I’m still learning. The day I stop reading, the day I stop learning – that’s the day I stop leading & likely the day I stop breathing.

Mike Myatt is Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer at N2growth – a firm which offers CEO coaching, leadership development and other related consulting activities.  Mike is recognized as one of the world’s top 25 leadership experts.  He has held numerous C-suite positions prior to becoming an advisor, speaker and author of Leadership Matters.  Mike is a syndicated columnist and contributing editor on topics of leadership and innovation for publications including ForbesPsychology TodayThe Washington Post, The Wall Street JournalEntrepreneurChicago Sun TimesSuccessWashington Times and the Chief Executive Magazine.  Mike contributed 2 articles in the past week for Forbes – both are exceptional and highly recommended:

1) Forbes: This One Leadership Quality Will Make or Break You (12/19/11)

2) Forbes: 5 Leadership Tips for 2012 (12/22/11)

I’ve included a good number of the important excerpts below from the 2 articles for my future reference. However, I encourage you to read the articles in their entirety so as not to lose Mike’s message and context.

My favorite excerpts from “This One Leadership Quality Will Make or Break You“:

  • “One of the most often overlooked aspects of leadership is the need for pursuit. Great leaders are never satisfied with traditional practice, static thinking, conventional wisdom, or common performance. In fact, the best leaders are simply uncomfortable with anything that embraces the status quo. Leadership is pursuit – pursuit of excellence, of elegance, of truth, of what’s next, of what if, of change, of value, of results, of relationships, of service, of knowledge, and of something bigger than themselves…”
  • “..Having a mindset focused on pursuit is so critical to leadership that lacking this one quality can sentence you to mediocrity or even obsolescence. The manner, method, and motivation behind any pursuit is what sets truly great leaders apart from the masses. If you want to become a great leader, become a great pursuer.
  • A failure to embrace pursuit is to cede opportunity to others. A leader’s failure to pursue clarity leaves them amidst the fog. Their failure to pursue creativity relegates them to the routine and mundane. Their failure to pursue talent sentences them to a world of isolation.  Their failure to pursue change approves apathy. Their failure to pursue wisdom and discernment subjects them to distraction and folly. Their failure to pursue character leaves a question mark on their integrity. Let me put this as simply as I can – you cannot attain what you do not pursue.
  • Smart leaders understand it’s not just enough to pursue, but pursuit must be intentional, focused, consistent, aggressive, and unyielding. You must pursue the right things, for the right reasons, and at the right times. Perhaps most of all, the best forms of pursuit enlist others in the chase. Pursuit in its purest form is highly collaborative, very inclusive and easily transferable. Pursuit operates at greatest strength when it leverages velocity and scale.
  • …Pursue discovery, seek dissenting opinions, develop your ability unlearn by embracing how much you don’t know, and find the kind of vision that truly does see around corners. Don’t use your pursuits to shift paradigms, pursue breaking them. Knowing what not to pursue is just as important as knowing what to pursue.
  • Put simply, you can wax eloquent all you like, but your actions will ultimately reveal what you truly value.
  • Lastly, the best leaders pursue being better leaders. They know to fail in this pursuit is nothing short of a guarantee they’ll be replaced by those who don’t. All leaders would be well served to go back to school on what I refer to as the science of pursuitology.

My Favorite Excerpts from “5 Leadership Tips for 2012“:

  • With only a few days left until we usher in the New Year, you’re going to be bombarded with lists of things to do and not to do. Most of them will contain the same tired rhetoric from years past. These lists du jour will simply rehash and spin items from prior years while offering little new in the way of helpful thought. I wanted to give readers 5 key items to focus on if they’re serious about becoming better leaders in 2012 – my holiday gift to you.
  • Family: If you’re struggling with the family balance thing my advice is simple: don’t attempt to balance your family – make them your priority. I’ve simply lived too long to buy into the myth that success in the workplace will create happiness at home. While it makes for a nice sound bite to console those with a guilty conscience, IT IS A LIE. If your business is growing, but your spouse is crying and your children are neglected, it’s time to do a reality check on your priorities…It is simply wrong to value your workplace commitments over your family commitments – moreover it’s not necessary. If your focus is on your family, your career won’t suffer, it will flourish. Get this wrong and not only will your family suffer, but so will you as you someday mourn the loss of what could have been, but cannot be recovered.
  • White Space: While the mind of a leader may be most comfortable being oriented toward the future, he/she can only act in the here and now. The knowledge and skills required to master any endeavor only happens when we focus on what we’re currently doing. This is the definition of presence, and it is only when we operate in the present that real creativity, growth and innovation occur. The problem with being present is that many leaders confuse this with having to do everything themselves. Have you ever interacted with someone who deals with silence by jumping in and filling the conversational void? This same thing occurs with executives who attempt to fill every open slot on the calendar with activity – this is a huge mistake. Smart leaders don’t fill their calenders with useless activities, they strategically plan for white space allowing them to focus on highest and best use endeavors. Leading doesn’t always mean doing. In fact, most often times it means pulling back and creating white space so that others can do. This is true leadership that scales.
  • Listening: Want to become a better leader? Stop talking and start listening…Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume of rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by dominating it. In this age of instant communication everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their mind, they fail to realize the value of everything that can be gleaned from the minds of others. Show me a leader who doesn’t recognize the value of listening to others and I’ll show you a train-wreck in the making.
  • Unlearning: …We’ve all acquired knowledge, beliefs or positions that but for the protection of our ego, would easily admit are outdated. I can think of no better definition for a closed mind than someone unwilling to change their opinions…No one has all the answers, so why even attempt to pretend that you do? Show me a person that never changes their mind, and I’ll show you a static thinker who has sentenced his mind to a prison of mediocrity and wasted potential….The smartest people I know are the most willing to change their minds. They don’t want to be right, they want the right outcome — they want to learn, grow, develop, and mature….Leaders ability to change their mind demonstrates humility, confidence and maturity. It makes them approachable, and it makes them human. People are looking for authentic, transparent leaders willing to sacrifice their ego in favor of right thinking.
  • Engagement: Leadership isn’t about you – it’s about those whom you lead and serve. There are few things as limiting and frustrating as disconnected leaders.  Smart leaders spend their time starting or advancing conversations, not avoiding or ending them. The more you engage others, the better leader you’ll become. It’s nearly impossible to engender the type of confidence, trust, and loyalty a leader must possess without being fully engaged. In person, over the phone, via email, through the social web, or even by sending a good old fashion thank you note – ENGAGE.
  • Bonus item – Read: When all else fails, there are few things which impact your thought life more than what you read. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and I plan to continue this pursuit in 2012….To the person, the best leaders I know are prolific readers. My message today is a simple one – if you want to improve your station in life, as well as the lives around you – read more. The greatest leaders throughout history have been nothing short of relentless in their pursuit of knowledge. I believe Michelangelo said it best when he uttered the words “Ancora Imparo” which when translated from the Italian means “I am still learning.” By the way, his first public use of this phrase was noted to have been on his 87th Birthday. I don’t know about you, but I’m still learning (and unlearning). Moreover, the day I stop reading, the day I stop learning – that’s the day I stop leading, and likely the day I stop breathing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: