Success as a Leader

633 Days Inside by Greg Lindberg


Success as a Leader

Be the change you want to see in your organization.

Hi-Vis Leader

You need to own your public profile. If you are
anonymous in today’s world, your enemies get to
define who you are. It’s scary and it’s risky, but you have got
to control your public persona or your opponents will do it for you. My personality is “very low social.” My best day is Sunday, when no one is around. I prefer to be alone with my thoughts; that is just who I am. Publicity is all a distraction. I avoided publicity. And that was a mistake.

“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”

—Bill Gates

Plato talks about the hierarchy of the soul. His “Allegory of the Cave” reflects the different hierarchies of the human soul. At the bottom are people motivated by gluttony and feeding themselves. Next are people motivated by glory and honor. At the top is the person motivated by the truth. I just want to know the truth. I don’t want the glory. I don’t want the honor. That is why I was off the record for many years. I know now it was a mistake. You can’t be anonymous in this world. My business philosophy was, “We don’t brag about our success; we just succeed.” At any age, in any career, at any point in life, you need to create a public persona for yourself.

I have done this recently, so I can share my tips with you. Write down your own story and share it with others. Film yourself being interviewed and post it on a YouTube channel. Offer free advice to your peers. Write articles and publish them. Accept all requests for interviews and promote yourself in local media outlets. Make the most of Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Of course, you should be judicious, but you need to be out there, where the public can see you. Attend local events, sponsor local charities, give speeches at local schools. Turn up for the church bake sale and pack up the lemonade stand—and make sure someone takes your photo while you are doing it. I used to think these strategies were bragging, but I now know the consequences of modesty: You are vulnerable if you can’t be seen. Your public narrative and persona will be created by someone; so, I recommend it is you, and you should start today.

Develop Self-Awareness

“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”

—Bill Gates

  • Emotional fortitude is the key to self-awareness, effective coaching, and surviving failure.
  • Coaching and self-awareness are the keys to achieving performance through others.
  • Energy is the key to enthusiasm, generating forward motion and imagination, and it is the key to doing better and better every day in every way.
  • Personal organization is essential to mastery of details and business processes.
  • Details are the key to engagement with the business and effective financial management, financial modeling and metrics-based coaching.
  • Engagement with business is the key to building reality-based strategies.
  • Reality-based strategies are key to facing the brutal facts, maintaining our competitive advantage.

So, quite literally, emotional fortitude is a requirement to maintain your competitive advantage and win in any walk of life. Each person on the team must have the fortitude and ability to take ownership of the customer relationship.

Emotional fortitude means you must be open to criticism from your coach, your employees, and your customers. Peter Drucker suggests that every leader engage in feedback analysis. “Every time you make a decision, write down what you expect  will happen. Nine or 12 months later, compare the results with what you expected,” he says.

You should also be getting feedback from your employees, peers and customers. The more feedback you get, the better a leader you will be.

How do you know if you’re self-aware? How easy was it for you to list your failures and weaknesses? When was the last time you got criticism from your coach and acted on it? When was the last time you were criticized by your direct reports? If you have the emotional fortitude to open yourself up to criticism and to truly hear and act on it, you will gain self-awareness.

So, if you haven’t done a 360 review, why not?

Set Your Standards

In my family, we have a set of standards; we call them the “Lindberg Family Values.” They comprise the following:

  1. Love what you do, and do what you love.
  2. Mistakes are OK. The only question is, what did you learn?
  3. You are expected to pay your own way and earn your own way. No handouts.
  4. Big dreams are GOOD and to be encouraged. If you think big, you get big.
  5. Self-reliance and self-sufficiency build character, and dependency destroys it.
  6. Struggle and challenges build character.
  7. Humanity has unlimited potential. You CAN. End of story.
  8. Happiness is using your mind to its fullest extent and power.
  9. Master the warrior spirit; don’t seek peace and comfort.
  10. Think for the very long term.
  11. Objective reality powers success, whereas blind faith leads to persistent failure.
  12. Respect our family heritage; the struggles of our ancestors have created us.
  13. It’s your life. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for living it your own way.

I encourage you to have a similar list for yourself, both personally and professionally. Of course, there should be a high degree of crossover between the two, but your professional values should focus on the work and results you intend to deliver.

Some core behaviors that are essential in any successful group of people include:

  • Accountable and responsible. You are able to manage the entire process, work independently without supervision and deliver on time without excuses.
  • Adaptable and flexible. You don’t get hung up on things that don’t matter to the core objective or core principles; you can handle change.
  • Demanding. You are assertive, aggressive when appropriate, won’t accept a lack of response or lack of results and you hold yourself and your team to a high standard.
  • Dogged and determined. You are able to fail early and fail often without losing faith in ultimate victory. You are also able to accept criticism without an emotional response.
  • Precise and fastidious. You are able to master details and careful operating practices and hold others to the same high standard.
  • Systematic and methodical. You are able to master a process by repeated practice and effort; you don’t jump to conclusions without necessary buildup.
  • Workmanlike. You are informal, non-hierarchical, not too proud to fail, connected to your team and focused on execution and results—not just ideas and strategy.

These values are summed up in our Global Growth Code of Conduct:

  • Hire the best. Don’t tolerate “C” players on your bus.
  • Expect the best. Don’t tolerate mediocre performance.
  • Keep climbing. Don’t tolerate people who rest on past accomplishments.
  • Never stop learning. Don’t tolerate people who aren’t coachable.
  • Get your hands dirty. Don’t tolerate prima donnas and people who don’t do real work.

Do You Measure Up?

At whatever stage you are in your career, it is important to regularly ask yourself the following questions. You might not tick all the boxes every time (remember, it’s important to fail often), but keeping these challenges in your sights helps you stay on track and keeps you close to reality.

  • First “who,” then “what.” Do you work overtime to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus ? Are your team members accountable, responsible, disciplined people who take their goals and their commitments seriously?
  • Do you constantly inject a continuous stream of “A+” talent into the organization? You must have a relentless focus on hiring and recruiting to make sure you get attract and keep lots of new A+ players who will energize every business unit.
  • Do you train relentlessly? Model the masters and then train relentlessly so everyone can learn. Leadership training and development, when done right, is continuous, ongoing and never-ending.
  • Does your team get regular coaching, ranking and talent reviews? Everyone on the team has a different level of capability. Make sure you customize the minimum standards of performance to each individual.
  • Do you receive effective coaching? You should coach from the field, not the locker room. There is no shame in your areas for improvement—tackle them head-on every day. If you don’t have an effective coach, find one.
  • Do you face the brutal facts head-on without flinching? There are no secrets, hidden agendas or politics in a well-run company. If you are not getting critical feedback and unwelcome news, there is something wrong.
  • Do you set clear goals and achieve them? Start with the end in mind. Then work backward to determine what you need to do today to get there. All your goals should be in writing, and the expectations must be clear. Accountable people welcome clear goals. When we miss goals, we are accountable for the miss, and we don’t just move the goal line.
  • Do you promote strong leaders who are self-aware and willing to admit their mistakes? The true leader is the person closest to reality, who is not too proud to admit failure and asks, “How can I help you succeed?” If there isn’t someone on your team good enough to take your job, you need to spend more time on leadership development.
  • Are you workmanlike? As a leader, you need to roll up your sleeves and get things done.
  • Are you a visionary strategist? Do you have a seven-year plan for every business you are involved in? Do you think ahead? Be prepared for tomorrow’s problems. When there is no way forward, invent one.