What makes great leaders?

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What makes great leaders?
I was fortunate early in my career to work for Ken Woolley, a serial entrepreneur. Ernst Young agreed in 2003, when they gave him the distinguished honor of Master Entrepreneur. I was privileged to work beside him as his right hand advisor for the last 12 years of my career at Extra Space Storage. This proximity allowed me to observe his craft. What made him a great leader? In my estimation…He knew how to identify and grow other great leaders. Over the next 6 weeks, I will be sharing a 6 step system I have created based on my work with Ken Woolley and the 10 years since I opened my own consulting firm. This week we will focus on the first step which is Focus and and Commitment.

Webster describes focus as _ . Another recent mentor, Michael Port (www.michaelport.com), frequently uses Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Theory of Constraints to support the importance of Focus. The idea is that while leadership requires flexibility, creativity and vision, it also requires constraint to focus on those things which will provide the greatest return. Staying laser focused on a few mission critical initiatives at one time is important to provide stability, solid direction, and success within teams.

Unwavering dedication and commitment to you and your team’s purpose is the glue that holds everything together despite obstacles and the rugged paths we sometimes encounter as we move towards success. One great trait many leaders possess is their zeal for information and finding more efficient ways of doing things. Our world is filled with so many ideas, new technologies and opportunities that as leaders we can often become so enthralled with the next “shiny object” that we fail to count the cost. I tend to be an information junkie. I LOVE learning new things. I LOVE trying to figure out ways to get their faster. Michael Port once told me I should have Better is Better as my tagline, because I seem to always be on a path of self and team improvement. Improvement is great. But sometimes “tried and true” and “staying the course” is equally and often more important.

So how do we know what the right balance is? I recommend starting with the foundation first. When Leaders get clear on who we are and what we stand for we are unstoppable. In Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid® system we coach our clients to develop a strong personal brand. There are some great applications which I am borrowing to help develop strong personal leadership identity. Once we have created how we want to be known to our team and the world, focus and commitment become much easier.

Develop Your Personal Leadership Brand.
We start with clearly understanding ourselves first. One of the first things I ask executives is “What do you want?” What is the Big Result you need in order to move your job, life, team and goal forward? What are your compelling needs and desires? What are the compelling needs and desires of your team individually and collectively. What benefits does your team receive from your leadership? Clarity on understanding who we serve and what they need is fundamental to the success of any team. We can then write a personal mission statement that we are committed to and can clearly communicate to our team. It becomes the barometer for measuring so much.

Distinguish yourself.
Traditional marketing speaks about a unique selling proposition. We look for those traits or attribute that set products or services apart. When we speak of distinguishing ourselves as leaders we can look at why some people are drawn to us. Fundamentally people connect and follow leaders because of WHO we are. So our focus then should be more on being more authentically and uniquely OURSELVES. The ease and flow of this type of leadership is that we can certainly continue to learn effective leadership skills, but in the end we don’t have to change our CORE. We just have to be more fully self expressed and authentic. So it makes it easy to talk about what we are passionate about, what we believe in and the vision for ourselves and our teams. We may have to peel away some self protective layers so we are fully transparent. But in the final analysis, what makes us different is that the focus in on US. Some executives that I work with find this prospect a little scary, but as we walk through the process it is rewarding for both of us to see the rich color wheel and talent that is unmasked through embracing our authenticity.

As we find ourselves in authentic service to our teams we ultimately find that people are drawn to us and want our leadership. Employees have many options of where they can work. We are one among a sea of many leaders. Our introspection that helps us understand when we feel energized and inspired compared to when we feel like we have sold ourselves short or compromised our core standards help us be more authentic. This work helps us to boldly guide our teams without fear. It also helps us lead with greater clarity. We learn how to say NO when necessary so that our YES has more power. We are also able to identify when a team member is no longer fully self expressed as a team member. We can then walk with them as they discover new opportunities.

Creating a personal mission statement.
Our mission statement clearly communicates to ourselves, our team and the world our code of service and our vision of leadership. When this is firmly in place potential team members can easily decide if we are an ideal leader for them. Our current team members are reminded of what they “signed up for” and provides consensus for the team as a whole. It also tells people why we serve and our vision for what we hope to achieve through our work. Remember that our personal mission statement or personal leadership brand should communicate US! People are looking for a reason to connect with us emotionally and spiritually. A clear personal leadership statement will help people know if we are the right leader for them.


If so you are ready to create a personal mission statement or personal leadership brand. This statement simply says something about which you are that is based on why you get up every morning to do the work you do. You will know it is yours when you never get tired of talking about it. Don’t worry about waxing philosophical or that is has to be that unique. The only MUST is that it MUST be TRUE so that when you talk about it, you can speak about it with passion and when others hear you they will connect with your authentic message and your passion.

Tying this all together let me give you an example;

In 2003, I planned on retiring from a rewarding and successful career. My intention was to finish raising my children. I had experienced incredible success by being part of a team that took a small, scrappy self storage company of 12 self storage facilities with an asset value of $25 million dollars to a major, highly respected player in our industry with an asset value of $500 million in 5 years. We were known as the Marriott of our industry.

Within two months I was being engaged by start-ups, turn-around, and small businesses to help either start up or take their businesses to the next level. 6 years into it I realized, I had a real service business. I became known as a trusted advisor and turnaround expert..The one to call when your back’s against the wall!” But what I lacked was expansion capability and even more importantly. I was working a LOT of hours, running everywhere and anywhere.

I was trying to help my clients by teaching them what I had been taught… just spread your net far and wide, catch as many as you can, and the ones that survive the process are the ones you serve. I had studied the Marriott Way in building my corporate success so I knew that once they were our customers we had to Love all over them, but the process of getting them was hard, messy, and frankly not a lot of fun. I also thought I had to create every program possible to meet all of their needs

What do I do differently today? The adage rang true for me, “If I only knew then, what I know now.” But I also have few regrets and I learned volumes along the way.

First, I hired an executive advisor? Yes, I have a coach!
I know I’m not meant to serve everyone.
I picked a niche (my specialty) within my target market (executives).
I distinguish myself from others by stepping confidently into the strength of why and how I serve my clients.
I know my vision of why I do what I do and what I help my clients achieve.
I help my clients live more confidently by knowing who they are, what they have to offer and how to turn their passion into rewarding life work.
I have a strong bench of strategic alliances who help me serve my clients.
I have developed a tagline that articulates why I love my work.
“Winning Strategies for Life and Business”

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