3 Keys to Being a Fearless Executive

In my work with business executives, I have come to the conclusion that most individuals in positions of influence got there accidentally. This may sound harsh to those of you in the business world reading this article, but the truth CAN be harsh, much like the medicine our mothers gave us as young children. There is a bright side, however, to this fact: Those of you who put in the effort can rise far above the average executive. Here are three tips to do that, and quickly:

1. Learn to love responsibility

As strange as this may sound, to be a better executive in the business world, you have to want to assume more responsibility - not only for your actions but for the actions of those you lead. This means taking on tough assignments early in your career (or all the time)- the ones that nobody wants. It also means that you must learn to make decisions, and make them quickly and effectively. To do this, most executives follow a two step process.

A. They figure out what data they need to make their decision. I always ask those that I'm coaching or working as a consultant with the following question: "What do you need to know in order to make the decision?" This serves to focus their mind quickly on the solution to whatever dilemma they are facing.

B. They find someone who has that data. Once they know what data they are looking for, top leaders and executives in the business field search for the person who can deliver that data, quickly. It might be the head of the division, or it might be a mid-level manager. It might be the front desk staff.

Once they get the data they need from the correct person or position within the company, top executives quickly move ahead with their decisions. Not all decisions work out, but top executives waste far fewer hours struggling with and lamenting decisions they've made. They understand that it goes with the territory of being near the top of the company pyramid.

2. Never let your head get bigger than the doorway

The higher up an executive is, the fewer cell phones and pagers he has on his or her person. Really! I have found top CEO's far more approachable and amiable to discussion than mid-level managers. They simply don't take themselves too seriously, even though they are serious about their jobs and careers. This may be due in part to the fact that many top CEO's were once mailroom clerks or the like, and they understand that where you've come from is just as important as where you have ended up currently. Perhaps it is also due to a tendency to welcome opposing opinions as opportunities to learn rather than subjects to attack. Strong executives - those that lead fearlessly - learn just as much from their interactions as they teach.

If you find that your head no longer fits through your office doorway, you've got problems. Learn what top executives already know - learning is a continual process, and people are the most important assets any company will have. Keeping these things in mind allows them to gain a proper perspective on business and life.

3. Envision the future, delegate the mudane

Top leaders in every field master this principle quickly. Many executives wallow in mediocrity due to a lack of understanding of this principle. Warren Bennis, one of the foremost experts on leadership, wrote about this principle in the book, The Unconscious Conspiracy, over thirty years ago, though the ideas in his book are just as relevant in today's business world as they were then.

Top executives understand that getting bogged down in everyday, mundane tasks and details drastically reduces their effectiveness as a decision maker for their company. Committees, meetings, memos, phone calls - these are all obstacles to true leadership and should be delegated at every opportunity. To be a better and far more fearless executive, focus more on the future and delegate that which will impede your doing so. In sports, top head coaches surround themselves with even better assistant coaches - and it is the assistant coaches who take care of the mundane and decidedly boring tasks, such as travel arrangements, banquet preparations, recruiting schedules, etc. This allows them to focus on how to build a better team tomorrow, and to take action on their ideas and plans.

In business, the exact same process occurs. Learn to better focus your energies on the leadership duties that will position the company better tomorrow rather than keep the company where it is today.

Copyright (2005) Leif H. Smith, Psy.D. All Rights Reserved.

Performance expert Leif H. Smith, Psy.D, is the president of Personal Best Consulting, a consulting firm located in Hilliard, Ohio. To learn more tips and techniques to immediately improve performance in your life and to sign up for his FREE monthly advice newsletter, visit http://www.personalbestconsulting.com

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