This post is based on a podcast with Duane Cummings. If you’d like to listen to more #FlipMyFunnel Podcast episodes, you can check them out here and listen to this episode below!
You want to be a leader, or maybe you are already a leader, and you want to learn how to become a better one. Who are you gonna call?
I know just the person. In a recent podcast, I spoke with Duane Cummings, speaker, author, former CEO of Leadercast, and host of the Leadercast podcast.
Here’s What We’re Unpacking Today:
- What is a sensational leader?
- Why are so many leaders also really good communicators?
- How leaders inspire their teams.
- Characteristics of great leaders.
- Sangram’s Summary
- Duane’s Challenge
Here’s what he had to say.
“I think there are 160 countries in the UN, and I’ve visited over 80 of them, so I’m over halfway through visiting all the countries on the planet,” says Cummings. Most of his travel has been both business and pleasure. A lot of his African travel is connected to his wife Kim Cummings’ charity Sole Hope.
What Is a Sensational Leader?
To Cummings, a leader creates other leaders who empower or liberate other people.
Why Are So Many Leaders Also Really Good Speakers?
While many different leaders are good communicators, that’s not necessarily a prerequisite. Some tongue-tied leaders have a team partner who can convey the mission to the team.
How Leaders Inspire Their Teams
Keni Thomas, one of the real soldiers from the Mogadishu/Black Hawk Down incident, is one of Cummings’ favorite examples. Thomas, a speaker-singer-songwriter, orates frequently about leadership, about being of service, and helping the next person.
In Cummings’ professional career, he learned to reframe a challenge or crisis by repeating the phrase “what an opportunity.”
“It’s an opportunity to show how good you are. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with clients. It’s an opportunity to go back in and learn your craft or what you’re doing. Those kinds of mind-shifts, as a leader, even if they sound clichéd in our tagline, will make the difference,” says Cummings.
Speaker and podcaster, Andy Stanley, suggests that leaders go from “how?” to “wow!” For example, when a colleague comes up with a new idea, don’t ask “how?” Just say “Wow, that’s a great idea.”
“How?” can kill an idea before its time, discourage others, and stop your team from coming up with innovations.
A leader’s job is to encourage his team.
“If you just hushed and said ‘Awesome, wow’ and cheer people on,” said Cummings, “productivity would go through the roof in most companies.”
Whether or not any specific idea is executed is immaterial. Everybody wants to be valued. Everybody wants to know they’re being heard.
Characteristics of Great Leaders
Cummings believes that sensational leaders are inclusive versus exclusive. Some leaders have a corner office on a floor that only a chosen few can access. More effective leaders are accessible to their team. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg famously worked out of a cubicle in his company’s bullpen.
Great leaders have to be empathetic. Empathy is being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, see it from their point of view, and that’s about awareness.
Leaders are not just aware of what others are doing and feeling, they are also self-aware about how they can use their status to remedy problems.
If a leader thinks somebody is being shortchanged, they’d adjust. If they saw somebody was uncomfortable with a topic, they’d know how to handle it.
Leaders facilitate using the collective intelligence of everybody around them. Great leaders don’t think they have all the answers. They know that the group will most likely come up with something better than they could as an individual.
- Leaders make other people leaders.
- Communication is vitally important.
- Leadership is about serving.
- Use “wow!” instead of “how?” whenever you hear an idea.
- “What an opportunity” is another way to get people to think not solely about problems, but ways to solve them.
- Everybody wants to be valued. Create an environment that brings everybody together, no matter what level they are.
- Leaders are inclusive, they bring people into the fold to solve a problem.
- Leaders are empathetic.
- You cannot be a sensational leader unless you are amazingly self-aware.
In every meeting you have for the next week, one-on-one, group, staff, whatever it is, be the last to talk.
When you speak early, people think you already have the idea that you want, or that your mind is made up. They won’t pitch things to you because they don’t think you’re ready to listen.
Just actively engage and listen. Make notes, confirm, reaffirm. If you have a question, ask it, but don’t contribute anything until the end of the meeting.
Then go over everything, so that the people in that meeting knew that you were actively listening. They will feel valued and you will have set the environment for them to contribute
“Be the person who says ‘I’m all ears.’ That’s the challenge.”