’t talk about starting. Start by starting.