To Become a Better Leader, Develop These Two Abilities

To become a better leader, follow this ten-year research study (Source: A Bias for Action by Bruch and Ghosal), which claims that for a leader to create a culture that has a bias for action, two qualities need to be developed:

  1. Focus – having one overarching, ambitious goal
  2. Energy – having positive energy or willpower to see it through to completion

In their study, they identified four types of managerial behaviors: Frenzied, Procrastinators, Detached and Purposeful and their respective percentages, as depicted by the diagram below:



Only one group was both highly focused and highly energized. Guess which one? Yes, the Purposeful group, and they only represented ten percent of the population of managers they researched. The Frenzied group were high energy but low focus; the Procrastinators were low energy and low focus and the Detached group were low energy yet high focus.

The concept of focus is one that is easily grasped, but hard to master. Having an AMBITIOUS goal is one way to gain focus. Having the energy in this context, actually means having the willpower to pursue the goal. As you know, if you ever tried to change a habit, it takes a lot of willpower/energy to stay the course.

Those that can set an ambitious goal AND who develop and sustain the willpower to stay focused on the activities that contribute to that goal are the ones who succeed. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), willpower is actually like a muscle we can develop. In fact, some studies cited by the APA indicate that as we exercise willpower, our blood-glucose levels drop, and when we restore those levels, our willpower gets restored also. Which is probably why sports teams have energy drinks available throughout a game…it’s not just for physical energy, but also mental energy or willpower! In addition, sleep has been identified as a way to restore willpower. So get a good night’s sleep too!

So to succeed as a leader set an AMBITIOUS goal that makes a difference for the world and for your team. Then develop your own and your team’s willpower to continually focus on the activities that get you closer to that goal.

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