How To Lead Before You’re Ready

Once I asked a much more senior person in my organization for any career advice he could share. I was so disappointed when all he said was, “Look the part. Dress for the role you want.”

I thought, ‘What in the world is he talking about?’ For a while, I believed that was the most shallow career advice I had ever heard. But in his defense, maybe he wasn’t impressed with my sweet looking Khaki pants!

My wife usually stops me before leaving the house if I’m dressed like a clown. Thankfully, she has some type of radar that catches me on those days I feel like color coordinating and ironing doesn’t apply to me.

But now I think I understand what he meant. 

It wasn’t about wearing an Armani suit to work; though it was about how I present myself. It’s really about acting like the person you want to become, which to some extent includes looking the part as well.

But there’s more.

It’s about looking, acting, and behaving NOW like the person you want to be in the FUTURE.

When I started acting like the leader I wanted to become something really strange started to happen. People started treating me differently.

Can you believe that?

My wife noticed it too, so this wasn’t something happening just in my imagination. I could feel how people were treating me like the leader I wanted to become and their reaction reinforced in me the belief that I was, in fact, a leader.

The change started internally and not externally.

Lots of people have this idea that because they aren’t in a leadership position, don’t have a corner office, or high salaries they aren’t leaders. But that’s a trap keeping many of us in a glass ceiling made up of false ideas about ourselves.

If you want to be a leader, then start leading now regardless of your salary, title, or circumstances.

But this isn’t just about being a leader; it’s about personal change.

It’s applicable to whatever type of person you want to become. If you want to be seen as an honest, dependable, or dedicated person then act like it now even if you don’t feel like that type of person. There’s no reason for you to wait for some magical moment when someone taps your shoulder and says now is the time for you to become the person you want to be.

This reminds of what my business coach, Kendall Ficklin likes to say,

“Start before you’re ready.”

When you act like the person you want to become, you start to internalize this change not just physically, but emotionally, intellectually, and even psychologically. The coolest thing about this is that your body language is a tool that you can use to reinforce the person you want to become.

Sound crazy?

Well, Amy Cuddy, the social psychologist and Harvard professor who studies body language and its effects on our behavior gave an awesome TED talk on this topic. Check it out. Her research can be summed up with one of her quotes,

“Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become.”

Here are four more quotes from her, which go into a little more detail about the role that our body plays in shaping how we feel:

“When our body language is confident and open, other people respond in kind, unconsciously reinforcing not only their perception of us but also our perception of ourselves.”

“focus less on the impression you’re making on others and more on the impression you’re making on yourself.” 

“Our bodies change our minds, and our minds change our behavior and our behavior changes our outcomes.

“The whole body-mind thing comes into play when you are feeling that self-doubt and your body is not going to help you if you’re not paying attention. Your body’s going to go with the self-doubt and make you feel worse, so by making the adjustments – pulling your shoulders back, standing up straight, walking in a more sort of expansive way – all sorts of little things will help pull you out of that self-doubt.”

So are you acting now like the person you want to become?

How To Change The World

Can you imagine if there was a college course called “How to change the world“? I’m sure it would be PACKED!  Afterall, who hasn’t thought about changing the world at some point, especially during our college years.

But what happened along the way to those ideas? It seems like at some point we stopped dreaming, got distracted, or didn’t believe we could make an impact.

Or maybe some of us experienced what the former heavyweight champ, turned philosopher, Mike Tyson described when he said,

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Somewhere in between paying student loans, getting married, and a mortgage many of us settled for a different reality.  It’s a reality based more on false limitations we created based on social conditioning. 

 This reminds me of Les Brown‘s quote when he said,

“Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.”

Whatever the reason, I could write a long post filled with bullet points on how to change the world based on stuff great leaders have done. But instead, let’s keep it short and sweet because it’s  7:30 AM and my kids are about to wake up.  

I’ll leave you with this poem I recently found that captures the essence of my upcoming book and this idea of “How to change the world.”

I first heard this quote from Dan Miller on his 48 Days podcast.  He said he saw it written on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in the crypts of Westminster Abbey in London, England.

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.

But, it too, seemed immovable.

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. 

And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed my self first, then by example I would have changed my family.

From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.”

Create Something That Matters

It’s so easy to be a critic.

It’s so easy to sit in the stands and comment on sports or movies.

It’s so easy to criticize.

It’s tempting to be a critic, but do we really need more? When was the last time a critic or commentator created something that mattered?

Instead, the world needs more people willing to push themselves in order to create stuff that matters.

But creating stuff that matters means you’ll have to take risks. It means you might fail, be embarrassed, make mistakes or all three AT THE SAME TIME.

I realized, though, that the reason why so few of us want to create stuff that matters is not because of the possibility of failure, embarrassment, or choking.

It’s connected to public speaking.

Say what?

Let me explain…

When reviewing lists of top fears people have, public speaking is always on the list.   It’s even scarier than zombies, the dark, and scary clowns!  But seriously,  it’s not the speaking we’re scared of, it’s the fear of failing publicly or getting our ego hurt that we’re scared of the most.

But why do we care so much about what others think?

I was speaking Amanda Truscott from Creative Unblocking about creativity recently. And one of the things I explained was that I’m motivated to create by fact that I am going to die one day. Knowing that my death can come at any minute motivates me to create stuff that matters to me without worrying too much about what people think.

Why should you care about what critics think? The people that matter the most to me are those who will go to my funeral or cry when I die.

You were born to be a creator and not a consumer. Create something that matters to you regardless of how big, scary, or challenging it is. It’s your mission and no one else’s. It’s not supposed to make sense to others; it’s yours.

Create a great family.

Create a great company.

Create a great working environment.

Create a charity. 

Create beautiful art.

It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it matters to you and it makes a positive impact. 

Just create.

The only thing you have to focus on now is the next step. What would you create if you couldn’t fail and didn’t have to worry about protecting your ego?

Simple But Hard Advice I Received From A CEO

Asking for advice is a great tool, but you have to know how and when to do it. Once I was at a party and decided to start a conversation with a guy sitting next to me. It turns out he’s the CEO for a major airport.

I didn’t even know airports had CEOs, so I learned something right from the beginning of this conversation!

Anyways, so we chatted for a bit but before leaving, I asked him if he could share one piece of advice. I said,

“You’ve obviously been successful in your career. What’s one piece of career advice you can share with me that has helped you get to where you are today?”

I love asking this question because most people are eager to share what they’ve learned and it makes people stop to reflect for a few seconds and that’s when you make a connection.

That question also makes people feel special, which is crucial in the connection process. But for some reason, I was expecting him to say something really deep and profound. Instead, he said,

“Always do the right thing because you’ll never have to worry about what you did. And you’ll always be able to sleep well at night.”

Most of the time we expect that the biggest life changing stuff will come from radically new ways of doing things or new information that will completely blow our mind, but leadership is based on small principles that build up like a snowball when practiced constantly. 

What I love about principles is that they are timeless and create a level playing field because they’re available to anyone willing to implement them. You don’t need a degree, wealth, or connections to do the right thing. But it means that you have to be willing to do hard things like having integrity.

What I’ve noticed in my leadership journey is that doing the hard thing is a theme that keeps coming up. It’s a simple choice, but impact shows if you’re leading or not.

Are you doing the right thing when you have the chance?

That Moment When You Wake Up

Major props for Akon for reaching this milestone in life and for using his platform for social good. 

Akon talks about giving up his Lamborghinis and flashy jewelry, and helping villages in Africa get electricity.

Posted by Virgin Radio Dubai on Saturday, November 5, 2016

20 Favorite Leadership Quotes From Martin Luther King, Jr

Once I heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson speak when visited our office.  At the end of his talk, there was a  short Q&A so I asked, ‘What’s one thing about leadership that you learned from Dr. King that we can apply in our lives?’

Without wasting a second, he said, “Dr. King led from the front.”   

 On Martin Luther King, Jr day, it’s common to see his image and quotes all over the web and TV.  But as I see his image I’m reminded of what leading from the front means.

One of the common themes throughout his photos and talks is that in nearly all of them, he’s leading a protest, he inspiring an audience, or he’s the first to get arrested.  Dr. King was a servant leader who never asked his followers do something he was unwilling to go through first.

Below are my favorite quotes by Dr. King. Initially, my goal was to stick with a top ten, but it was impossible to leave out so many great quotes. 

  1.   I have a dream.
  2.  There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.
  3.  Almost always the creative, dedicated minority has made the world better If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way. 
  4. A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus. 
  5. Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
  6. Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.
  7. Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others. 
  8. Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
  9. We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.
  10. People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.
  11. No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.
  12. If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
  13. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
  14. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?
  15. If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.
  16. All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.
  17. Lightning makes no sound until it strikes.
  18. Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.
  19. Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service… You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.
  20. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.

One of the things that I love about leadership is that regardless of how much times passes by or regardless of the latest advances in technology these principles will always apply.  I wonder what the world would be like if more of our world leaders lived by these principles.

Do you have a favorite quote?