260. The Surprising Secret To Being A Successful Leader
Being a successful leader takes commitment, discipline, consistency and a whole lot of other things. Fortunately, you can get it all done by 8am.
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So you want me to tell you the secret to being a successful leader, huh?
Ok. I guess I can share it with you.
After all, you’ve been a loyal follower of mine. I suppose it’s the least I can do.
Here you go. Get ready. The secret to being a successful leader is….
Make your bed every day
You may have heard this from Admiral William McRaven in his 2014 University of Texas commencement speech.
What I’m here to tell you are the five reasons why he is right.
It seems ridiculous, I know.
But stick with me on this.
You see, I was like you. I thought it was ridiculous too.
My parents made me make my bed every morning when I was a kid. I didn’t like doing it and I didn’t understand why they insisted on it.
Like most other kids, I complained about the inanity of it all (though I wasn’t smart enough to use 4-syllable words like that back then.)
I mean, it’s not like anybody was ever going to see my bed or judge me for it not being made. On top of that, all I’m going to do is mess it all up again when I go to sleep. I mean, why even bother making my bed just to mess it up again?
Despite my complaints, I respected my parents’ wishes, so every day I made the gosh darn bed.
Apparently, the habit stuck with me.
When I got to college I made my bed there too.
And when I graduated, and went out into the world to make something of my life (work in progress), I continued to make my bed.
Now here we are, decades later, and I think I finally understand.
Making your bed is the key to success.
There are five reasons why.
The first is productivity.
The Productivity of A Successful Leader
Here’s a quote that has stuck with me ever since I first read it:
I like to get all of my living done before 7 in the morning because after that it’s less like living and more like just putting up with stuff.
I love the calm solitude of early morning. It’s my favorite time of day. But once everyone else gets up, swallows a cuppa caffeine, and downs their bowl of post-toasties, the day feels less serene and more like an assembly line of requests and requirements. My to-do list seems to grow faster than a bamboo forest. And if you knew how fast bamboo actually grows, you’d understand why I can never keep up.
It can get overwhelming and more than a bit anxiety-provoking.
It can be so easy to get through a workday without feeling a sense of accomplishment at all.
I finish a busy day filled with meetings to attend, projects to address, and fires to extinguish. When the evening rolls around, I’m tired and drained and I’m not quite sure what I actually accomplished.
It feels empty. Like I didn’t do anything, but I did a whole lot of it.
We all want to feel like we are making a difference. We want to feel like we are accomplishing something that makes the world a better place.
It starts with making your bed every day.
The 60 seconds it takes to make your bed allows you to start your day with an easy win.
And knowing how one productive win leads to another, just the act of making your bed sets you up for a productive day of success.
The Discipline of A Successful Leader
Life isn’t always good. Sometimes things go well and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes life feels like it’s all candy canes and ice cream and other times it’s just a pail of pebbles.
Leadership is the same.
As it turns out, the true quality of a leader is defined by how they act in the most challenging times, when all they’re left holding is a useless pail of pebbles.
When you’re in the middle of a crisis, when it feels like the burden of the world is weighing on your shoulders, the way you communicate with people and the way you make them feel is how they are going to judge you.
So what are you going to do when it feels like the world is crashing down?
I tell you what you’re going to do: you’re going to make your gosh darn bed.
The person who makes their bed every day knows the importance of discipline in both good times and bad.
The bed-making person will not hesitate to roll up their sleeves and calmly get things accomplished, especially on those days when it’s the last thing they want to do.
And the bed-making person does this because they know this is the exact type of discipline that separates a successful leader from everyone else.
Making your bed every day allows you to practice the calming discipline you need amid chaos.
The Consistency of A Successful Leader
A successful leader is trusted and respected.
One of the main ways they gain that trust and respect is by being consistent and reliable.
People will work harder and be more productive for leaders who are consistent and reliable. In fact, research has shown that employees are 5.5x more engaged with their company when they have a consistent working environment
Being consistent and reliable means maintaining authenticity and transparency in your communication.
Being consistent and reliable means holding both yourself and your team members accountable.
As it turns out there are only a few things that build up a person’s levels of consistency and reliability more than making your bed every day.
So get on it, would ya.
The Commitment Of A Successful Leader
A successful leader sets a vision for success and is committed to attaining that vision.
There are always obstacles on the path to achieving one’s goal. That’s the nature of life.
There will always be competitors who want to steal your customers. There will always be unexpected forces that lob hand grenades in your way.
Without commitment and focus, it is easy to be sidetracked from your mission.
Commitment means staying on your feet no matter how hard it feels like you’re being punched. Commitment means staying true to your beliefs even when you face risks by doing so.
As it turns out, the best way to learn commitment is to commit to making your bed every day.
Get folding, Frodo
The Little Things That Matter For A Successful Leader
No matter the size of your company or your team, regardless of the gender, race, orientation or ethnicity of the individuals, everybody wants the same thing.
We all want to feel like we matter.
Here’s the secret: Making people feel like they matter isn’t about a big yearly bonus. It isn’t even about an openly ostentatious Oprah move, like giving everybody a new car.
You don’t have to have an on-staff masseuse, yoga instructor, or chef to make people feel like they matter (but, hey, thanks Google.) Those are just enticements to get people to work longer.
As it turns out, the most impactful ways to make people feel like they matter don’t cost a penny and take just seconds of your time.
As a leadership consultant, I see tons of opportunities for leaders to make people feel like they matter. This includes:
Regular acknowledgment of people, both one-on-one and in public
Greater transparency in why decisions are made
Thoughtful consideration of other people’s solutions to problems
Empowering people to make decisions on their own
These are all just minuscule efforts in the scope of a leader’s work. But it’s the little things that set the successful leaders apart.
And do you know the best way to commit to doing the little things every day?
You guessed it - make your darn bed.
The Successful Leader
If you haven’t figured it out by now, successful leadership is about:
And the little things that matter
As luck would have it, every single one of those traits you learn from making your bed every day.
Listen, I don’t care if you sleep on a cot or in 1500-thread-count satin sheets. Successful leadership is about setting a standard, embracing discipline, and starting each day with a win, no matter the circumstances.
My parents tried to teach me this when I was younger but I was too much of a buffoon to think it through.
But the truth is, if you can't commit to the simple act of making your bed every morning, how can you commit to the complex needs of a successful leader?
That was a rhetorical question. Don’t answer it.
Just do me a favor. When you rise up tomorrow morning to take on the world, start by conquering your comforter.
It’s the first step in your journey to being a successful leader.
Sign up now. Be a successful leader.
Somewhat Relevant Quote
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
Admiral William H. McRaven - retired Navy Admiral, former Navy Seal, successful leader, all-round bada$$ mofo
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