The 7 Disciplines of a Successful Leader

by Mark Sanborn

book
Fellow professional speaker Scott Ginsberg once asked me, “What do you do each day to assure your ongoing success?” I thought it was one of the best questions I’ve ever been asked.
For more than 25 years, I’ve considered what activities have given me the biggest payback on my investment of time and expertise as a leader. The biggest challenge of leadership isn’t being successful; it is being successful over the long run. Longevity trumps the temporary, and it requires daily disciplines.

At different times in your business, there will be different things you need to do, but these seven activities — when done daily — will stack the odds in your favor for long-term success.

  1. Capture ideas. Each day, read, observe, contemplate and capture ideas that will be relevant to your audience and useful in your speaking, writing, coaching and consulting. Reading broadly and eclectically develops intellectual bandwidth. If you read only what others are reading, you will likely lack the ingredients for true originality.
  2. Sell something. While getting out and making sales calls is always a good idea for staying in touch with customers, that’s not only what I mean. Ideas have  consequences, and leaders go beyond simple telling to selling. They know what matters, and they make it matter to others. Whether it’s a needed change or a suggestion for improvement, sell the ideas that matter most.
  3. Build and deepen relationships. People rarely change or improve outside of relationship. When asked about the leaders who have made the biggest difference in their lives, they first cite warmth and personal connection. Leadership is about making connections and keeping them. Great leaders get results by focusing as much or more on the relational as the transaction, and the relational is born out of genuine concern. When was the last time you called or emailed a colleague or client with no other motive than checking in on them and his or her well-being?
  4. Create. Leadership is an art, as well as a science. Your vision will be richer because of creativity, not stenography. Write a story, post a blog or send a tweet, but do something that requires imagination. Your creative muscle is developed with use, and unless it is being built over time, it won’t be available to you when needed.
  5. Improve something. Look at every aspect of your performance and your business. Find something you can tweak, improve or overhaul for maximum impact and effectiveness. Pick one area of your business operations to scrutinize and improve with your team each month.
  6. Learn a new idea. Capturing ideas for your content development is different from looking for new ideas on how to live your life better. Learning also keeps you from stagnating, both personally and professionally. My longtime friend and futurist, Dan Burrus, picks one new skill to learn each year.
  7. Enjoy. Make the most of each momen,t and the moments will become a life well lived. You can enjoy the successes — and even the setbacks — if you look at them as learning opportunities. Don’t only do what needs to be done; make it a habit to do those things you really enjoy. Have fun. As the legendary Michael Jackson (not the singer, but the Brit known as the “Beer Hunter”) said, “Moderation is good, as long as it is in moderation.”

What will you do each day to assure your ongoing success? What would you add to this list?

*This blog originally appeared on MarkSanborn.com.

Hear more leadership advice and wisdom from Mark in his C-Suite Radio interview.


Mark SanbornMark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. Sanborn is an international bestselling author and noted authority on leadership, team building, customer service and change. Follow Mark on Twitter @Mark_Sanborn.