Obviously your goal is to become a great leader. Bad leaders do not read blog articles on leadership. Bad leaders don't care what other people think, so much so, they also don't care how they treat people. This blog article was written to help you understand the changing landscape of business and business leadership in the 21st century.
Why Does Everyone Love the MBA Degree?
The #1 reason American corporations, silicon valley and most CEO's covet MBA graduates is because they "hope" that business school will give them an edge in business and their ability to make money.
But stop and think for a second. Businesses have been around since the 18th century in America, and business schools didn't start popping up until the 20th century. How did business owners and CEOs successfully run their businesses BEFORE business school and MBA degrees?
The truth is being a good CEO, a brilliant entrepreneur or a savvy business person has less to do with Business School and more to do with 21st century skills. Therefore, it doesn't matter where you learn them -- the answer is - LEARN THEM!!
The 21st Century Leadership Handbook
Do you want to be a good leader? Don't answer too quickly!
The truth is most people who "say" they want to be a good leader, don't know the first thing about leadership. And that's because American education doesn't teach 21st century leadership skills. And to prove that point, reading about leaders is not learning skills. Studying what other leaders have done in the past, is also NOT learning new skills for you. And analyzing case studies is not the same thing as learning the foundational skills you will need, so you can become the NEW case study that other MBA students can analyze.
What's happened over the years is that education has become stale, old, boring and out of touch with reality. Reading is not the same as learning. And most teachers and professors don't seem to understand the difference between the two - and why would they? When was the last time a teacher had to use any 21st century skills? When was the last time a professor had pressure to lead people or get a project done?
Meeting a publishing deadline is not the same as meeting a business deadline where your team's jobs are on the line and a multi-million dollar deal is about to fall through.
The Six Steps of Leadership
What MBA curriculums lack is a sense of foundational skills. There is a great assumption that everyone graduated from high school and college, so they MUST have a good understanding of leadership at a core level.
This is a gross misunderstanding and a huge mistake on Business School professor's parts. Leaf Academy founder is a trailblazing educator. He was one of the first superintendents in America to adopt a 21st century skills curriculum in the K12 district program he was running at the time. That was back in 2011.
What were you studying in 2011? Think about that for a second. While his high school students were learning the Six Steps of Leadership, you were reading MacBeth and doing word problems. Who got the higher quality education?
Why are there Six Steps to Leadership?
If you were wondering, why are there only six steps? And what do those steps include? Then you found the right place to start learning how to become more successful in the 21st century. For easy reference, here is a list of the Six Steps of Leadership:
Step One: Vision
Step Two: Setting Goals
Step Three: Responsibility
Step Four: Management
Step Five: Support
Step Six: Reflection
In order to be a successful leader in the 21st century, you must know all six steps. If you skip any of these steps, you will see it play out in the real world. And there are hundreds of examples of people we perceive to be "great" leaders, who aren't really great at all. What business schools and the media are measuring is simply how much a leader can "drag" out of a company or its employees.
But what if leaders knew how to "inspire" employees to do more?
For example, we think that Steve Jobs is a "great" leader. But if you read his biography by Walter Isaacson, then we know the hidden truth. Steve Jobs was a horrible human being to work for, especially in the early days of Apple, before he was fired from his own company in the 1990s.
The reasons we think of Steve Jobs as a great leader is because he was a visionary. Let's look at the Six Steps of Leadership. What is Step One? You guessed it, step one is vision. Steve Jobs was a great visionary. But there are a lot of great visionaries in the world. But there has to be something else that separated Jobs from everyone else, right?
Let's go to Step Two. That has to do with setting goals. Here again, Steve Jobs was a master at setting goals. Most people thought his goals were unattainable, but that's because 99% of people lack confidence and also are afraid of their own shadow. Jobs didn't have time for people's fears and insecurities.
This is where things start to fall apart for Jobs as a leader. Great leaders must "listen" to their employees. That's Step Five on the list. Listening is not the same as agreeing. Don't make the mistake of thinking listening means you must agree with people. The point is that great leaders listen to their people. They listen because great leaders know they are not "geniuses" and that they can't know everything.
Albert Einstein is considered a genius by most people. But Einstein famously said, "The difference between stupidity and genius, is that genius has its limits."
Confucius even said, "the wise man knows that he knows nothing."
Who are real great leaders? They are the people who listened to others. Great leaders gather information. In fact, the more a leader listens the smarter they get. And the smarter decisions they make. The less a leader listens, they will be stuck inside an insulated bubble and that's when bad decisions are made.
For example, Stanford Business School famously studies the Nokia Case Study. In fact, every graduate of Stanford Business School can recite this case study verbatim because it's so famous in its lecture halls. The story of Nokia is profound for business and business leaders. Why did Nokia fail? And why did it fail so quickly?
The answer has to do with it's insulated bubble. The leaders of Nokia refused to listen to anyone, but themselves. The story goes that in early 2007, the Nokia board got an early model iPhone and had an opportunity to make a pivotal business decision. At the time, Nokia was the #1 cellphone manufacturer in the world. And Apple was just about to launch its first smartphone ever. They had no track record in the cellphone market.
Did Nokia take Apple seriously? The answer is no. They laughed at Apple's iPhone and in their minds a "feeble" attempt to compete with them. Remember, they were the global leader of cellphones in 2007.
Where are they now?
Let's go back to Steve Jobs at Apple in the 1990s. Jobs had been on the cover of magazines, he was touted as the next big genius and all of it went straight to his head. In the biography by Isaacson, we can read about how Jobs belittled and berated his employees. The only person that was shocked Apple fired him in the 90s was Jobs. Everyone else at the company was relieved. Is that the image of a great leader?
Do we feel relieved when great leaders leave? Or do we feel a void?
Don't Forget Step Six
How can the Six Steps of Leadership help the bottom line of your company? How can these six steps help you inspire employees, motivate them, increase sales and profit margins and grow your company?
One of the steps that's missing from leadership education today is Step Six. That's how to do real world reflection. You already might be wondering, what is that?
The truth is that most people have no idea how to do a proper self-reflection. That's because teachers and schools have been teaching reflective skills the wrong way. If you do a google search for reflection worksheets, you will not find one worksheet that talks about celebrating your achievements or accomplishments.
Every educator who talks about reflection only focuses on the negative. Only focuses on what needs to be improved. This is a huge mistake, which has profound negative consequences for business leaders and for your companies.
Who wants to work for a leader who never "sees" anything positive in the world? After a while, it starts to get old. Great leaders inspire people and inspiration doesn't come from Step One. Being a visionary is not what inspires people. Having vision changes the way people see the world and see opportunities, but great leaders inspire people by reflecting on what is happening around them.
Great leaders "SEE" everything. Which means, they see the "good" and the bad.
When was the last time, you sat down with your employees and went over their strengths at work? And when was the last time you sat down with them and asked them to tell you how the business should be run?
That's two of the Six Steps right there and if you did that once a month, your business would increase profit margins within 6 months. And you would see employee morale hit all time highs and you would see employee recruitment go up because everyone that works for your company will tell everyone else, how great a leader you are and how lucky they feel to work for someone unique and special.
Become a Great 21st Century Leader
Obviously you decided to read this blog because you want to be on the short list of great leaders. Isn't that sad to say - being a great leader in America means you are on a short list. That's because most leaders in our country are bad at their jobs, bad at making decisions, bad at basically everything they need to be good at. And 90% of them are MBA graduates. Isn't that even more sad?
Here's the good news!
The first step to becoming a great leader is learning the Six Steps of Leadership. It's not more complicated than that. If you want to see a profound shift in business, wait till every leader learns the six steps. And if you want to see things really go in a positive direction, wait till every MBA prospective student learns the six steps BEFORE they start their MBA program.
To be quite honest, if MBA students knew the six steps of leadership before they went to business school, the professors at those schools would think that the admissions team did a great job finding the "geniuses" of America.
The professors would have no idea that all that happened was that you had a foundation in leadership skills first, and that's why you understand their lectures at a higher level, the questions you ask are more deep and insightful and the projects you start will be even more world-changing.