I’ve been writing books and articles about leadership for the past several years. I try my best to make my advice and observations unique and interesting, but sometimes that’s hard. Listen to others, articulate your vision, focus on the details, be open-minded – do you know how hard it is to come up with a new way to say the same thing we’ve been telling ourselves for 85 years? The frustration is enough to drive a man to drink, but unfortunately it’s too early in the day for that. I should really do more writing at night.
Anyway, since I can’t drown my problems in scotch, I thought I’d change my approach instead. Leadership conversations almost always focus on leadership skills. But what about those essentials which on their face have nothing to do with leadership? There are at least 4 of them, which just so happens to be the number I put in the title. How conveniently coincidental!
Public Speaking Prowess
All leaders, from team leads up to CEOs, are constantly expected to address groups of people, and you’ll be better respected if you aren’t stumbling over your own words and/or wetting yourself with fear. Public speaking is a skill just like any other, and so even if you find the idea terrifying you can still get better with practice, which you can do in your basement by the way.
Comfort In Front of a Camera
You’ll eventually be interviewed, or maybe you’ll put together some internal promo videos with you as the focal point, or perhaps you’ll just get invited to participate in a panel discussion at a conference where they’re going to project your giant head onto an even more gigantic screen. The point is, you should learn how to not look directly into the camera (unless you’re supposed to), how not to fidget endlessly, and how to be comfortable when you’re literally in the spotlight. Fortunately, this is also a skill you can practice in your basement. And don’t worry too much if you don’t think you have a face for television. Decades of unattractive singers and guitarists have made the viewing public very tolerant of looking at less-than-perfect-looking people. Thanks, Steven Tyler!
Proper Dining Etiquette
You’re going to have a lot of meals with a lot of different people – employees, shareholders, vendors, clients, government regulators, and hopefully a few groupies. Learning how to talk with a mouth half full of food is hardly the most important skill in the world, but it can spell the difference between making a good impression and hastily apologizing while you wipe mashed potatoes off of someone else’s face. Which I’ve now had to do twice. When will I learn?
Read a biography of a leader you admire, and odds are you’ll learn that he or she has learned how to operate on fairly little sleep. They also know how to shut down for 20 minutes and wake up recharged and ready to go for another several hours. Training yourself to relax, even for a short period of time, will give your brain the break it needs to return to optimum performance. Plus, this is easily the most enjoyable leadership advice you’ll ever be given.
Improving at any one of these will make you into a better leader than you already are, and improving at all four of them is easily within your reach. I recommend you start with napping. That’s what I’m about to do.