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Excellence is the Product of Habit and Training

There is a difference between true and false leaders. False leaders are those who acquire positions of power for their own glory. History is littered with examples of false leaders from Genghis Khan to Josef Stalin and Saddam Hussein. Their legacy is nil.

True leaders, on the other hand, are not leaders for themselves. Instead of personal gain, true leaders seek to bring out the best in others. They make others realize their own greatness. Their legacy is incalculable.

You can become a true leader by practising these 7 acts of people-building.

1. Sow Good Habits

Excellent performance by your team isn’t a single act depending on whether they’re good enough or not, but the result of many small habits repeated day in and day out. To quote Aristotle: “Excellence is an art won by habitation and training.”
True leaders develop excellent habits in others through personal example, gentle persuasion, and helpful feedback. It’s not about forcing people to change but consistently setting goals for people to achieve their very best.

2. Coax Out Skills

One of the gifts that true leaders have that others don’t is the ability to spot the potential that lies half-dormant in others and coax it out. Coaxing may mean a bit of pushing, a bit of bribing, a bit of hard slog, a bit of support in the tough times, and a bit of letting go when they’re on their own. That’s why coaxing has the same value as its near namesake, coaching.

3. Remove Their Limitations

Many of us are like fish in a plexi-glass tank. We swim around within our limitations. Then when we are put in a new situation, like fish in a new pool, we find it hard to go beyond our earlier limitations. True leaders help us make it. They let us know that they believe we can, when we believe we can’t. They help us over the mental blind spots. In this way, they breathe new life into us.

4. Build The Team

In his book “Global Challenge”, Humphrey Walters describes the epic voyages of 14 crews competing in the BT round-the-world yacht race. When the crews were selected, most of the crews went away to learn how to sail their yachts. But a handful went away to develop their teambuilding skills. At the end of the race, all the teams that developed their teambuilding skills finished in the top half of the race.

There is a simple process that true leaders follow when building teams. It’s known as “from unshared certainty to shared uncertainty”. It means replacing a dependence on ourselves with a dependence on the team and replacing safety and non-risk for uncertainty and risk.

5. Treat People Right

Dee Hock gives this advice to leaders: “Make a careful list of all the things done to you in the past that you abhorred. Don’t do them to others ever. Make another list of all the things done to you that you loved. Do them to others always.” Treating others the way you want to be treated is the hallmark of true leaders. It is known as the Golden Rule. Interestingly enough, it is the one rule that appears in the teachings of every major world religion.

6. Empower Them

Many people lose confidence in their abilities because they work in organizations that have robbed them of real power. They simply defer to others. True leaders know that when you have power and give it to others, it comes back to you many times over with credit.

Empowering others doesn’t require high-powered skills. It’s as simple as…
• respecting others as individuals in their own right
• seeking their views and contributions
• showing interest and support
• restoring pride in what they do
• making them feel good about what they do.
Giving people power is the first step to creating more leaders.

7. Be Patient and Persistent

True leaders know that when they patiently and persistently work to develop others, results will eventually come. They have faith in the outcome.

There is a species of the Chinese bamboo plant that, when planted, shows no sign of growth for 4 years. Nevertheless, throughout this time, it must be watered, fed, and tended. Then, in its fifth year, it starts to grow, and inside 6 weeks, can reach a magnificent height of 90 feet. Sometimes, people are a bit like the Chinese bamboo plant.

There is a way to measure true, as opposed to false, leadership. It’s what happens when you’re not around. If people face crisis with calmness, meet challenge with strength, and go beyond any level of previous performance with their heads held high, then you know they’re led by true leaders.


Build Good Habits: The Golden Rule

Days after the 2016 US Presidential election, a Muslim student at the University of Texas came to a march protesting the election of Donald Trump. Attending the same rally was a Trump supporter sporting a sign that read “Proud to Be Deplorable” and a “Make America Great Again” cap. In this video, listen to the conversation between these two people who, despite being on opposite ends of the political spectrum, remember a moment that day that unexpectedly brought them together and allowed them to subsequently find out about each other and apply the golden rule.


Build Good Habits: The Chinese Bamboo Tree

In this video from Sense of Wonder, you'll see the story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree. It's beautifully drawn and cannot help but inspire and motivate you.


Build Good Habits: Slideshare from Carly Klineberg

In this slideshare from Carly Klineberg, you'll learn how to build or improve a successful team.

How To Build A Successful Team from Carly Klineberg

Build Good Habits: Course Topics from MTL

Here is the Course Topics presentation on "People Builders" with topics on how to build good team habits.

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Build Good Habits: The Quiz

The following quiz is part-fun and part-review of your learning in this mini-course. Simply click what you think is the right answer in each of the 10 questions below. There are 50 marks for a full house of right answers. You can also choose to have your score emailed to you. Good luck!