THE MOBILE MBA
what It takes to Be a leader
Most leadership gurus tell you half the truth, at best, about what it takes to be
a leader. They will tell you about the need for vision, handling people, dealing
with crises and all the other good stuff that makes up the corporate speaking
circuit. Here are 10 vital qualities you are less likely to hear them talk about:
The 10 vital qualities
1 Sleeping on planes and dealing with jet lag. In any large organisation, a leader
will spend a large amount of time on planes: I did 250,000 miles a year. The routine
was simple: one glass of champagne and one melatonin pill 40 minutes before take-
off, and I would be able to sleep all the way. Business class is not for fancy meals and
watching movies: it is for work or sleep.
2 Working in vehicles. If you cannot work in taxis and cars, you will waste more time
than you can afford. Staring out of the window mindlessly is not good.
3 Dieting. Leaders are surrounded by biscuits, cookies and other corporate death food;
and then there are the inevitable lunches, dinners and hotel breakfasts. Either learn to
love the fruit, or start jogging. Or die early as an obese alcoholic. But to this day, some
firms demand that you ‘put your liver on the line’: if you do not drink and entertain,
you fail. Pick your diet to fit your firm.
4 Ruthless time management. Queues were invented to let leaders catch up
with emails and phone calls; ditch or delegate everything you can; fix appointments
around your diary, not around other people’s.
5 Work the politics. Find the right assignments, right support and right mentors. Set
expectations well. Negotiate budgets hard. Wake up to the reality of corporate life.
6 Be ambitious, for your organisation and yourself. Stretch yourself and your team to
achieve more than ever; keep on learning and growing. Don’t accept excuses, don’t be
a victim: take responsibility.
7 Learn to speak well:
to small groups, to individuals and to large groups. As
one tribal elder told me:
‘Words are like gods: words create whole new worlds in
someone’s head. So use words well.’ For many people, having a tooth extracted is less
daunting than speaking in public. But it is a skill anyone can develop, with practice,
over the years. And leaders must have this skill.