The Counter-intuitive Winning Habits You Didn't Realize as a Leader

What is being counter-intuitive?

It is simply the opposite of "intuitive" —  something that does not fit in the box of a usual instinctive or unconscious way of being. It could reverse the phenomenon of flight or flight depending on the situations.

What are the counter-intuitive winning habits that every leader must practice?

Going beyond what traditional knowledge about effectiveness might be helpful in conquering the practical and complex realities of the world. Here's a list of counter-intuitive habits that can make every leader succeed regardless of their title or position:
  • Win Through People, Not Over People: Leadership is relational. A leader is only a leader when there are followers. This is the ultimate relationship. Especially, with the millennials taking over a huge chunk of the workforce, it is important to build strong relationships that foster collaboration, fair practices, support through coaching and a sense of accountability with flexibility. That's how millenials roll. 
  • Don't Force Motivation: Motivation is more than dangling a carrot or waving a stick at others. Research suggests that extrinsic rewards can only go so far. In that case, satisfaction becomes one of the biggest rewards than any carrot in the world can offer. Every single person has a key motivation drive and should ideally be happy if given the right conditions for succeeding in the job they were hired for. Make efforts in creating those collective conditions with clear expectations for everyone. Most can be satisfied, happy or happier. The conditions may include an environment of trust, flexibility with accountability, setting safe and respectful teams standards, offering enough autonomy, offering coaching and other learning opportunities, leveraging people's strengths, providing interesting and challenging projects, promoting creativity, etc. These are just examples. Whatever those conditions may be, they need to align with your people and your workplace to work the best.
  • Make Effectiveness a Strategy than Seeking Perfection in Everything: We were carved out to be human beings, not precision robots. You can make a blunder with a perfect PowerPoint presentation. Have you had that experience? You can also do a great and effective presentation without using technology. How about that? Effectiveness is what drives sustainable results and works on the WHY at the heart of it than just the WHAT and HOW. In this VUCA world (vulnerable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) a lot can be achieved at a great speed but internalizing the WHY and the WHAT helps in strengthening an effective strategy to succeed. Encourage innovation and ideas for the HOW. You have a plethora of talent around you.
  • Consensus is Great! But Data Speaks: Consensus is great for most times. But this is the world of mindful disruption. Bring in the power of data when moving forward is more important than harmony and bonding. It shall all be good again. 
  • Take the Risk of Rejection: Research suggests, rejection is something that we fear more than death at times. Effective leaders conquer such fears and expand their own leadership capacity. Seek out those reasonable experiences that have a high risk of rejection. Once it desensitizes you, a few things will happen. One, you will have no fear of rejection anymore. Two, you will have more ideas to make your way around those rejections. Three, you will be more empathetic towards others, when people come to you with failures in their own endeavors. Remember, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
  • Quit Endeavors that You Can't Have the Support for or Achieve Results: Not all the endeavors that you want to pursue match the realities of others. You may have the most brilliant ideas in the world but they might not be the best fit either in a certain context or for the people involved in the context. It is not about perseverance. It is about being smart. Stop wasting your precious time and energy when you do not have the support to achieve results. Be resilient and remember, there's a lot more than that one single project. 
  • Practice Momentary Isolation: When complexity is draining, it is best to step back in isolation to see the bigger picture and re-energize. Take a break, get away from people for a bit. Your mind, body, and wisdom need it. Do not ignore it, or else you will burn yourself out. Don't forget, the people you work with also need some time by themselves.
  • Visibility Before Humbleness: Many leaders often fail to see that humbleness is about practicing humility, not shyness.  Many times this is a part of my leadership coaching engagements with executives. You could be an introvert and there is nothing wrong with it. But making an effort towards being visible and modeling effective leadership behaviors is important for you and your people. They need to see their leader in action and not just be hung on to their idealistic imagination. Get the formula straight - STAY VISIBLE, STAY CONNECTED. That's a foundational piece of your executive presence.
  • Test the Waters with People Around You: Being comfortable with your team and people around you is on every leader's wish-list. But how would you know the depth of those relationships? You can leave it up to the philosophy of "the time shall tell" or practically and subtly test the waters with those people. Sometimes disruption is bliss and it opens our eyes towards realities that a leader should be aware of. This is not a suggestion to go out and burn your bridges everywhere. Take this as an encouragement to be bolder, challenge the status quo in relationships and carve the best out of them.
If you haven't tried these winning counter-intuitive habits yet, then give them a practical shot and make them a part of your growth plan.

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Sahil Sharma
Talent, Learning & Leadership Development Professional | Certified Leadership Coach

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