The One Leadership Skill You Need

number oneIt’s not the ability to have good ideas, it’s not charisma, and it’s not about telling a good story, it’s about…Find out in my latest Inc.com article.

 

Good Manners Make Good Leaders

leadership and mannersEstablished in 1769 Derbrett’s is “the trusted source on British social skills, etiquette and style.” They have just released a 432-page guide that tackles modern dilemmas of etiquette. They have ruled that it is “selfish” to recline your airline seat and deemed it rude to smoke e-cigarettes in the office.

Leaders must not ignore these guidelines however inconvenient. “Politeness,” Theodore Roosevelt said, “[is] a sign of dignity, not subservience.” Emily Post, the famed etiquette scribe, best describes the utility of proper manners:

If you had a commission to give and you entered a man’s office and found him lolling back in a tipped swivel chair, his feet above his head, the ubiquitous cigar in his mouth and his drowsy attention fixed on the sporting page of the newspaper, you would be impressed not so much by his lack of good manners as by his bad business policy, because of the incompetence that his attitude suggests. It is scarcely necessary to ask: Would you give an important commission to him who has no apparent intention of doing anything but “take his ease”; or to him who is found occupied at his desk, who gets up with alacrity upon your entrance, and is seemingly “on his toes” mentally as well as actually? Or, would you go in preference to a man whose manners resemble those of a bear at the Zoo, if you could go to another whose business ability is supplemented by personal charm? And this again is merely an illustration of bad manners and good.

George Washington would agree with Post’s sentiment. As a young man he even wrote a handy list of rules not to be forgotten. Number 11 is a personal favorite: “Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.”

Leaders must not scoff at Derbrett’s new guide, but rather study its advice with care.

Top 10 Compelling Proactive Leadership Links: Oct. 20-24

Ben Franklin Productivity

  1. How to make a decision like Ike. Eisenhower’s thought process explained.
  2. Should leaders consider speed to be the end all be all? We have to remember, speed kills.
  3. Leaders, sometimes it is not only OK to be ruthless, but it is essential
  4. A complete look at how Benjamin Franklin got things done. Worth study and imitation.
  5. Ignore emotional intelligence at your own risk.
  6. How to follow your dreams: Step 1 – Don’t Take Rejection Personally.
  7. Mark Zuckerberg studies Mandarin. Should you?
  8. “What I dream of is an art of balance…an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters.” – Matisse. An essay and the artist at work.
  9. Did F. Scott Fitzgerald innovate football?
  10. And, in case you were wondering, here’s why you will be carving pumpkins this weekend.

How To Be Successful & Only Work Two Hours A Day

Greene, in a rare moment, caught working

Greene Hard At Work

When Graham Greene was asked if he was a “9-to-5 man” he replied, “Me? Good Heavens, no. I’d say I’m a 9 to a quarter past 10 man.”

Greene wrote, on average, a novel a year during his professional career as well as numerous articles and reviews. How did he find the time if he only worked less than two hours a weekday?

One can only assume it came down to his strict discipline and routine. Greene wrote 500 words, Monday through Friday, and only 500 words no matter what. Not one word more or less. Exactly 500. If he was in the middle a sentence, he’d stop.

Michael Korda observed Greene at work and described the process in The New Yorker:

An early riser, he appeared on deck at first light, found a seat in the shade of an awning, and took from his pocket a small black leather notebook and a black fountain pen, the top of which he unscrewed carefully. Slowly, word by word, without crossing out anything, and in neat, square handwriting, the letters so tiny and cramped that it looked as if he were attempting to write the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin, Graham wrote, over the next hour or so, exactly five hundred words. He counted each word according to some arcane system of his own, and then screwed the cap back onto his pen, stood up and stretched, and, turning to me, said, “That’s it, then. Shall we have breakfast?”

In this day and age when leaders are required to innovate it’s useful to know that self-discipline and a set routine can help unleash creativity.  It’s further heartening to know that less than two hours labor a day can produce such extraordinary results.

Two Invaluable Productivity Tips From H.L. Mencken

MenckenH.L. Mencken and his colleague George Jean Nathan became editors of The Smart Set magazine as it was nearing bankruptcy.

Mencken and Nathan not only rescued The Smart Set, but also created three new and popular magazines (Saucy Stories, Black Mask, and Parisienne). On top of these editorial successes Mencken was also a successful columnist and critic.

In Mencken’s autobiography he attributes his immense productivity to the following two work methods:

 1. Out of Office

Mencken would only go to his New York office once a month. His partner, Nathan, would only go into the office “every morning, but remained, on an average day, for one hour.” They knew if they were to frequent their place of work they would be sidetracked by conversations with their publishers, but also by “authors hoping to sell their manuscripts, not on the merits therof, but by selling talk.” As such, they conducted most of their work by mail.

Mencken thought their habit original, but he writes, “It was not until long afterward that I discovered that a number of English magazine editors had practiced keeping clear of their offices before we thought of it.”

Further, Mencken was able to get prodigious amounts of work done while commuting from Baltimore to New York. “On my trips to and from New York I read more manuscripts than an average editor could get through in ten times the time in his office.”

2. End Debate

Mencken respected his partner’s taste, but they didn’t agree on everything leaving, one would imagine, plenty of room for discord. However, both men rarely fought over manuscripts.

Nathan sent all manuscripts to Mencken and, Mencken writes, “If I found one that I liked I marked it ‘Yes’ and sent it to Nathan. If he, too, liked it, he had it set up at once, and the author’s check went out at the end of the week. If, on the contrary, he dissented, the manuscript was returned to the author at once. We agreed that we should never waste any time on the discussion of manuscripts. The ‘No’ of either of us was final. This scheme worked perfectly for ten years. There was never any excuses for debates and quarrels.”

Mencken admits that the plan made them pass on a few notable authors, but the overall result was more valuable than momentary success.

Mencken writes, “This plan was so simple and so practicable that we often wondered that no other editors had ever thought of it. In all the other magazine offices that we ere acquainted with, save those operated as despotisms by solo editors, a vast amount of time and energy was wasted upon editorial debates.”

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Mencken also said, “For every problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” Yet, no matter what industry you are in, it is always best to avoid distracting conversations and idle debates if you want to get things done.

Are You a Failing Leader?

Over at my Inc.com column I present five questions you should ask yourself to determine if you are  failing leader or not. Acknowledging that your leadership is on the brink of failing is the first step to turning it around.