Obama's No.1 Rule For Leadership

Insight from one of the greatest leaders of our generation.

"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."

Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric

In this edition of Elite Team Talks:

  • One quick win: the power of optimism

  • One proven system: how NASA made failure a competitive advantage

  • One to watch: Obama’s number one rule for leaders

  • One for you: overcoming imposter syndrome

  • One million dollar question: your unique advantage

  • Ones we recommend: inside a Super Bowl-winning culture

1. HARNESSING THE POWER OF OPTIMISM

As a leader, curveballs will be thrown at you daily.

And many of them will be undesirable.

Viewing these pessimistically, as threats rather than opportunities, makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint.

It’s a survival mechanism for anticipating and avoiding high-risk scenarios.

But 99.99% of our daily decisions are no longer life-threatening.

To overcome this inbuilt protective mechanism, it’s important to enter daily situations with an optimistic mindset.

  • When meeting a new teammate: “I'm going to like them.”

  • When encountering a setback: “This is temporary, I'll come back stronger.”

  • When feeling overwhelmed: "I can handle this one step at a time."

  • When contributing to a team project: "We will create something extraordinary.”

  • Before giving a presentation: "My message is valuable, my team will appreciate it."

And if you’re still on the fence, studies coming out of Harvard University show that optimism is linked to a longer lifespan.

Optimists live up to 15% longer than pessimists.

Not to mention a 23% lower risk of depression and 37% better performance at work.

When you are thinking about curveballs or potential threats, remember the quote from assistant Liverpool coach, Pep Lijnders, before their Carabao Cup victory over Chelsea. Several of their star players were ruled out of the final with injuries, but his glass was never half empty 👇

2. HOW NASA TURN FAILURE INTO A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

One genius system NASA implemented during the Apollo Program was "Fault Tree Analysis" (FTA).

To minimise the likelihood of not landing on the moon, they systematically identified and addressed every conceivable way a system could fail, thereby reducing the likelihood of mission-critical failures.

But NASA's Fault Tree Analysis isn't just a tool for rocket scientists, it can be used to minimise the amount of time, money and stress it takes for you and your team to achieve your goal.

Here's how NASA used this innovative approach;

Step 1: Identify The Biggest, Catastrophic Failure: In NASA case it was failing to land on the moon. In your case, it would be failing to reach your team's or company's ambitious mission.

Step 2: Construct the Fault Tree: Engage experts from various departments to contribute to the fault tree. Work backward from your catastrophic failure to map out all possible faults (events) that could lead to this top-level failure, using a tree-like diagram.

Step 3: Analyse Fault Paths: Each branch of the tree represents a different path of failure, branching out into increasingly specific causes.

Step 4: Calculate Probabilities: For quantifiable risks, calculate how likely it is for each fault to occur. This requires detailed knowledge of each risk, alongside any data you have available.

Step 5: Mitigate Risks: Identify where in the "tree" you can intervene to reduce the likelihood of the top-level event occurring. Focus on high-impact, high-probability faults.

Step 6: Assign Responsibility: Identify who is responsible for leading and supporting interventions, with regular fault-tree updates from each stakeholder.

Do you have an upcoming, high-risk project where your team could benefit from this? If so, reply “FTA” to this email and we’ll send you more useful resources 💡

3. OBAMA’S NUMBER ONE RULE FOR LEADERSHIP

Barack Obama's election as the 44th president of the United States was historic as the first African American to hold office.

Not to mention forever being considered as one of the greatest leaders of our generation.

His speeches were inspiring, eloquent, and brought millions of people together.

For someone renowned as an exceptional speaker, it was a surprise to learn what he thought the most important quality was for a leader 👇

Key takeaway: What can you do tomorrow to make your team feel heard?

Remember, “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

4. OVERCOMING IMPOSTER SYNDROME

It’s one of the most frequently requested topics since launching ETT.

As high-performers, we often aim for perfection. But nothing in life is perfect.

Studies have also shown that self-compassion impacts our mental well-being more than self-efficacy does.

So concerns over imposter syndrome or low self-efficacy should take a backseat to the practice of self-compassion.

And before you view self-compassion as a ‘soft’ approach, you can be compassionate whilst holding yourself to high standards.

You simply have to accept that what you’re striving for is hard.

So go ahead and set your standards high. Embrace the fact that you feel like an imposter. But be compassionate if you don’t always meet these standards.

Below are 5 simple steps to conquer the imposter within, and internal self-depreciation:

  1. Understand which of the 5 types of imposter you are (perfectionist, natural genius, soloist, expert, superman/superwoman) from Dr. Valerie Young’s Imposter Institute & their 40 years of work in this field

  2. Separate the imposter’s voice from that of your own (ideally give the imposter voice an amusing tone)

  3. Make a list of everything you've ever accomplished, no matter how big or small. Then ask yourself what other people would think of a person who’d achieved all the things on your list.

  4. When the next negative thought enters your mind, use this as evidence that your theory of being an imposter is false - you’ll know it's a feeling, not a fact. The voice inside your head should be your biggest fan, not your harshest critic.

  5. Set boundaries and try not to always prioritise the needs of others over your own. Take breaks & delegate to your team. In the words of Brené Brown, vulnerability is a leadership superpower 🚀

When you let go of your need for perfection, you turn your biggest critic into your greatest supporter.

5. WHAT IS YOUR UNIQUE ADVANTAGE?

Every one of us has unique qualities.

Our upbringing, our experiences, our skillsets, knowledge or network.

Your unique combination gives you a competitive advantage. Often without realising.

On your next commute or coffee break, write down your unique advantages that got you to a position of leadership. Include your;

  1. Skills

  2. Character traits

  3. Behaviours

Then ask yourself;

How are you maximising them to unlock your team’s full potential?

If you’re not, write down 1x activity, project or task that you will do next week to play to those strengths ✍️

And if you’re wanting to dive deeper into what makes you unique, we highly recommend the best-selling book ‘SPIKE: What Are You Great At?’ by our friend and leadership, culture and transformation expert René Carayol.

His ‘Strengths Positively Identified Kick-start Excellence’ (SPIKE) philosophy may just unlock your full potential.

6. ONES WE RECOMMEND

Here are three of the best reads, from around the internet, to level up your leadership game 👇

  • How to lead under stress, according to former Navy Seal and FBI agent (LINK)

  • 5 attributes the Super Bowl Champions have used to establish Championship DNA (LINK)

  • 11 of the most valuable traits of a startup leader (LINK)