Opinion by Thought Leaders
Read the latest opinions from tech & business pros across the globe.

Why Fear is Every Leader’s Worst Enemy

 

What do leaders struggle with? High-achieving performers and executives generally direct their attention to practical matters regarding execution of strategies, completion of large initiatives, revenue generation and so much more. Obviously, lofty goals come with their own challenges to face on the path of continued success for the individual and the organization. While it's tempting to throw tools and training of all kinds at high performers to support their endeavors, is that what leaders truly need? Is it really as simple as offering additional strategic and tactical advice?

If the answer was yes, then no company anywhere would find it challenging to reach their goals and realize their vision with the right talent in the mix.

Because humans are involved, it's not that simple. Businesses and HR departments spend a lot of time and energy trying to find programs and approaches that will equip their high performers with tools rather than taking the time to find out what makes their leaders and innovators tick. Personality tests are helpful, but they are limited in their utility. Likewise, skills- and habit-focused training is somewhat generic in that there's often a one-size-fits-most, formulaic approach. The truth is that there is no out-of-the-box test, training, or formula that will succeed in moving a leader forward if there's an underlying reason why the individual hesitates to do what needs to be done in the first place. Typically, there is an underlying reason, and it's a common one despite evidence of outward success.

That reason is fear.

Yes, fear. We tend to believe that the more success someone has, the less fear is a factor in how they think and operate. In my experience as an executive coach, that's simply not true. In fact, as the perceived stakes become higher with more responsibility and status, fear becomes more complex. It may not show up in recognizable form, making it harder to trace to the root cause. Perhaps fear shows up as hesitation to take action or have a difficult conversation. It frequently shows up in the form of procrastination, as it's easier to put something off than face the reasons why they won't take it on. It can also manifest as time spent on areas that are less critical. It's more comfortable to focus on a less complicated action or project rather than deal with the real priority because there's risk and uncertainty involved.

To further complicate matters, being near the top of an organization can be isolating. Who can you be vulnerable with? Can you be truthful without being punished for doing so? Will what you share be used against you? Will the truth of the leader's experience make them appear weak and poorly equipped to handle their role? Whether these concerns are based in reality or not, sharing vulnerabilities and asking for support is perceived as too big of a risk to take.

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Health and Wellness of Successful Leaders

 

Taking care of yourself is a key part of being a successful leader. To that end, it's necessary to build in time for yourself to ensure you're putting your best self forward every day. "Health and wellness" will mean different things to different people. To some, it may mean eating cleaner, cutting out processed foods and making smarter choices with natural, whole foods. To others it means finally establishing a regular exercise routine every morning before hitting the office. To others it may mean taking 15 minutes out of the day to meditate or do yoga, or even start parking far from the building in order to get a walk in twice daily. Perhaps to you, it means taking steps to reduce the anxiety and stress that is infiltrating your life.   Whatever the case may be, health and wellness should be a priority for every leader.


Prioritizing Health for Success

As a leader, you're more vulnerable to stress than others. As a result of putting others first as well as your growing business, you may have been neglecting your own health, happiness and well-being. It may work for awhile, but no one can keep that up for very long. The sad result is often failure and burnout. With burnout comes a loss of productivity, which is never good for anyone's bottom line -- or health for that matter. The recipe for long-term success begins and ends with you.

At its core, leadership is about the ability to set a vision and persist over the long run as you lead yourself and others to take on the challenges of running a successful business. Taking care of yourself now will impact your energy levels and stamina over the long haul. Yet so many leaders ignore this simple fact and just keep running on empty. As your tasks grow bigger and the work piles up day after day, it's understandable that self-care will be relegated to the back burner to make way for more critical priorities.  But while it's understandable, it's also not OK. Those who don’t prioritize their health can become fatigued, stressed, dehydrated, sick and yes, unbearable to work with. This pattern of behavior is more common than you might think. One thing is for sure: managing your health is a vital part of being not only a successful leader but an effective human being too.


Stress: It's a Killer

You didn't get where you are today by shying away from challenges and the stress that comes with it. But just because you've made it this long doesn't mean you're immune. Some day, it will affect your ability to be a successful leader, and that's science talking. You may blame your nagging headaches, frequent insomnia and decreased productivity on illness. However, stress may be at the root of it all. Stress symptoms can affect your whole body, as well as your well-being, thoughts, feelings and behavior. It can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity, and can increase your risk for heart attack, says the Mayo Clinic.   Common effects of stress on your body include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Change in sex drive
  • Upset stomach
  • Difficulty sleeping

In addition to the physical health side effects of stress, there's also mood to contend with. It can lead to anxiety, depression, restlessness, lack of motivation and focus, and irritability. 

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How To Build An Effective Team For Success

 

Building a team is much like building a home: brick by brick, step by step. The first building block is exceptional leadership. From there, everything else will fall into place with the end result being a pretty even blend of both an art and a science. A leader who can consistently build high-performance teams is key to the success of the whole operation. Large and small, companies need someone with the knowledge of building long-lasting teams -- something many managers can't do and the reason why many leaders don't reach the highest forms of success. Forbes puts it this way: it requires the ability to master the art of people, knowing just how to maneuver hundreds of people at the right place at the right time. 

Akin to a game of chess, building an effective team takes strategy and a little bit of luck, with strength at the forefront even amidst the knowledge that the wrong move could cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nothing like pressure, right? Well, leaders operate their best under pressure. Building a team is just another day at the park for top executive leaders. So, how can you get there? Let's take a closer look.


Focus on Roles

A thorough selection process brings long-term benefits, even if this means you spend more time recruiting than you have time for. Hiring someone just to have bodies in the room can imperil your team, points out Entrepreneur. You don't want to run the risk of becoming a revolving door, whether that's because prospective employees view the role as a temporary landing pad and don't really want to put in the investment of learning, or because you realize later that they won't make a good fit. Either way, time is money. Invest resources in people whose roles truly match with objectives set forth by your company. Often, this isn't something that sticks out on their resume. No candidate will say "I'm only aiming for this job as a stepping stone to something better." Often, this takes gut instincts on your part -- another quality of a great leader.


Play to Strengths

Understanding what each individual member's strengths are allows each person to shine. It's rare for an employee to vastly improve on a deficiency, especially if that deficiency is just a part of their character. A team member who isn't good at managing details will probably never be good at that task. But if you play to their strengths -- perhaps they're great at communication with clients -- and pair them with a detail-oriented team member, you'll shore up both parties.


Encourage Transparency

Just like families, teams need to know how to work things out on their own. You can't be called in to referee every little disagreement. When things start going off the rails, bring together those who aren't getting along and make them work through their concerns, suggests Inc. Letting them put you in the middle of a he said/she said situation wastes your resources that could be better spent elsewhere (like making money for your company). Your job as a leader is to help your team members understand each other better. Sure, it will be uncomfortable at first. Such transparency is always raw at the beginning. But instilling this strategy right off will encourage them to try resolving internal issues on their own, only bringing you into the equation when absolutely necessary.

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Traits That Make A Great Digital Leader

 

As the eCommerce market continues to grow in the United States and continues to take over the traditional brick and mortar stores, the need for digital leaders is important. However, the digital economy is a frontier that needs to be groomed and tamed still for the average company. In a report created by MIT and Deloitte called Aligning the Organization for Its Digital Future, they say that 44% of organizations are not prepared for the new digital issues that are going to arise in their future. But what does that even mean for your company? Preparing for the digital future is not a rudimentary task, but an overarching task that encompasses your company’s ethos, activities, people, culture, and structure of operations. Despite so many changes that are on the horizon for the average company in America almost 90% of organizations have stated that they have attempted to upgrade their companies digitally. Whether those decisions come from the big corporate overhead structure or from the small office down the hall there has to be digital leaders that are bringing those to changes to fruition. There are many traits that distinguish a digital leader in being able to take the lead in a company.

They Hire Digital Natives
One of the most important traits to possess is talent attraction strategies that will bring new foreword thinking individuals to an organization. Making sure that they are developing the talent in their office to match the development from the overall tech industry. They will be able to be encouraging to the other members of that staff and will collaborate to bring new digital methods to the employees. Also, surrounding yourself with smart individuals is always a recipe for success.

Digital Strategy
Having a digital strategy for the company that you are working for is the bread and butter to having a digitally forward thinking company. Making sure to have a positive digital footprint should be the number one concern for your digital leader. That involves making sure the customer experience is up to par with other digital companies that are already established online. Having constant engagement with your clients online will show that there is a digital proof that you are taking care of your customers and open to facilitating dialogue with the constant needs of your customer base. Being proactive in your online strategy is a valid method to creating a positive social proof of your company. Set the tone for your customer experience to be constructive, easy to distinguish, and contains a history of positive reviews.

Distinctive Branding
A digital leader will consider all types of factors when they are creating distinctive branding for their company online. They will understand that a brand’s very existence is key with the branding and marketing they put out in the online world. Keeping in mind that all marketing and branding is reflective of the values, opinions, and beliefs that come from the company. It must be considerate of all types of individuals stemming from all backgrounds in order to cast the widest possible net for the largest possible customer base. Remembering that each company does have a certain set of values that they might find important to be a part of or represent. The famous sentence “All publicity is good publicity” doesn’t always ring true for the Internet as many campaigns can spread like wildfire if they are not properly handled and executed.

Have a Vision
All the famous visionaries that have created some of the top marketing campaigns and business successes always had a clear vision for where their company wanted to go. Unclear visions of the future always end up in a fog of not well thought out scenarios and situations that are not positive for a company’s long term goals. Remembering what your digital strategy can uniquely contribute to the companies over all well-being is important to consider in any major decision. With a guiding vision your company’s online strategy can become more than just a platform but a community of supporters who are all engaged with your product or vision. It is important to be the company that is collaborating with others, influencing, and educating their online audience. The possibilities are endless in terms of “being the change you want to see” with your company’s online strategy.

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