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Top 10 counter intuitive truths about leadership

Over the past couple of years I’ve learned that leadership is rarely intuitive. Below, are the 10 leadership truths that I’ve found most surprising.

1) The more you give the more you get. Average people and organizations hoard their resources, especially money, information, and connections. Exceptional leaders are different. They are extremely generous. They readily give of themselves and their resources, frequently asking, “How can I help?” Consequently, people are happy to be around them, happy to follow them, and happy to do business with them.

2) Intelligence isn’t that important. Hard work, passion, faith in yourself, and discipline will all individually, take you much further than intelligence alone. Additionally, all of those attributes, unlike intelligence, can be cultivated. If you blend hard work, passion, faith, and discipline the force that you create is exponentially more powerful than intelligence.

3) People are not sitting around judging you. The average person is so busy trying to hold their reality together and so distracted by wondering what others think of them that they don’t have the mental bandwidth to judge you. They are far more interested and concerned with themselves than they are with you. If you’re worried that people are judging you, it’s probably because you are being too hard on yourself.

My suggestion for those who are worried about being judged: be more kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. You deserve it. Allow yourself to be less than perfect. When you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up over it.

4) The best way to lead is to listen. Mediocre leaders try to persuade. Excellent leaders listen so they may understand, and then speak to people’s needs. They listen and observe to find other’s strengths and then put those strengths to work to enhance everyone’s success.

Protip: if you ever need information or advice from someone, ask for it kindly, with a bit of humility, and then be quiet. If someone is reluctant, ask for it in a different way and listen more intently.

5) Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. We live in a world of speed and instant gratification which creates the urgent sense that everything important is moving too slowly and that we need to work frantically to get up to speed. Consequently we end up doing sloppy, passionless work. When you do sloppy work (or make sloppy decisions) you’ll have to find time to clean up your mess later and it will all fall apart soon anyways. Instead, move slowly. Master each step. Put out high quality work that you’ve fallen in love with. The people who are urging you to finish everything yesterday – those aren’t the people you want to serve or lead anyways.

6) Failure is a myth. Simply put, failure is a choice you’ve made, it’s not something that has happened to you and it’s not permanent either. Sometimes you will try something and you get results you don’t like. Society has a tendency to label that outcome, “failure” but in reality it’s only a failure if you choose to stop working and stop pursuing the results you want. The trick: when you get results that you are not satisfied with, change one of the variables and try again. Maybe you’re trying to throw a party on Tuesday night but no one comes. Try throwing it again on Friday night and see what happens.

7) Action is more important than preparation. The vast majority of people fail to take action, especially on the stuff that is most important. They wrap themselves in the delusion that they aren’t prepared enough and if they take action, they run the (fictional) risk of failure.

In reality, the only way can guarantee failure is to never take action. Only once you take action will you create the opportunity for success to manifest. Preparation is important, but if it prevents you from taking action, it’s useless.

8) Comparing yourself to others is a trap. If you spend too much time comparing yourself to other people you’ll either become insecure or lazy.

If you compare yourself to the super successful, your sense of self-worth will drop. I know because I used to do this. I used to compare myself to the most successful speakers and entrepreneurs of our day only to feel as though I were a total failure.

If you compare yourself to someone who is far less successful than you are, you’ll feel like you have achieved more than you have and you run the risk of becoming lazy and cocky. Being lazy and cocky is a fast way to kill your success and potential.

The trick is to compare yourself to your own potential. Are you being true to yourself, working reasonably hard, enjoying the process, and working efficiently? If so, then you’re in the process of succeeding. If not, then recalibrate yourself so that you live up to your own potential.

9) Your legacy will not be measured by money or possessions.  For a moment, people may be impressed by flashy apartments, cutting edge technology, and fat bank accounts. But those memories fade quickly. What people really remember is how you made them feel. If you work hard to be a force for good, if you spread light and love, if you help as many people as you can and find reasons to be happy, you will leave behind a beautiful legacy.

Gandhi and Mother Teresa never accumulated much money. And yet, we still remember and admire them because they improved so many people’s lives.

10) Changing the world requires you to change yourself. Simply put, if you want to change the world, you must begin by changing yourself.  Or, to quote the Mahatma, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Once you truly change yourself so that your deeply held values are reflected in your actions you’ll become a shining example of what’s possible at a higher plane of living. People will start to follow you and your example. Jesus and Buddha were natural leaders because others could see the peace they carried with them. Follow their lead. Begin by changing yourself and watch as the world around you begins to change too.

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