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Macala Wright: 3 Things Effective Leaders Know

Effective 21st century business leaders are mindful, strategic, introspective and not afraid to continually question their purpose.

Macala Wright
Macala Wright on January 20, 2013. @macala


My recent piece, Senior Leadership Must Change Its Tune, outlined focus areas that senior leaders must work on in order to build successful practices in this year. As senior leaders work on adapting to complex dynamics that makeup 21st century business issues, they must also work on themselves as individuals in order to solve the challenges they face. In order to increase productivity and capabilities in 2013, there are three areas of focus:

Limits of Automation

As individuals, we’ve reached our limits of automation as the demands in our lives have finally outplace paced our (human) capacity to deliver upon all of them. To find the best information, trends and ideas that are at the core of disruption and change, we need to bring back human editing. As beautiful as data may be, it will never replace thinking.

Leaders, you’ll have to dedicate your time and the time of your staff to manual search, it’s with human eyes and intuition that you will find what you’re seeking. Digital mediums have made it harder than ever for cream to rise to the top and for truly innovative people and platforms to be discovered. Human curation takes time and creation of original content, ideas and things (whatever they may be) takes even longer.

So what do we as leaders do? We need to automate the parts of our lives that will build positive behaviors that enable us to succeed while personally focusing on the things need our direct attention.

This is hard to accomplish. In fact, a recent Ben-Gurion University study noted that we spend at least one-quarter of each waking day just trying to resist our desires.  Developing habits and routines strengthen our willpower to succeed; we’re then able to overcome negative behaviors that distract us and take away productivity. By simply taking action with consciousness and intention, we can develop positive habits that allow us to spot patterns, connections and trends that we otherwise may have missed.

Solving Complex Leadership Problems

Multitasking Is Unproductive

As leaders, we need to continually evaluate the productivity of our programs and purpose of products. To do this we must be objective’ objectivity requires impartial analysis in our evaluations. In order to do that, one must be in the habit of analyzing the situation surrounding yourself as a human individual first.

When we have multiple work projects running simultaneously, coupled with the demands of our personal lives, we often lose sight of what’s driving us. While it’s important to focus on the here and now, we must look at what’s coming down the line. It’s why I continually remind the senior executives I work with that they must SLOW DOWN in order to think objectively and impartially, as their personal state of mind impacts the decisions they make with their companies.

The day your past becomes more exciting than your future is the day you start to die. – John Wooden

Continually Seek Purpose

When you look at your capacity limits and take out senseless multitasking efforts, you’ll found that you’re often left with a little bit of space in the mind. And in that calm, you begin to try and figure out what the your purpose is, what your passions are (most likely they’ve shifted as you’ve developed over the years) and asking who yourself who you are now.

Leadership Personal Development Skills

That’s when it’s time for a life audit. To start this, I’d recommend to reading The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Once you’ve read it, realize it will and should take some time to work out your answers to the questions. In conjunction with that article, I often also recommend reading, Zen and The Art Of Happiness, Who Are You? What Do You Want? and The FireStarter Sessions. These three books are a perfect extension of the Disciplined Pursuit of Less and will help with further clarity.

Also, you’re going to have to be prepared to ask yourself about value you bring to the world. Here is how I often write it out, ask yourself:

  1. “Who am I without my money/title/[brand] name?”
  2. “When that’s taken away, what’s my value to society?”
  3. What is it that makes me priceless – [in your skill set, knowledge] – in this world?
  4. Moreover, how am I using my knowledge or skill set in the service of helping people build better lives and a better world?

Raman Kia, Digital Director of Conde Nast, puts it in these terms, “What is your transferable ethos? Why do you exist?” In other words, you have to ask yourself, “What is it that you offer/can do that no one else can?” Answer that and you have then defined your true value and meaning, also known as your purpose.

Mindfulness and clarity allow us to align ourselves with the process of regularly looking and seeking out marketplace disruptions that may be key to our future success. “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how” said Viktor Frankel.

We become better leaders with the ability to see change coming, then be able to bend and pivot when it comes and often get a head of it – leveraging it for our strategic advantage. How? Because we’re operating with intention and purpose beyond ourselves.

Photos: Group Partners

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Macala Wright is a business strategist and research analyst with a passion for journalism. As a writer, she merges her passion for storytelling and narrative with her deep understanding of technology and strategy to help bring innovative ideas, products and programs to life. Interested in the tools and platforms that society uses to communicate culture, her writing and studies explore how people can become better communicators in order to shape their futures, share their ideas and create a better world to live in.

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