The Secrets to Becoming a Great Leader Revealed

Published on Forbes.com 8/7/2014

In the book, The 7 Non-Negotiable of Winning (The 7NNs), we share the philosophies that have helped our company and our people at Fishbowl through some economic recession and beyond.

Our company survived over a decade of ups and downs in the business world because our team is made of the “right stuff.” It’s not DNA. You don’t have to be born with it. You don’t have to graduate from a prestigious institution of higher ed or inherit a trust fund. Leadership is a skill we all can learn and continue to refine and tune throughout our lifetime. Leaders often emerge during the most trying times.

We want to share with you the characteristics that we recognized in our team with the hope that you can “try them on” and see if any of them work for you. We are often asked, “What is the secret sauce, the recipe for knowing if you are a great contributor and ultimately a great leader?” There are a multitude of recipes (characteristics).

One very interesting point: our team believes that great leaders first see and appreciate the extraordinariness in others. When you have the opportunity to work with inspiring, thoughtful, forgiving and understanding people it naturally rubs off. Most likely you have heard this one before. The part that most people miss is that they think the “leader” they can learn from most from is someone at the top of the organization, “an influencer”. The world has changed and today – the leader is one with the skills leading out, making a difference and creating results.

Here are 7 common leadership characteristics that we talk about in the 7NNs:

1. Extraordinary workers can adapt quickly to change and they are open to new ideas. Most are not born with this skill, but learn it and refine it over time.

2. By nature, they are hard workers. They can go longer and create more than the average person. My son, Cameron, only lived 25 years, but he worked and served enough for two lifetimes in his short time on this earth. He was extraordinary and he was a loyal, creative worker.

3. They understand what empowerment means and immediately get down to business creating good things that produce prosperity all around them. They require little guidance and intuitively know how to build great things.

4. They never feel like they have done enough, and this internal drive sets them apart from the crowd.

5. They are constantly moving and creating and helping others to do the same. Extraordinary people are in the game of work sweating, scoring, and sometimes even getting a bit bruised. They intuitively build for something bigger than themselves and for the joy of creating.

6. They are often misunderstood and sometimes unfairly labeled and judged. Yet they don’t pass on the negativity or doubt. They don’t snuff the light and energy out of other people’s dreams and ideas. Instead, they are happy to add their thoughts and suggestions with no concern for who ultimately receives the credit.

7. The rest of the “right stuff” recipe is included in this video: http://youtu.be/6BlTqtgBaBI

We encourage other leaders to watch the video and loosen the reins or, better yet, remove them altogether. Set some clear guidelines for your team members and then let them do their thing as only they can. Help them when they need it.

Most companies don’t really empower people – managers tell their employees to go do something, but the employees always have a rope around their necks and as soon as they make a mistake or they get close to falling off a cliff that rope is yanked and their empowerment is gone.

Next time you ask them to feel empowered and do something great they aren’t going to trust you and they aren’t going to buy into they won’t give their all they will be fearful of failing. All the things that make great things come to pass are eliminated because of fear.

A rope around their neck is not really empowerment. We all make mistakes and in most companies that is when the rope yanked.

We developed seven characteristics to be in the people business, and they are called the 7 Non-Negotiables. The reason we call them Non-Negotiables is because they are personal and private agreements each person makes with themselves.

Respect, Belief, Trust, Loyalty, Commitment, Courage, and Gratitude existed long before we came to this earth and will be there long after we are gone. For us, they are a gentle path that keeps life peaceful and inspiring, always leading to higher ground.

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