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The Three Mantras of Highly Effective Executives

By now everyone knows about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but there’s so much more to it than that. Highly effective executives share a set of core beliefs that empower them to operate at 100%, 100% of the time. These core beliefs can be captured in a few simple words, or mantras. Coming from the world of advertising, I am a firm believer in the effectiveness of a simple, compelling idea repeated over time.

One of the things I have noticed in coaching executives is that the higher you go in an organization, the more often a few key qualities emerge that separate the superstars from the regular executives. Ironically, these leaders also use a simpler set of guidelines in decision making and leadership than the average executive. Three of these guidelines stand out above the others.

Mantra #1:  Integrity is mandatory.

How do you define integrity? My definition is to keep your word. That means you have to watch what you say, what you promise, and how your actions and behavior match your words. The great leaders tend to have great integrity. They know that people are watching and listening. I am not the first coach to identify this quality. Thomas Leonard, the father of modern coaching said, “Always under-promise and over-deliver.” That way, you can always keep your word. Another example is in one of the best books I have ever read, The Four Agreements. The first agreement (and possibly the hardest) is “Be Impeccable with your word.” If you want to lead or succeed, keep your word, maintain your integrity, and you will stand out among people.

Mantra #2:  Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  It was his imagination that drove him to discover the secrets of how the universe works. A good executive can drive a company with knowledge and great execution, but a highly effective executive drives a company with vision. In today’s complicated and changing world, vision and imagination are more important than ever. Imagination is the ability to see what does not yet exist and to then create it. Think Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or any of the great inventors. Gain all the knowledge you can, but never forget that while no one knows everything, your imagination is limitless.

Mantra #3:  Change is inevitable, growth is optional.

People who come to coaching are looking for change; sometimes that they want to initiate, sometimes to adjust to external matters they had no control over. Either way, the key is that they’re open to change. It sounds easier than it is. Even though we all had to face change when we learned how to walk, tie our shoelaces, or ride a bike, the great majority of people will resist change because the unknown is scary.

It is only in the face of change that growth occurs because it forces us to learn new skills. Left to our own devices, we will opt for the apparent safety of stasis. The highly effective executive embraces change because they have the self-confidence to know that they will eventually arrive at the stage of unconscious competence and, ultimately, growth. They know that growth and change are life-long.

Frankly, these three mantras are deceptively simple. Each requires practice, discipline, and adherence to one’s highest principles. Start practicing, and good luck.

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