11 Essential Leadership Principles And How To Develop Them

The Marines develop leaders and leadership in the Corps on these principles. You can, too.


“Leadership is intangible, hard to measure, and difficult to describe. Its quality would seem to stem from many factors. But certainly they must include a measure of inherent ability to control and direct, self-confidence based on expert knowledge, initiative, loyalty, pride and sense of responsibility. Inherent ability cannot be instilled, but that which is latent or dormant can be developed. Other ingredients can be acquired. They are not easily learned. But leaders can be and are made.”

– General C. B. Cates, 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps

Training for leadership is fundamental to the Marine Corps. There are 14 leadership traits and 11 leadership principles listed in training lessons given to recruits in the Corps. Given the reams of leadership books and the millions of words written on leadership for modern business, I thought it would be worthwhile to re-visit how the Marine Corps trains for life and death leadership in the field.

The modern corporate version of leadership feels like a watered-down version of first principles. Those first principles are qualities we can feel from people who we would say demonstrate leadership abilities. From the time we’re young, we run into these inherently able leaders who exude leadership qualities that seem to be inherent to their character and not learned. As General Cates said, “inherent ability cannot be instilled, but that which is latent or dormant can be developed. Other ingredients can be acquired. They are not easily learned. But leaders can be and are made.” Here are the most important leadership qualities according to the Marines, and how they shape recruits for leadership from day one.

The 14 leadership traits laid out for Marines can be remembered with the acronym JJDIDTIEBUCKLE:

– Justice
– Judgement
– Dependability
– Initiative
– Decisiveness
– Tact
– Integrity
– Enthusiasm
– Bearing
– Unselfishness
– Courage
– Knowledge
– Loyalty
– Endurance

How many times have you heard ‘justice’ or ‘courage’ as part of leadership culture in a corporate setting? Or ‘loyalty’? Or ‘enthusiasm’? Probably never. But when added into the mix these characteristics, one can see, takes leadership and the responsibility of leadership to a new level.

The Essential 11 Leadership Principles for a Marine, from Marine Corps Values: Appendix A, B, revised 2008:

1. Know Yourself and Seek Self Improvement. This principle of leadership should be developed by the use of leadership traits. Evaluate yourself by using the leadership traits and determine your strengths and weaknesses. You can improve yourself in many ways. To develop the techniques of this principle:

– Make an honest evaluation of yourself to determine your strong and weak personal qualities
– Seek the honest opinions of your friends or superiors
– Learn by studying the causes for the success and failures of others
– Develop a genuine interest in people
– Master the art of effective writing and speech
– Have a definite plan to achieve your goal

– Consider taking a personality assessment that will identify your leadership qualities and opportunity for development, such as ProFound Talent’s Harrison assessment.

2. Be Technically And Tactically Proficient. A person who knows their job thoroughly and possesses a wide field of knowledge. Before you can lead, you must be able to do the job. Tactical and technical competence can be learned from books and from on the job training. To develop this leadership principle of being technically and tactically proficient, you should:

– Know what is expected of you then expend time and energy on becoming proficient at those things
– Form an attitude early on of seeking to learn more than is necessary
– Observe and study the actions of capable leaders
– Spend time with those people who are recognized as technically and tactically proficient at those things
– Prepare yourself for the job of the leader at the next higher rank
– Seek feedback from superiors, peers and subordinates

3. Know Your People And Look Out For Their Welfare. This is one of the most important of the leadership principles. A leader must make a conscientious effort to observe his Marines and how they react to different situations. A Marine who is nervous and lacks self-confidence should never be put in a situation where an important decision must be made. This knowledge will enable you as the leader to determine when close supervision is required. To put this principle in to practice successfully you should:

– Put your Marines welfare before your own
– Be approachable
– Encourage individual development
– Know your unit’s mental attitude; keep in touch with their thoughts
– Ensure fair and equal distribution of rewards
– Provide sufficient recreational time and insist on participation

4. Keep Your Personnel Informed. Marines by nature are inquisitive. To promote efficiency and morale, a leader should inform the Marines in his unit of all happenings and give reasons why things are to be done. This is accomplished only if time and security permits. Informing your Marines of the situation makes them feel that they are a part of the team and not just a cog in a wheel. Informed Marines perform better. The key to giving out information is to be sure that the Marines have enough information to do their job intelligently and to inspire their initiative, enthusiasm, loyalty, and convictions. Techniques to apply this principle are:

– Whenever possible, explain why tasks must be done and the plan to accomplish a task
– Be alert to detect the spread of rumors. Stop rumors by replacing them with the truth
– Build morale and espirit de corps by publicizing information concerning successes of your unit
– Keep your unit informed about current legislation and regulations affecting their pay, promotion, privileges, and other benefits.

5. Set The Example. A leader who shows professional competence, courage and integrity sets high personal standards for himself before he can rightfully demand it from others. Your appearance, attitude, physical fitness and personal example are all on display daily for the Marines and Sailors in your unit. Remember, your Marines and Sailors reflect your image! Techniques for setting the example are to:

– Show your subordinates that you are willing to do the same things you ask them to do
– Maintain an optimistic outlook
– Conduct yourself so that your personal habits are not open to criticism
– Avoid showing favoritism to any subordinate
– Delegate authority and avoid over supervision, in order to develop leadership among subordinates
– Leadership is taught by example

6. Ensure That The Task Is Understood, Supervised, and Accomplished. Leaders must give clear, concise orders that cannot be misunderstood, and then by close supervision, ensure that these orders are properly executed. Before you can expect your men to perform, they must know what is expected of them. The most important part of this principle is the accomplishment of the mission. In order to develop this principle you should:

– Issue every order as if it were your own
– Use the established chain of command
– Encourage subordinates to ask questions concerning any point in your orders or directives they do not understand
– Question subordinates to determine if there is any doubt or misunderstanding in regard to the task to be accomplished
– Supervise the execution of your orders
– Exercise care and thought in supervision; over supervision will hurt initiative and create resentment, while under supervision will not get the job done

7. Train Your Marines And Sailors As A Team. Teamwork is the key to successful operations. Teamwork is essential from the smallest unit to the entire Marine Corps. As a leader, you must insist on teamwork from your Marines. Train, play and operate as a team. Be sure that each Marine knows his/her position and responsibilities within the team framework. To develop the techniques of this principle you should:

– Stay sharp by continuously studying and training
– Encourage unit participation in recreational and military events
– Do not publicly blame an individual for the team’s failure or praise just an individual for the team’s success
– Ensure that training is meaningful, and that the purpose is clear to all members of the command
– Train your team based on realistic conditions
– Insist that every person understands the functions of the other members of the team and the function of the team as part of the unit

8. Make Sound And Timely Decisions. The leader must be able to rapidly estimate a situation and make a sound decision based on that estimation. Hesitation or a reluctance to make a decision leads subordinates to lose confidence in your abilities as a leader. Loss of confidence in turn creates confusion and hesitation within the unit. Techniques to develop this principle include:

– Developing a logical and orderly thought process by practicing objective estimates of the situation
– When time and situation permit planning for every possible event that can reasonably be foreseen
– Considering the advice and suggestions of your subordinates before making decisions
– Considering the effects of your decisions on all members of your unit

9. Develop A Sense Of Responsibility Among Your Subordinates. Another way to show your Marines you are interested in their welfare is to give them the opportunity for professional development. Assigning tasks and delegating authority promotes mutual confidence and respect between leader and subordinates. It also encourages subordinates to exercise initiative and to give wholehearted cooperation in accomplishment of unit tasks. When you properly delegate authority, you demonstrate faith in your Marines and increase authority, and increase their desire for greater responsibilities. To develop this principle you should:

– Operate through the chain of command
– Provide clear, well thought out directions
– Give your subordinates frequent opportunities to perform duties normally performed by senior personnel
– Be quick to recognize your subordinates’ accomplishments when they demonstrate initiative and resourcefulness
– Correct errors in judgment and initiative in a way, which will encourage the individual to try harder
– Give advice and assistance freely when your subordinates request it
– Resist the urge to micro manage
– Be prompt and fair in backing subordinates
– Accept responsibility willingly and insist that your subordinates live by the same standard

10. Employ Your Command Within its Capabilities. A leader must have a thorough knowledge of the tactical and technical capabilities of the command. Successful completion of a task depends upon how well you know your unit’s capabilities. If the task assigned is one that your unit has not been trained to do, failure is very likely to occur. Failures lower your unit’s morale and self esteem. Seek out challenging tasks for your unit but be sure that your unit is prepared for and has the ability to successfully complete the mission. Techniques for development of this principle are to:

– Avoid volunteering your unit for tasks that are beyond their capabilities
– Be sure that tasks assigned to subordinates are reasonable
– Assign tasks equally among your subordinates
– Use the full capabilities of your unit before requesting assistance

11. Seek Responsibilities And Take Responsibility. For professional development, you must actively seek out challenging assignments. You must use initiative and sound judgment when trying to accomplish jobs that are required by your grade. Seeking responsibilities also means that you take responsibility for your actions. Regardless of the actions of your subordinates, the responsibility for decisions and their application falls on you. Techniques in developing this principle are to:

– Learn the duties of your immediate senior, and be prepared to accept the responsibilities of these duties
– Seek a variety of leadership positions that will give you experience in accepting responsibility in different fields
– Take every opportunity that offers increased responsibility
– Perform every task, no matter whether it is top secret or seemingly trivial, to the best of your ability
– Stand up for what you think is right. Have courage in your convictions
– Carefully evaluate a subordinate’s failure before taking action against that subordinate
– In the absence of orders, take the initiative to perform the actions you believe your senior would direct you to perform if present



The Way Of Life

“The way to do is to be.”


From 600 B.C. comes the wisdom we know as the text The Way Of Life from Lao-Tzu, described by legend in Witter Bynner’s translation, 1944:

“Immaculately conceived to a shooting star, carried in his mother’s womb for sixty-two years and born, it is said, white-haired, in 604 B.C., he became in due time the keeper of imperial archives at Loyang, and ancient capital in what is now the Chinese province of Honan.

“Speaking wisdom which attracted followers, he had refused to the end of his life to set it down: considering the way of life and the ways of the world, he had decided that a great deal was done and said in the world which might better be spared. He knew that a man can be a doer without being an actor….Aware of the dangers inherent in dogma, he was reluctant to leave a set record of his own spoken belief, lest it become to followers an outer and formal rather than an inner and natural faith, an outside authority rather than intuition. He laid down no rigid laws for behaviour: men’s conduct should depend on their instinct and conscience.

“The end of the life legend is that, sadden by men’s tragic perversity, their indisposition to accept ‘the way of life,’ to use life with natural goodness, with serene and integral respect, Lao-Tzu rode away alone on a water buffalo into the desert beyond the boundary of civilization, the great wall of his period.”

According to the legend, a warden at the gate persuaded the sage to record his principles of living, which is the five thousand words, eighty-one sayings, we now know as The Way Of Life.

One of the wonderful things about The Way Of Life is you can dip into it at any point. The sayings, most in verse, seem deeper and more important than all the modern self-help books put together, most of which owe a debt to the thinking of Lao-Tzu writing before the time of Christ.

If you don’t own a copy of The Way Of Life, I strongly encourage you do. In it you will find powerful, wise words, that wake you from the modern pre-occupations of materialism, sleepwalking through a life full of fear, loss of identity, disconnection from family, and chronic personal stress. There are two selections from The Way of Life that I’ve taken from Lao-Tzu to share with you for your week. Lao-Tzu resisted writing these down for his entire life. Living now, thousands of years later, I’m glad he did, because it shows us again what’s real, in us, and for us, as human beings.


People through finding something beautiful
Think something else unbeautiful,
Through finding one man fit
Judge another unfit.
Life and death, though stemming from each other,
Seems to conflict as stages of change,
Difficult and easy as phases of achievement,
Long and short as measures of contrast,
High and low as degrees of relation;
But, since the varying of tones gives music to a voice
And what is is the was of what shall be,
The sanest man
Sets up no deed,
Lays down no law,
Takes everything that happens as it comes,
As something to animate, not to appropriate,
To earn, not to own,
To accept naturally without self-importance:
If you never assume importance
You never lose it.


Yield and you need not break:
Bent you can straighten,
Emptied you can hold,
Torn you can mend;
And as want can reward you
So wealth can bewilder.
Aware of this, a wise man has the simple return
Which other men seek:
Without inflaming himself
He is kindled,
Without explaining himself
Is explained,
Without taking credit
Is accredited,
Laying no claim
Is acclaimed
And, because he does not compete,
Finds peaceful competence.
How true is the old saying,
‘Yield and you need not break’!
How completely it comes home!

Be kind to yourself today and remember who you are. Have a wonderful week.

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7 Things You Should Do Right Now To Change Your Mind

today is your day in colors

Creating a lifetime of growth, happiness and personal success is all about training your beautiful brain.


A lot of people struggle with how to stop negative self-talk. They struggle in their personal lives and careers. And they continue the cycle of struggling, trying, struggling, trying, and getting nowhere. Picking yourself up mentally is the hardest thing in life to do, and some people just don’t make it. Before you find yourself on a treadmill of ‘failure’, and slip back into your regular ways of thinking and doing, reinforcing the bad brain-wiring you have spent so much time creating, today is the day you re-wire your brain for a future that is brighter, better, happier, and more fulfilling. Your personal esteem is one of your most precious gifts. But it is something you actively need to work on. Because the alternative is a self-made prison that keeps you chained to old ways of being that aren’t working for you and will never work.

From 20 years of executive coaching, I’ve put together these 7 things you can do right now to change your life and build the one you want. These things are ways you can re-wire your thinking, because, you know, you’re the only one holding yourself back.

Thing #1
Stop the negative self talk. Can you write a one-page list of everything that’s wrong with you or bad about you, in your eyes? Most people can very easily. But can you write a one-page of what’s good with you and great about you? Most people have the hardest time with this. Go ahead and write down all the negative self-talk you tell yourself every day. On the other side of that sheet, write the same amount (or more!) of the good and great things about you. I want you to get the negative stuff out of your own head so you can literally visualize the words you use on yourself. Then I want you to come up with as many points or more of things that make you special. I know this part will be hard for a lot of people, but you need to do it. Why? I want you to start recognizing you’re not what you’re saying to yourself, and have you work on replacing these negative ideas and words with positive ones. One side of a page all the garbage you tell yourself. The other side, all the things you never tell yourself. I want you to balance them and see them written out. This is a first step to re-wiring your brain to change your life.

Thing #2
Stop procrastinating. Things left undone create a sense of dread and anxiety, which only gets worse the longer you put something off. Finally, we drag ourselves kicking to finish what could have been done, stress-free, from the start. Breaking the mental habit: force yourself to get things done right away. Make lists for yourself or put tasks into your calendar. This includes life things, like even cleaning out old closets.

Thing #3
Shape and strengthen your brain to change your mind. The first book on the brain’s elasticity I ever read was Dr. Norman Doidge’s excellent book The Brain That Changes Itself. In it, he recounts clinical case studies of his own and others, where the brain has literally morphed into a new reality by the new circumstances it’s put to. For instance, a car accident victim loses half of their brain, yet somehow the brain trains itself to have one hemisphere do the work of both, effectively replacing the lost hemisphere. Or, the professional violinist, whose areas of the brain stimulated by music are larger and more well developed than the average, like a weightlifter compared to someone who doesn’t.  The regions of the brain for music in the musician’s case, compared to the regular, non-music-playing cohort was a bit like comparing a grapefruit to a mandarin orange. Being more developed here and there, the virtuoso musician has more capacity to do and feel there, more room to play, deeper places to dive, more pathways to go down all at once, or something like that. More sparks flying to more places. The magic, in this example, is that the master musician can also make us feel, because they have the skill and the depth of feeling themselves to transport us.

What’s interesting in both the musician case study from Dr. Doidge’s book, and my example of bodybuilding, is that the habit itself perpetuates the habit which is experienced as pleasure, eventually, and that pleasure reinforces a positive response in the brain, and growth of connections, resulting in your stronger, healthier brain. You hardly have to do anything at all except to think, and try, and do.

It’s like if you never step foot in a gym, and then you do one day, the first day you probably throw up. You’ll at least be really worn out fast and dizzy. Maybe you do that awhile. After awhile that goes away and you enjoy the feeling. It’s chemical and it’s progressively good for building good healthy and long-lasting brain connections into old age, which comes for us all.

We can all do the same for ourselves through practice and repetition and stretching your abilities to build your brain to where you’ll do whatever you set your mind to do, because you can.

The key in this is not going the other way, because laziness creates lazy thinking and ultimately worse brains, less densely connected, and weaker. My understanding of brain plasticity is if we don’t use it we lose it. And then faster, and forever. If we keep this up over long periods of time it definitely keeps you from enjoying or experiencing life to the fullest, and there’s evidence that doing nothing, or highly repetitive, thoughtless and task oriented jobs, over long periods of time leads to mental diseases, like earlier dementia, Alzheimer’s, and so on. Even depression. Even suicide. Whatever you love that’s good for you is also good for the wiring and growth of that amazingly powerful thing inside your head that makes you who you are.

Thing #4
Forgive the past. Some people are great at letting go, either through nature or training over time, or both. Some people are terrible at it. But being terrible at it also means releasing chemicals that affect brain growth and your happiness. Being in the dumps keeps you in the dumps. And the cliff gets steep from there if you let your mind go to the angry things, regrets, all the things that we’ve all felt. But you gotta let go of the past. Once fell swoop will do. No need to wait around and spend so much in therapy, if you do. Simply change your mind. Right now. Don’t live in the past. All any of us has is now. Try to really realize what that means. Also, don’t forget to forgive yourself. And then move away from all that and move on. Some people visualize walking out into the sunlight and leaving the shadows behind. Visualizing walking away from anything negative is powerful brain medicine. If this is easy for you, good for you. If not, work on this because it’s holding you back in the here and now.

Thing #5
Live in the present. See above.

Thing #6
Value what you have. How many conversations just today did I have with other people where either myself or the one I was speaking to said, hey, it could be much worse. A cheerful person with back stenosis, a shattered back, a previous staff infection that almost killed her, who walks with a cane and a limp, who had a miserable life I won’t go into, chatted with me happily today, empathizing with the world and saying to me that her situation could be ‘a heck of a lot worse’. She’s right, it always can be. Thinking about other people’s problems is a way to not think about your own, but it also builds and strengthens the brain through developing your capacity for compassion and empathy, care and kindness, generosity and heart. Valuing what you have and how others have it harder is a powerful mental exercise, to the point of heartbreak sometimes. But that’s not a bad thing, because it might prompt you to do other things, which gives you action and purpose, courage and conviction, and the will to try, to test your metal against the world, and not be a victim. Because you’re not.

Thing #7
Tell the truth. This is the big one. Be truthful, as much as you can, with others and yourself. Always polite, where you can. But be real. You as a person will be lost if you become a chronic liar through habit, which is easy enough to do. Not just because the truth will out, always, eventually, but because you’re changing your brain when you do it. And that’s bad because it reinforces a pattern that becomes chemically and electrically imprinted, it becomes your go to, and that’s an awful thing to contemplate. At this point your mind betrays you, you are lying to yourself, and brains become sick when they’re like that. As habits of mind create the mind you will have, being truthful means you also believe in yourself and the power of your convictions. You’ll put that on repeat chemically and electrically in your mind, being consistent with the truth. You’ll feel the difference. Others will see it in you, too. And if there is anything you need in this world is the power and strength of mind to think for yourself, learn how to think, and train your mind to think. In so doing, you will expand your mind in a real sense, which will make you a more able and powerful person, all because of your big, beautiful brain.

You wouldn’t be you without it.


3 Big, Bad Assumptions Executive Recruiters and Candidates Make Every Day

assumptions posterThese common assumptions could be clouding your judgement and hindering your success.


We see dozens of coaching clients every month. Our career coaching clients range from CEOs to CFOs to VPs to Directors and Managers. The range of personality types, their personal situations, and the many things that got them to be where they are today range widely, as you might expect. But, having coached executives and professionals for over two decades, I have seen a pattern of commonalities across every career and leadership coaching client that seems worthy of note. If you’re searching for that next great thing in your career or in a candidate, you might take heart from this understanding we’ve gained, simply by talking to people who seek us out and hire us. It’s an eye-opener and will probably burst your bubble of assumptions about other people and yourself.

Assumption #1: C-Suite executives don’t feel the same pain, regret, or fears that ‘lesser mortals’ might. The idea of the bullet-proof, A-type, extraverted CEO or C-Suite executive is an idea that permeates culture and companies. Because they occupy the top spots, and we have this idea of their unassailable abilities to occupy that spot, it’s easy to turn the C-Suite into a cliched type rather than see them as people. We all have insecurities, frailties and doubts, all of which are accentuated when people are between positions or they are dissatisfied with where they are currently. After losing a position as CEO, I know some coaching clients have gone from ‘invincible’ to ‘invisible’ and have lost everything important to them in their work, which amounts to an identity crisis when you’re cast off the island. It’s hard being the boss. It’s even harder being the former boss. We like to think that CEOs occupy some rarified echelon of being that don’t feel the slings and arrows the same as everyone. You need to walk a mile in everyone’s shoes to understand them, but because the C-Suite, and especially the CEO role, is so visible, it might be even harder for those C-Suite executives usually under the public gaze and out front to suddenly be in the shadows. There can be a lot of shame attached to having once been the star starting quarterback to being kicked off the team. It’s not an easy place to be, the C-Suite. And especially if you find yourself between things.

Assumption #2: If you have trouble securing a job, it’s your fault and a reflection of your worthlessness. I’ve seen so many executives and professionals who have been through the gauntlet of applying, being denied, and applying again. It’s not unusual to hear stories of executives and professionals applying for 50 or more jobs. I’ve even seen over 100. It’s shaming and demoralizing to be denied over and over again, especially when most recruiting firms don’t bother to follow up with you when you don’t get the position. Going at it again and again with zeal is a sign of character, but any character can be worn down by what seems to them like a random, arbitrary, and incomplete hiring process. When a person applies for this many positions and gets denied, it not only works on self-esteem, but it can begin to grind down that person’s reputation in the market. Recruiters are possibly the worst culprits. One of the big reasons I started ProFound Talent was to bring back a lost art in the executive and professional level recruitment industry, which is a very simple concept yet unheard of within most search firms today. That lost art of communication, respect and fair evaluation, of not only our clients, but also our candidates. My goal is to treat all clients and candidates with respect, excellence in communication and fair evaluation, looking beyond hard skills to what’s hidden beneath that makes them excellent…the rare and hidden talent that is hard to see and to find, without first taking time to listen, to see, and to weigh against on experience.

Many executive and professional recruiting firms operate using their entry-level staff to source and communicate roles to executives, with little life and career experience. It’s a fact. To me, however, it’s like giving someone a jet who’s never seen a jet and doesn’t have the first clue about how it works. So, they pass on the jet. I’ve seen this time and again in the past, and I vow never to replicate that. It’s easy to lose profound talent and that hidden gem in a process that is reliant on inexperienced individuals just starting their careers. There’s no blame in this. They’re doing what they know. And nothing more. It’s just agonizing to watch happen. If your recruiting staff, or your internal teams, are junior, you’re just going to get a junior result. And it’s not fair to them or you to put them in this position. It’s a kind of madness that not only hurts companies looking to recruit, but it most definitely hurts at least some stellar candidates, and leaves many feeling bitter and resentful at the process they’re engaged in. The common theme I hear from candidates I coach: Executive and professional recruiters don’t get me, they won’t take the time to get me, and they won’t call me back. If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard this story, even this week, I’d probably never have to work again.

Assumption #3: Youth trumps age and age is inherently bad. I have and continue to coach executives who are 50-years-old plus, even in their 60s. I also coach people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. It’s the case that some executive recruiters or internal HR teams look at your calendar age as either a positive or a negative. It’s a strange assumption that someone in their 20s or 30s is a better candidate than someone in their 40s or 50s. The assumption is that older people don’t know as much about technology, as an example, as a younger person. The further assumption is that older people will want more money and won’t work as hard as a driven and eager young person. I don’t know about you, but if I’m climbing into an airplane piloted by someone else, I’d like to know that they have some flight hours under their belt. In the industries we all work in, there is this assumption that youth is energy, optimism, the latest technical skills, and, less money. My experience, especially the 40 to 55-year-old crowd, is that they aren’t out of touch with technology at all. These are the people who have lived in both worlds, analogue and digital, and can adapt to new things easily and well, as well as any younger person. And while it can be true that younger people will work for less, my experience in interviewing is younger people often ask for more: more salary, more vacation, more perks. I commonly see ‘older’ candidates who will work for 2/3rds of what their younger counterparts want, with fewer benefits and more incentives for performance. If you think this is desperation on the part of an older candidate, you might be wrong. It might just be how they’re made, and it doesn’t make them less valuable to you. An older person, having been there and done that, might believe in teamwork over individualism, rewards that are earned, and have realistic salary expectations. This isn’t to say younger candidates don’t also think about these things, but, in my experience, older candidates almost always think about the company before they think of themselves. This seems to be purely about experience and having to slug it out longer in tough markets. These are the women and men who might have spent 60% of their time on the road for 20 years and know what it takes to make things happen.

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list of assumptions, they are just my top three that I hear every week. There are many more. The way I look at it is: If we can understand our assumptions and our biases throughout the recruiting process and address them as real-world things affecting our thinking and behaviour, then there will be many more happy candidates, and many much happier companies.

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Who’s Taking Care Of The CEO?

pink rose closeup
It’s your job to take care of the team. But who’s taking care of you?


Being in charge is a huge responsibility. So is being the best leader you can be. The health and wellbeing of your teams is a big part of your role, making sure that barriers to health, wellbeing, and job satisfaction are removed as much as possible so that your teams can work together, and as individuals, in the most effective, productive and happiest ways possible.

The question is, when the boss is taking care of teams, who is taking care of the boss? Who is helping ensure that you stay at the top of your game, driven to be your best, in an environment that addresses your wellness? People in C-suite positions can be very good at self-modulation, preservation, and mental health. But we have all seen or heard of examples of CEOs who don’t do this particularly well at all. For those CEOs who have a hard time self-regulating, it can mean bad things for the teams under their leadership, and the company itself. Most of the time, self-care is not something a CEO thinks much about, as the role is to lead, to be strong for others, and to set examples. But if you aren’t actively in a regime of self-care, it’s hard to be the best leader you can be, and eventually the cracks can begin to show. CEOs under stress do the same things others do, though it might come on slowly or in other ways. People under stress try to remove themselves from the situation. And when the stress is chronic, as it will be if you lead teams of any size, it becomes an imperative of the job not to let job stress affect your ability to lead or the perception the team or teams might have of your leadership.

Patterns of behaviour are formed over time, and habit becomes character. If you have poor habits for yourself it’s quite likely that this will show itself over time to your teams, which could influence your reputation negatively, even if you don’t quite see it yourself.

If you aren’t doing some of these things already, I would encourage you to try them.

Seriously relax. The number of heart attacks among CEOs is high. This is no doubt somewhat driven by the types of personality they come to the job with. This, in combination with high stress, high-profile positions can push your natural drive into something toxic to your body, which could result in a major health concern. One of the best things you can do for yourself, if not one of the hardest things, is to relax, relax, relax. This can be in micro-meditation moments between meetings, it can be making sure you never miss that acupuncture appointment or massage appointment every week to take down the latent stress you’ve accumulated in a week of working. Your body and mind need outlets, and there are some easy and good ways to do this; the more you make it a habit, the less likely it is you’ll have some negative health outcome related to chronic stress events. A good and simple meditation visualization exercise between meetings is to imagine an object and examine that object in your mind in detail. A rose image is a good one, as you can imagine the petals folding out from the innermost part of the flower, how they radiate, their shape and colour, in as much detail as you can muster. You will be in a small meditation shortly without you really realizing it. At the start you’ll have trouble concentrating on visualizing the rose. Over time, you will have less trouble. And you’ll find the practice more satisfying and you’ll find yourself somewhat refreshed and better focused to meet whatever the day throws at you.

Talk to other CEOs. It’s hard to be vulnerable. It might be even harder if you’re the leader, because most people believe that leaders aren’t or shouldn’t be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is being weak, right? Wrong. You just simply need to pick your spots with the people who get you best. No spouse on earth, man or woman, wants to hear their high-flying CEO wife or husband come home and complain about their day every day. They can’t help you and they might not get it, even if they commiserate with you, for awhile. Don’t expect the tolerance of your family to your work war stories to last day in and day out. It’s the better idea not to bring your work home with you. But, what do you do with all that pent-up stress and worry you have? It’s been ‘one of those weeks’ – again. Well, the best place to do this is with the people who know you the best, the CEOs you know who go through the same sorts of things you do. There are a lot of CEO only organizations you can join, where work conversations are encouraged, where people will lend an ear to your issues and your concerns. There is still a temptation in this friendly environment to stay on the surface and not relate what’s really going on that might be affecting you personally and professionally. It’s a good idea to have a network of like people in similar roles who go through the same, or similar, as you. This might seem like a no brainer, but so many CEOs keep to themselves, isolating themselves as a means of protecting themselves. Isolation can be a gift, but it can also become a chronic habit that’s not best for your overall health. CEO groups shouldn’t just be a place to talk business. It should be a place where you can get validation, positivity, advice, and a feeling of community. Letting your guard down in the right settings, situations, and with the right people, can be a great thing to do, and could result in relationships and outcomes you wouldn’t otherwise have happen.

Eat well, for nutrition.
I’ve had months and months where I think I’m eating well, but I feel underpowered by what I’m eating. Having breakfast, lunch with a client, or a dinner, isn’t a guarantee you’re getting the nutrition you need, and you might be eating things you wouldn’t ordinarily, like wheat-made gravy, butter, more salt or sugar than usual, or even things like MSG, which many people are allergic to. If you don’t know what’s in your food, you don’t know what you’re putting in your body, and what you fuel yourself with is exactly how well you’ll feel and perform. You might be the kind of CEO who always eats on the run, or, running, never eats. None of these scenarios is good for your ability to think and act as well as you might. Taking time for nutrition is a vital part of being a balanced, well-functioning leader. Eating out all the time becomes the regular. So, when you do, just be more aware of what’s in the food you’re eating. If you never eat certain things at home, be careful you don’t eat them while you’re rushing around working and getting by. If you know you feel better eating some foods more than others, don’t settle for the less energizing foods. The brain consumes lots of calories in a day and burns a lot of energy. The better the quality of that food energy, the better you will feel, the better you will think, and the more likely you will be consistent, have equilibrium, and make better decisions.

CEOs sometimes pride themselves on, or feel they need to pride themselves on, knowing everything. So, what I say above is common-sense, and might be things you already pay close attention to. Then again, being a CEO myself, and having been around CEOs for over 20 years, I can say it’s not commonly practiced. If we know what’s good for us, we should also implement it. Because that’s what a good leader does. We shouldn’t expect ourselves to ignore advice we might give to our own staff or even our own friends. You might be exceptional. But you’re still human. Optimum performance for leaders isn’t about redlining your abilities. It’s about taking care of yourself so that you are more able, for others, and for yourself.

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