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Companies in 2013 are looking for qualified applicants to fill open positions, but what might separate you from the hundreds and thousands of others hunting for the same job? The answer is leadership and initiative.
In a recent CNBC article, Kelli B. Grant overviews what talents employers look for in college graduates and skills that are rare and difficult to find. Among those talents and skills, leadership studies.
Grant writes, "Students of any major can benefit. Employers like to see evidence that candidates can work well with others and can demonstrate leadership ability." These leadership abilities include being able to work in a team or even leading a team. You can graduate with a 4.0 GPA but if your social skills and inability to communicate effectively hinder you or lead to a poor interview, you may be passed over for a more personable candidate that showed leadership and leadership potential.
So what can you do to put yourself in a better position? Make yourself more marketable by taking leadership lessons, planning your future to determine the skills you'll need, and working on those skills as soon as possible! Let's work together to shape you into a valuable, marketable, and desirable person!
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
- John F. Kennedy
Jim Whittaker was the first American to conquer Mount Everest. No doubt he had to be incredibly disciplined to train for and actually reach the highest summit on Earth. If you deliver the discipline, you will reach your goals. What's discipline? It's having the willpower to keep going, to overcome, to keep fighting. Discipline is having self-control over your mind, which is not always an easy thing to do. With all the ups and downs of daily life, this is where discipline comes in. Discipline is developed, day after day and on a consistent basis. It takes practice, failure, and getting back up and trying again.
Discipline Is Daily
Being disciplined is a constant struggle. Being consistent is the most difficult part. For example, in my constant quest to be well rounded, I'm trying to balance a full-time career with my personal life, while at the same time trying to get healthy physically. For me this started with eating meals. The past few years I wouldn't eat til about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and even then it would be something fried or cheesy with a big side of ranch. Then when I got home at 9PM I would eat 2,000 calories of Taco Bell and go to bed. When I made up my mind that this needed to change, I made a hard 180. I started eating chicken breasts, salmon, rice, and vegetables. Mix in some protein shakes and vitamins and I was on my way to being healthy. Well it's not that easy, as I found out. There were days where I skipped one or more of these. There were other days where it was late in the day and made myself work out. There were also plenty of times I wanted to grab some fast food on the way home. There are four McDonald's between work and home, trust me, its tempting. The important thing is not making a habit out of skipping days, and staying on yourself to keep at it. Be disciplined!
Help Yourself Be Successful
Make sure you set yourself up with a support system. Use the resources you have to help you. Get your friends or family involved to help each other on the tough days. Break your goals down into small steps so you can see the progress each day and use that as your motivation. Whatever helps you, use it. It's different for different people. Watch and learn from your mentors, seek advice from your role models, pray, reward yourself for progress, or get extra sleep, whatever you need to do to give yourself the best opportunity possible to be successful. Hold yourself accountable every single day. If you hold yourself to high standards, you raise yourself up. If you hold yourself to high standards, you give yourself the opportunity to get to a new level. Deliver the discipline, and you'll find yourself that much closer to your goals.
"You never conquer a mountain. Mountains can't be conquered; you conquer yourself."
- Jim Whittaker
How you go about your business has a strong correlation with whether or not you will net the results you're looking for. What can you do to ensure you reach your goals? What will help navigate through obstacles to reach your desired results? Can you plan for turbulence along the way ahead of time? These are the questions you need to ask yourself before you venture out on your mission.
Set a Clear Vision
First and foremost, you must simply state what you expect of yourself and your team. Why are you doing this? What is the goal? What results are you trying to reach? A few years ago when I was a student, my classmates and I were in a sports fundraising class. We had to put on a summer golf outing for the entire Sports Management program at CMU. We had a specific financial goal we had to reach, and a specific time allotted to reach those goals. "Time and pressure," as our professor would say. The entire semester we knew how much more money we had to raise, and how much time we had left. It was a positive pressure, if there is such a thing, because we knew we would reach our goal, but we weren't there yet. but the progress we saw each week motivated us and kept us working towards it. In the end, we did reach that goal.
Have the Right Attitude
Treat everyone with respect and class. No one wants to follow someone that can't lead them self. If you treat people not how they are, but how they can be, your level of expectation of them is inherent and will push them. Some people will respond and push themselves to meet your expectation, some will not. The good ones will not want to disappoint you because you believe in them. It is those that rise to the next level that separate themselves from the rest of the pack. By striving to reach those higher expectations, they benefit and the team benefits. If each member of the team can do this, it will help the team meet its goals.
Match Talent with Position
Putting people in position to be successful is also a responsibility of the leader. Good leaders not only know their own strengths and weaknesses, but the strengths and weaknesses of each member of their team. This comes through time, investing in each person, and learning who they are. Once you know their strengths and weaknesses, you can match them with a position that will utilize their strengths and benefit the team. It's all about Adding Value to Your Organization. By doing this, you let those strengths shine, which, ultimately, is what you want to reach your goals.
The more you plan ahead, the better you will be equipped to handle problems that may arise. As the saying goes, "Every minute you spend planning saves ten minutes in execution." In my current position, I've planned hundreds of parties including graduations, class reunions, wedding showers, baby showers, and everything else you can think of. Because we do them so often, I've set up a system to plan for every detail of the party. We plan and account for everything. Type of party, time of arrival, room layout, bar service, and dozens of other details. Since we've had this plan in place, we've been executing these events perfectly. There are always unexpected issues that come up, and this is where you improvise. Using all of your previous planning and knowledge of the situation, this is where you make the best decision with the information you have.
If you have a clear vision for your team, have high standards for your people and treat them with respect, put them in a position to succeed, and be prepared as well as you can be, you are on the right path to reaching your goals."It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." - Confucius
What a great quote. I'm not a Tim Tebow slappy. I know of him and have followed his football career, but I haven't taken part in "Tebow-Mania." Sure, I've Tebowed. Who hasn't? Anyway, I had Tebow's introductory press conference to the New York Jets on in the background. Half listening, half working, I heard him say the quote above, and I quickly jotted it down. Right then I became a fan. Everyone knows he's incredibly influential and a great leader. His leadership on the field, his volunteering around the world, and his work with charities have earned him that reputation.
He was traded from a team he led to the playoffs last season (Denver Broncos) to the New York football Jets to be the backup quarterback. That's a tough situation for anyone. The way Tebow responded is really admirable. While he obviously wants to be the starting quarterback, he knows the team is greater than himself. The teams goals are greater than his own. He's willing to accept a lesser role for the good of the team. If the team wins, he wins. That's the perfect attitude to have and the perfect way to make the best of the situation. That's leadership.
At the same time, he's going to do his best to make the most of his position, and try to increase his role, maybe even into the role of the starting quarterback. Not only does is send the message to his new teammates that he is unselfish, it will push the starting quarterback (Mark Sanchez) to improve. In the end, the competition at the quarterback position will be great, and bring out the best in each quarterback. This will benefit the team overall. While Tebow may not be the starting quarterback, his leadership in the locker room will help shape the culture of the team and his values, unselfishness and teamwork, will be the foundation of that culture.
Don't React, Respond
Have you found yourself in a similar situation? How did you respond? It's easy to stop trying when things don't go your way. Some people react badly or emotionally and damage their credibility with coworkers, teammates, or friends. Show the right attitude, and it will give you credibility. People will buy into you as a person and leader. Responding positively in light of a difficult situation will show others your character, character they can believe in and strive to reflect themselves. This is how people grow and organizations grow. That positive momentum breeds good things and positive energy for everyone involved. People feed off positive energy. Negativity halts any progress, in fact, it sets you back even further. What if Tebow had taken the opposite approach and told everyone he wants to be a starting quarterback or else he won't play? What message would that send to his teammates? Some players do exactly that. But perhaps that's what separates leaders like Tim Tebow from everyone else.
"In whatever my role is, I'm going to try to expand it." - Tim Tebow
A few years ago when I was a student in college, I sat down and wrote down what I needed to do every day to become a leader. Here is that list.
What I Need to Do
1. Exemplify leadership 24/7
2. Always have a positive attitude
3. Show people I care about them
4. Grow and learn along with everyone else
5. Build trust by learning about each individual person
6. Praise people privately, then publicly
7. Lead by example – be what I want to see
8. Follow through with commitments and promises
9. Prioritize activities while achieving balance
10. Be on the lookout for people to join me
11. Reward people who sacrifice for the greater good
12. Make my vision clear and continually reinforce it
13. Go the second mile
14. See the potential that people don’t see in themselves and draw it out
15. Model unselfish service
16. Empower people through faith, trust, and belief
"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals." - Zig Ziglar
It's time to challenge yourself. No more excuses. No more procrastinating. It's time to start taking chances and making tough decisions. To become a leader, you have to start somewhere.
“The only real training for leadership, is leadership.” - Unknown
Take it one day at a time. Tell yourself, “Today I am going to be a leader.” Don't just say it to make me happy. Say it for yourself. Do you believe yourself? Do you even want to be a leader? Do you even think leadership is important? The sooner you realize leadership is important, the better off you'll be. The realization will open the door to a whole new world for you. You'll see the world differently, from a perspective that will have you motivated, inspired, and eager to grow even more.
What Will You Do Today?
Make today a challenge for yourself. Make it a point to lead today. It doesn't matter what it is you do to achieve this, right now its important to get you pointing in the right direction. So what can you do? It can be something small or something significant. Make somebody's day, show someone you care, read a book on leadership, volunteer, or write down some goals you have.
My Wake Up Call
My sophomore year at Central Michigan University (Fire Up Chips!), was the turning point in my life. I spent my freshman year like any typical 18 year old, hanging out in the dorms and soaking up the independent life style of being away from home. In a way it was a waste of a year because I wasn't really that involved with the school outside of classes. The next year was my wake up call. My close friend and leader, Collin McRae, called me a week or two into the semester. He was attending another university, and was becoming active in the community. One night on the phone, he told me about the clubs he joined, the new challenges he was facing, and the people he's meeting. He asked if there were any student organizations at my school, and I replied with something like “I don't know, probably.”
Well, I went out and looked at all the different student organizations and found one I wanted to join, the Hospitality and Tourism Society. I joined the club within the next week, just in time to go on a trip up north to Traverse City, Michigan to tour the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. The decision to join paid off immediately. I met so many great people and had some really fun times with them. I'm forever grateful that Collin challenged me and lit a fire under me to really get going. Looking back, that was one event or moment in time that I can say was a first step to really opening my eyes to leadership and becoming a leader. Ever since, I've been trying to learn, improve, and find new ways to lead everyday. That was my wake up call, when will yours be?"There comes a moment when you have to stop revving up the car and shove it into gear." - David Mahoney
Perhaps the most defining attribute of a true leader is his or her ability to make people better. This characteristic separates great leaders from good leaders.
Making Others Better, Makes You Better
On a team, if each member reaches their potential and is the best they can be, the entire team is better for it and gets closer to reaching its potential. It's simple isn’t it? If you put in the effort to make others better, it will reflect upon you, and reflect better upon you as a leader.
Many people, in their jobs or everyday life, compete with others. What I mean is, people fear others becoming better than they are. It’s very common. People don’t go out of their way to help, train, teach, challenge, and draw out the best in others in fear that this person will then replace them. In reality, this is a misconception. Actually, the opposite is true. If you help, train, teach, challenge, and draw out the best in others, it makes you better. That initiative and caring to help others is the definition of leadership. Making others better makes you better.
As John C. Maxwell says, if your people shine brightly, it reflects positively on you. Not only will the person you helped have a deeper respect and appreciation for you, but it builds your foundation and reputation as a leader. Others will take notice of your leadership. They will see that you did go out of your way to help someone.
Organization Over Individual
As John C. Maxwell says, if your people shine brightly, it reflects positively on you. Not only will the person you helped have a deeper respect and appreciation for you, but it builds your foundation and reputation as a leader. Others will take notice of your leadership. They will see you go out of your way to help someone, even though it may mean that person is better than you at something. It’s ok to train someone to have the same skills as you. It won’t make you any worse or less valuable. It actually makes you more valuable since you show the ambition to grow yourself and others. After all, the most important thing in the eyes of a leader is the growth and development of the organization, its vision, and its people.
For example, imagine you’re the leader of a company and lead a staff of twenty people. As the top leader, you can’t worry about problems and challenges that come up hour-by-hour and day-by-day because you would never be able to do your job of directing your company. How do you stay focused on what’s most important? You empower your staff. Find your leaders and train them to lead. Any way to add value to your organization is a net gain. The ultimate goal is to have the company and everyone involved grow.
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams
Have you ever been out to eat at a restaurant with a friend or two, and when the waiter or waitress comes over to take your order there’s always the one person who just can’t make up their mind about what they want? I have a friend who, every time we go out to eat, always hesitates and cannot make a decision. By the way, I can only use this as an example because he and I are close friends and tease each other often. That being said, it’s pretty funny to watch him try to order because he always second guesses and looks around to others for confirmation on what to order, even though we’d already decided and confirmed one, five, and ten minutes prior. I’ve learned to just order for the group to save us all five minutes.
Fork in the Road
I know it’s a small example, but it reflects the larger picture. Ordering food at a restaurant is a microcosm of other instances in life when tough decisions need to be made. Being a decision maker is an important part of being a leader. John C. Maxwell says “Not all good decision makers are leaders, but all good leaders are decision makers.” It’s a great quote and 100% true. If you can’t make decisions then you’re stuck. You can’t go anywhere. It’s like coming to a fork in the road and just standing there staring. Yes, there may be, and quite often in life there are, many options to choose from. But that’s life, decision after decision, day after day. The important thing is whether you make those decisions, how you make those decisions, and what you want to come from those decisions.
The part of decision making that is so challenging is looking at the potential outcomes of each decision and weighing these outcomes against one another. Sometimes looking at the consequences of decisions isn’t the best way to make them, but that’s how I’ve been trained growing up in business, so I do take that in consideration. When making decisions there may be undesired outcomes, but those are the tough choices that have to be made. Making a decision, any decision, is almost always better than not making a decision at all. Rare is the occasion when you don’t make a decision and everything works out well.
For Better or Worse, Make a Decision
A few years ago, I was in an extremely difficult position. I had to make a decision on whether to continue a relationship with someone I’d been close to for a long time, or to end it. I thought about it all day, everyday, for several weeks. I just couldn’t make a decision. I did the worst possible thing I could do, nothing. I felt handcuffed. I didn’t want to give up on the relationship, but I didn’t see how it could continue. I thought everything would work itself out if I just waited, but it didn’t. I didn’t take initiative to commit to the relationship, nor did I take initiative to end the relationship. I wasn’t ready to handle the consequences of either choice. Looking back on it now I was very immature, but, more importantly, I lacked the leadership to make a decision and commit to it, for better or worse.
Every person makes hundreds and thousands of decisions every single day. Some may be on a more subconscious level than others and take a split second to make, while others take thought, time, and discussion to solve. We all make poor decisions at times and we all make great decisions at times. The important thing is to make a decision.
That experience taught me the importance of being a decision maker. Never again will I not make a decision, no matter how difficult the consequences may be. Leaders need to be decision makers, forleadees and followers look to them for answers. When there is a question to be asked or decisions to be made, leaders must asses the situation and make the best possible decision with integrity and good faith. If you make a difficult decision and you truly trust that you made the best decision you could, that’s all you can ask for. Have confidence and faith in that decision. Your confidence and belief in the decision is passed on to others. If they trust in and believe in you then they will trust in and believe in your decision.
I think its human nature to put-off making tough decisions. We don’t want to face the unpleasant consequences of our choices so we procrastinate or don’t take any action at all hoping the problem will go away. Unfortunately, tough decisions don’t just disappear if you ignore them. If you think they do, you’re lying to yourself. I learned this the hard way, it cost me a relationship. Take it from me; making a decision, any decision, no matter how difficult it may be, is better than not making any decision at all.
"Not all good decision makers are leaders, but all good leaders are decision makers." - John C. Maxwell
Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, sports were a huge part of my life as a child, and continue to be today. Back in those days, the only Detroit sports team that could actually be considered competitive was the Detroit Red Wings. Throughout the mid-late 90s and early 2000s the Red Wings dominated the National Hockey League and won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1997-98, and another in 2002. As a young kid looking for a hero, there was always one person that stood out above every other professional athlete, Steve Yzerman. Whether playing street hockey with my friends after school or ice hockey in the winter when the lake froze, I always wanted to be like Steve Yzerman.
Referred to as “The Captain,” Yzerman played 22 seasons in the NHL and won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings. Yzerman was named Captain at the age of 21. When he retired in 2006 at the age of 41, Yzerman went into the history books as the longest-serving captain of any team in sports history. Steve Yzerman was an idol to the entire state of Michigan, not only for his incredible talent, but for his incredible leadership and selfless attitude.
On several occasions Yzerman played injured because he wanted to help the team win. Yzerman pointed to himself first when the team wasn’t performing as well as they could. Yzerman was a quiet, lead-by-example type of leader. When he spoke, people listened. One of his leadership skills was to know exactly when to speak up to his team, and know exactly what to say. He was the ultimate leader, captain, and professional. For these reasons, Detroit and the state of Michigan embraced Yzerman as their leader.
Role Models in Sports
Along with Yzerman, there are plenty of sports figures that have become heroes and idols to us. Sports have long provided us all with great entertainment, exhilaration, and fond memories. Perhaps more importantly, the arena of sport provides us with heroes and idols we can all look up to, no matter what your age. With the growth and success the major sports leagues have seen in the last decade, the importance of the leadership of our role models has increased. Unfortunately, there are plenty of poor role models in the sports world, evidence that being a role model doesn’t necessarily mean you are a leader. But, I suppose that’s what makes the good role models and true leaders that much more special.
Leadership Shows Itself in Winning
Sports allow us to see intangible attributes in the form of success or failure. What you see during games is the result of hours and hours of practice and hard work. Workouts, film study, and practice all combine to form the products we see on the courts, ice, and fields. The best teams are often made up of the most talented individuals. But, more importantly, the best teams also have the best leaders. Perhaps the most difficult attribute to see is leadership. Leadership by nature is intangible but is implicit in winning. Leadership in sports takes the shape of good chemistry between teammates, coaches, and staff. The relationships built between members of a winning team have the power of leadership built into them. Winning teams, organizations, and companies are all able to be successful because they have quality leadership.
We can take a lot from watching a sports team over the course of a game, and even more over the course of a season. It’s fascinating to see how true leaders can impact the outcome of a game. We’ve seen it many times, the leader of a team steps up when the team needed it most. Sometimes we call this being “clutch.” Whatever you call it, a part of that success comes from the leadership ability of that individual. Leaders want the ball, want to make something happen, and want to win. Leadership, combined with talent and many other factors, ultimately leads to victory. No matter what type of team you’re talking about, sports, business, non-profit, or volunteer, if you combine good people with good leadership, you have the winning combination.
"The strength of the group is the strength of the leaders." - Vince Lombardi