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What make’s an exemplary leader?

What does a leader’s job boil down to?

And what is the glue that binds it all together and makes an adequate leader an exemplary one?

To save you reading two thousand management books and getting an MBA I’d summarise the nuts and bolts of the job as follows:

Vision: the ability to paint a picture of the future that emotionally engages people and compels them to action – whether that is buying your product or working for you.

People: the skillset to choose, coach and enable people to do their best work.

Tasks: the capacity to create a space in which the important things actually get done and at the right time.

The glue that makes it all work?

The ability to pause.

That sounds trite. Fluffy.

It isn’t.

Pause means the ability to take a step back and look at yourself and your company objectively. To therefore see the big picture, dismantle assumptions and uncover the hidden.

Pause means the ability to stop and listen to others with an open mind. To appreciate the nuances in every situation, to learn and take on others’ perspectives.

Pause means the ability to not rush to interrupt and take action. To not micro-manage your staff but instead empower them.

Pause means the ability to take a break and be there for yourself.  To be present. To not burn out.

Pause means the ability to consciously stop and plan your time.  So that things actually get done.

Pause creates both self-awareness and other-awareness.

It supercharges your ability to set and execute a vision, and to bring people with you.

So how to create pause?

Build micro-pauses into your day.

A slow appreciation of your cup of coffee, five heartbeats of silence before you correct or take over from a colleague, turning off email whist you do some deep work.

And then build a big pause into your week. I call this “the CEO’s chair”.

A chair you sit in once a week where you think and ask yourself questions. That’s it.

When top founders from Bill Gates to Arianna Huffington were asked what their biggest leadership tip of all time was they unanimously said actively building in reflection time.

So stop rushing. Make a commitment to pause. Slow down to speed up.

Have a lovely Thursday.

Love Sanja x

The CEO’s Chair

This exercise is useful not only to gain perspective but also to help you to separate your identity from your work. It makes what is subject to you object. It creates space and calm.

1)    Physically find a different spot to where you normally sit. This could be simply another desk in your office or a café, a comfy corner of your house, a park. I go to the pub by the sea.

2)    Set a time of the week to do this. Friday afternoon?

3)    Sit there for a good while.

4)    Ask yourself some questions. Set some in advance.

A past, present and future framework is helpful.

What have I achieved and learnt this week?
Am I moving things forward?
What next?

Some deeper ones. Challenge yourself.

What would an outsider see ( be honest)?
What’s right? What’s wrong?
What am I avoiding?
What is the most important thing here?

5)    Write, mutter to yourself, doodle.

6)  Repeat every week.

A couple of books on pausing and questioning

Do/Pause Robert Poynton
A more beautiful question Warren Berger