What does it take to be a great business coach or leader?
Many would assume this means to have a cold demeanor and a firm back hand of punishment. Others would suggest that a great leader shows compassion in the face of struggle, and offers a helping hand to those in need. And some would even venture to guess that being a true leader is in itself an impossible task. No matter how you slice it, leadership is paramount for the success of society, or even a business. How one leads can set the tone for success and dictate the final outcome. Look, I’m no expert when it comes to handing out leadership advice, but what I am is an observer and I’ve found that true leadership in my experience comes from those who are able to weather the storm in spite of it’s less than desirable conditions. I’ve had the privilege of experiencing great examples of leadership and the one thing that I’ve learned that all great leaders have in common is a stoic mindset and goal oriented views. Truly great leaders possess an iron will in the face of adversity and choose to carry on rather than to buckle and conform to pressure.
One of the many teaching points I’ve learned and held dear from my time under Clay has been to adopt a stoic point of view. But what does that mean exactly? Stoicism is defined as the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint. While that may seem impossible to grasp given the modern training that everyone experiences that encourages them to embrace and revel in their emotions, this practice is actually very simple to learn and effective in its results. Stoicism does not mean that one needs to be completely devoid of all emotions, rather that gaining control of your emotions and responding to external forces with logic and reason can provide a more favorable outcome. The path of business coach stoicism was founded on living a virtuous and fulfilling life that appeals to reason and the greater good through understanding what one can and cannot control. When applied correctly, this mindset can elevate any leader to greater heights and towards success beyond their fathomable understanding.
The Great Marcus Aurelius once said,
“Epithets For Yourself: Upright. Modest. Straightforward. Sane. Cooperative. Disinterested…Maintain your claim to these epithets, without caring if others apply them to you or not…Set sail, then, with this handful of epithets to guide you. And steer a steady course, if you can, Like an emigrant to the islands of the blest. And if you feel yourself adrift, as if you’ve lost control, then hope for the best, and put in somewhere where you can regain it”.
So what does one of the great fathers of stoicism mean by this? Allow me to break it down as I understand it.
A leader always stands at attention. Feet planted, shoulders squared and at the ready, eyes front and focused on the target, chin up and confident in the face of danger. Every great leader as far back as we can remember held this form and that is the reason we remember them today. Strength is not only measured by the merits of physical strength, but also by the will to prevail in various tough situations. It is important for one to hold their ground no matter what the occasion may bring. Powerful leaders show no retreat when it comes to adversity. True leaders buckle down and never show a sign of weakness, instead, they formulate a plan of attack and push through with a swagger that motivates their followers and pushes all under their leadership to victory.
Confidence is an attractive trait that many find themselves falling victim to. It’s easy for us to succumb to those that possess a higher level of self assuredness to us. But a powerful leader knows when to remain modest and when to puff out their chest. It takes a certain level of strength for one to humble themselves and appear as an average human being, and this trait allows for a deeper connection with those that you are leading. Contrary to popular belief, modesty is in fact quite sexy.
Having a clear and direct path is one of the most sure fire ways to victory. It is important to formulate a plan and execute it with blind faith in order to achieve greatness. Those that have succeeded before us did so by finding what actually worked and repeating the process over and over again. Deviation from the path and new ideas might seem fun because they are different, but consistency and remaining faithful to a plan always trumps a new idea.
This one is going to be tricky given the fact that I’m one of the least sane people you will ever meet. But hear my boy Marcus out… Remaining sane is a struggle, but can lead to success. So what exactly does he mean by remaining sane? I choose to believe it relates to the previous idea of staying the course. In today’s world it’s far too easy to absorb the millions of ideas thrown at us from media outlets, society, etc. and begin to lose our way. With so many different avenues of belief and opinion one is subject to insanity if they try to rationalize it all or bounce from ideology to ideology. It’s better to plant one’s feet and commit to the idea that relates to you and your goals in life. Your followers need direction, and if you lack the business coach ability to steer them due to your inability to focus on what keeps you sane, how will they ever truly be led?
Everyone at some point or another believes that being a leader means having the final say in all things always. But a great leader has the ability to work towards a common goal with a team. There is in fact a time and place for bullheadedness, but on a grand scale it is much more beneficial for the mission if one can find it within themselves to work with others. We all know the timeless phrase “there is no I in team”. And that couldn’t be any more true. A good leader is only as strong as their followers, and if one chooses to ignore the needs or assistance of the followers, how can we ever truly acquire success? Cooperation and delegation is key, otherwise we end up taking on all of the responsibility and never get to experience any of the rewards.
If you’re still reading this I need you to do one thing for me right this second. I need you to let go of the idea that other people’s opinions matter. That may be easier said than done, but I promise you it’ll lead to much greater things. One of the biggest flaws that we possess currently as humans is the inherent need for approval from those that do not deserve it. Public opinion, social status, and comfort dictate our very lives. The fear of offending people keeps us from speaking out. The fear that our business coach actions can cause unfavorable consequences keeps us from acting. And fear of being left out or ostracized keeps us from thinking freely. I hate to break it to you, but even if you hate someone or something, the sad truth is you still care. Indifference doesn’t mean you have to be completely shut off from the world, but instead it means that you are immune to effects that others have on you. This freedom will allow you to overcome so many obstacles and to act in a manner that actually serves your intentions rather than those of the people that would love to see you fail.
In short, if you want to become a great leader, you need to decide if you’d rather fight for what you believe in, or allow yourself to be controlled by others and their emotions. Your emotional state and ambitions are your own and are not defined by popular opinion. The stoics found the separation between one’s self and the outside world to be a liberating and profound escape from mediocrity. So, will you choose to let your actions be defined by emotions and the will of others, or will you disconnect to become the leader you were meant to be?