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What do Marc Cuban, Zappos & Steve Wynn Have in Common? The Core Qualities of Leadership
What are the essential qualities that make a great leader? What are the skills, strategies, or tools that we can use to shape our natural gifts into true effective leadership?
For more than 35 years I’ve been obsessed with learning the answer to what makes a difference in the quality of people’s lives: Why is it that some people who are given every advantage so often fail to achieve what they desire and deserve. In contrast, we all know people who have lived incredibly difficult lives—lives filled with unimaginable challenges, and often injustice—who still seem to find a way to breakthrough and get results, not only for themselves, but find a way to serve others in a very deep and meaningful way.
I’ve had the honor of working in 100 countries with more than 50 million people from every walk of life—from incredible leaders to the most challenged individuals you can imagine. We’ve had 4 million people in my live seminars, so at this point I’d have to be an idiot if I didn’t see that there are certain patterns that cause people to succeed and other patterns that cause people to fail—patterns that cause people to be overwhelmed and stressed out and other patterns that allow people to find deep meaning and success in virtually every aspect of their lives.
Part of my understanding has come from the fact that for decades I’ve been a leader called upon by leaders. I get the call when the fire starts. When the President of the United States has to address the nation. When an athlete is burning down on national television and I’m required to intervene and create measurable change on a moment’s notice.
The one thing that I’ve found that separates the quality of people’s lives—the single largest difference—is the capacity to lead. Leadership skills are not just a gift. Leadership skills are something anyone can learn.
Who is a leader? You and I both know it’s not always the person who controls things by position. How many times have we been in a meeting when the person at the lowest position was influencing the direction of a decision or a project? We all know that leadership—whether you are the CEO, or the manager, or the mom—is about the ability to influence the thoughts, emotions, and actions of other human beings.
But here’s the key: there’s an energy to leadership. There’s a passion. There’s a level of connectedness that leaders have with others. It’s their ability to get things done and make progress that sets them apart.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from and become friends with legendary leaders. People like Las Vegas casino tycoon Steve Wynn, who defines vision, energy, and relationship. In 1989, when a new major casino had not been built in nearly 20 years, he decided to test his vision and put it into action by building the Mirage and then quickly thereafter Treasure Island. Then after proving his success, he created the magnificent icon of the Bellagio. Steve started a $12 billion building boom, which has culminated in his finest works in the Wynn and the Encore. For turning Las Vegas into the premiere entertainment capital for much of the world, Time Magazine recognized him as one of the “World’s 100 Most Influential People.”
Or what about Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos, who took what most people thought was a crazy idea—selling women’s shoes over the Internet? Are you kidding me? Women will never buy shoes over the Internet, they have to try them on. The answer: Free shipping and guaranteed free returns. It was a huge risk, but he decided that it wasn’t about selling shoes; it was about delivering happiness. Zappos inspired a level of customer service that was completely unheard of and took a company from an apartment in San Francisco to the largest online shoe retailer, which Amazon bought in a deal valued at $1.2 billion.
What do you think it took for a guy like my dear friend Marc Benioff to leave Oracle and take his vision of converting onerous business software into something as easy and engaging as using Facebook or buying a book on Amazon? In less than 13 years, he transformed an idea into salesforce.com, a $3 billion company, which this year, for the second year in a row, was named “The Most Innovative Company in the World” by Forbes.
All of these people all have different styles. But leadership, in its essence, comes from the same core qualities. It’s not just great oratory. The spirit of great leadership is the capacity to take visions and to influence others to do more than they would ever have done on their own. Great leaders help people raise their own standards so that regardless of whether or not the leader is present, the organization or individual still performs at a higher level than ever before. At its essence, leadership is the ability to inspire people. It’s the ability to ignite the human spirit and execute consistently.
Leadership is not luck nor is it haphazard. Anyone who has been successful in any one area consistently is not lucky. They are doing something unique. Remember, success leaves clues!
My obsession has been to find what great leaders do, codify it and put it into a system where people don’t just learn it intellectually, but where they’re so engaged that they build the mental and emotional muscles that get them to follow through when the going gets tough. Because ultimately, it’s not what you know but what you do consistently that defines your level of impact.
In any organization, the chokehold on the growth of the business is almost always the psychology and the skill sets of the leader. Sometimes their psychology lacks energy: often, they are emotionally exhausted by things in their personal life, or sometimes there’s an energy leak because they are stressed about relationships within the organization or with clients that they are not connecting with. Sometimes the challenge stems from a lack of financial mastery, or other times it’s a lack of time mastery. I’ve found 80% of success is psychology and 20% is based on skill sets.
Leaders from the President of the United States to the president of a software company are often defined by their different styles. But there are seven core qualities that extraordinary leaders seem to share in common.
A blog is short and I like to go deep. Over the next few weeks we’ll dig into each of the seven core qualities of leadership. Each day we’ll give you one of these principles to evaluate and measure. Whether you are a CEO or a parent, you can see which qualities you might want to strengthen to enhance your ability to lead in your business or personal life.
Here’s a list of what I’ll cover over the next few weeks — watch for these posts!
7 Core Qualities of Extraordinary Leaders
- Leadership Secret Number One: Pure Energy!
- Leadership Secret Two: A Leader’s Edge in Uncertain Times
- Leadership Secret Three: Two Skills Great Leaders Master
- Leadership Secret Four: Eliminate the Chokehold to Growth
- Leadership Secret Five: Honor Success and Celebrate Victory
- What I’ve Learned About Great Leaders (Photo by The Enchanted Tim)