What do top leaders do differently?

By Freelance Contributor | Strong Female Leaders

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Five Things Top Leaders Do Differently
The major difference that sets leaders and managers apart is how they spend their time.

High-performing leaders focus more on creating vision-oriented and value-generating strategies for at least 12 months ahead, and less on managerial tasks. These strategy-focused activities often include reviewing the team’s top-performing entities, planning for leadership succession, and mitigating risks.

While top leaders do still conduct managerial work, they avoid spending more time on them than what is necessary, and move on quickly to the more important strategic planning.

The strategic work parse into the five categories below, and if diligently practiced, helps top leaders rise above the rest.
1. They focus on the vision.
Top leaders focus on the future, and only the future. Instead of reliving past failures and wins, they focus on the vision, and keep their teams on the road that leads them to achieve that vision.

What top leaders consider important are forward-looking activities, like business planning, leadership succession, risk mitigation, and anything that will create a better future.

They learn quickly from reviews and retrospectives, push forward by applying the lessons learned, and never ever look back.
2. They value high-quality debate.
Great leaders understand the importance of trust within a team, and honor it by fostering a culture of free expression and high-quality debate. They ensure that everyone feels empowered enough to contribute their experience and expertise, and that all team members feel respected by each other and by leadership.

In addition to emotional benefits, a trusting culture also adds the value of executing fully thought out decisions. When everyone’s point of view has been considered, leaders have maximized their resources to make the most optimal decision.
3. They provide clear and concise feedback.
Strong feedback breeds strong performance. Top leaders know to give clear, concise and actionable feed back that leads to executable next steps. They stay away from fluffy praises and futile optimism, and dives right into to what the team should keep doing, stop doing and start doing.

This type of straight shooting helps the team move faster, and also earns leadership both trust and respect.

4. They are present at all times.
Leaders need to be present, because they need to keep team members focused on present matters. They need to be actively listening, thinking on their feet, being acutely aware of everyone’s emotion, and responding intelligently on demand.

Having such intense presence is a practiced proficiency and incredibly exhausting. However, it is a necessary skill because: if leaders are distracted, then so is the team.
5. They make tough decisions.
When it’s time to make tough calls, leaders step up. Making a commitment is taking responsibility. They are holding themselves accountable to see things through, absorbing the heat when plans go sideways, and are fully prepared to take one for the team.

If you ever wonder where their confidence comes from, realize this: top leaders made the decision to lead, a long time ago. What sacrifices they make for the team right now is merely carrying out the promise that they've already made to themselves.

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