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Can your leadership change business or even the world?



George Bernard Shaw sculpture in Onatrio, CA at the site of the annual Shaw Festival.

Conceptualizing leadership

I’ve become somewhat obsessed with the idea that leadership, in its truest sense, is a function of clarity and change. One of my favorite quotes is by the somewhat controversial George Bernard Shaw, who maintained that, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

To adapt the world to oneself, one must have a very clear idea of oneself. It is not the undertaking of a non-conformist soul in search of meaning in the world, but rather the endeavor of a man or woman with a very clear sense of purpose… a man or woman who can clearly communicate that purpose to others. It is a reasonable theorem – born out a million times over by different personality modeling methodologies – that most people crave clarity but have no idea how to create or achieve it. Clarity, for those people is stability, where stability is defined as a sense of certainty about the future. The misnomer, I believe, is the idea that people need be assured of success, when in truth, they simply need be assured of purpose.

Leaps of faith

Throughout human history, from simple survival, to civilization, to politics and business, people have shown a willingness to take great leaps of faith based entirely on one person’s ability to paint a picture of the future. And whereas none could be assured of such a future, the simple clarity of vision was enough for people to risk life and livelihood in pursuit of it.

Whether you are talking about a tribe setting out across the African tundra, three ships setting out across the Atlantic, or a tiny Asian country setting out to war, the principle is the same. They did these things, in spite of their fears because they believed in the outcome.

Being a quality leader

So how does this apply to your business? If you, like many business owners, find yourself spending too much time managing your team, and not enough time leading them, it is most likely because the team does not understand where you are trying to go. And, if the team does understand where you are trying to go, and they still won’t go with you, they probably don’t believe that you are going to take them to a better place.

The solution? First find clarity for yourself – hire an outside consultant if you have to who can help you see past the trees to the forest and the future beyond – and then paint that picture for your team. If they still aren’t with you, it might be time to make some hard decisions. If it comes to that (and it sometimes does), stop hiring resumes and start hiring people for their ability to see where your organization is going and willingness to help you get there. Because if you’re growing a business, there are going to be a lot of changes – a lot of UNcertainty – along the way, but people will accept and even embrace that uncertainty if they have a clear and consistent goal.

In fact, few things truly are certain, but here is one that is – there are people alive today that are going to change both business and the world as we know it. The question is will you be one of them?

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  1. Jason Blackburn

    January 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm


    Couldn't agree more with your conclusion that we all need a greater clarity of purpose both personally and professionally to not only lead ourselves but to lead others. This is the foundation of the training we do at Laser Focus Training after all.

    However, it seems that "Leadership" training is all the rage these days, and that management training has taken a backseat. Being a manager is not as "sophisticated" as being a leader, but in view it is just as important, if not more so.

    So how do see the difference between leadership and management, and do you believe that having this clarity of purpose can make one a more effective manager as well, which is what I train?

    BTW…great article…been looking forward to the first one since you told me you joined AG. Congrats.


    • Elijah May

      January 29, 2012 at 4:44 pm

      First of all, thanks for the reply, Jason. I really appreciate the feedback.

      In answer to your question, let me start by saying two things: 1) I believe that leaders lead, regardless of where they are within an organization, and 2) I believe that leadership AND management, at any level, are ultimately about support.

      Here is what I mean….

      A top healthcare consultant recently recounted to me the story of a young man who, despite being "challenged", was given the opportunity to work as a night custodian at a hospital. This young man took great pride in his work and did a remarkable job, ultimately leading people to notice and comment on the difference it made. Just imagine the impact that a crisp, clean environment has on the patients and staff of a healthcare facility. It directly improves morale, and therefore quality of care, and therefore people's health. Unfortunately, however, this young man was *promoted* to the day shift, where he promptly got into an altercation with someone about walking on *his* wet floors and was fired. This example goes to show that A) pride of purpose and leadership of self alone are enough to make real difference, and B) there is an abysmal failure of management in not recognizing and supporting the strengths (and limitations) of one's team.

      Yes, I believe that "leadership" and "leadership training" have become somewhat cliche terms, often devoid of any real meaning. Nonethless, I believe there is a genuine need to identify the true leaders within in organization and empower those people so that they can empower others to maximize their talents. There is just as much need, however, to identify non-leading managers (aka organizational bureaucrats) and get them out of the way.

      As to the difference between leadership and management, I think it's merely a question of scope. A managers job is to help the individuals on his or her team apply the company's greater purpose to his or her specific role and be great in that role. The "leader" of a company is responsible for keeping that greater purpose in focus. At least, that's what I think.

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Business Entrepreneur

‘Small’ business is a point of pride in the US, no longer a stigma

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Small businesses make up the majority of companies, employers, and money makers of the American economy, that’s something to be proud of.



American small business

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, all businesses were small businesses. Independent craftsmen served communities with vital services. Small merchants opened shops to provide the community with goods. Lawyers, doctors, and other professionals hung out a shingle to offer their services to neighbors. Small businesses were the norm. Some of the most beloved American companies started out local. John Deere, Harley Davidson, and King Arthur Flour, all got their start as small businesses.

Business changes led to a attitude change

It wasn’t until manufacturing allowed businesses to scale and produce more efficiently that the idea of big business became more important. Post-World War II, the idea of a small business became derogatory. It was the age of big government. Media was growing. Everyone wanted to be on top. Small businesses took a back seat as people moved from rural to urban communities. Small business growth plateaued for a number of years in the mid-20th century. Fortunately, the stigma of small business is fading.

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy

According to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, the “American business is overwhelmingly small business.” In 2016, 99.7% of firms in American had fewer than 500 workers. Firms with 20 workers or less accounted for 89.0% of the 5.6 million employer firms. The SBE also reports that “Small businesses accounted for 61.8% of net new jobs from the first quarter of 1993 until the third quarter of 2016.” Small businesses account for a huge portion of innovation and growth in today’s economy.

Modern consumers support small businesses

According to a Guidant Financial survey, the most common reason for opening a small business is to be your own boss. Small business owners are also dissatisfied with corporate America. Consumers also want to support small businesses. SCORE reports that 91% of Americans patronize a small business at least once a week. Almost half of Americans (47%) frequent small businesses 2 to 4 times a week.

Be proud of small business status

Small businesses are the innovators of tomorrow. Your neighbors want to support small businesses, knowing that their tax dollars stay in the community, and that they’re creating opportunities within their own city. Your small business status isn’t a slight. It’s a source of pride in today’s economy. Celebrate the fact that you’ve stepped out on your own in uncertain times. Celebrate the dirt under your fingernails, literally, or figuratively, that made you take a risk to do what mattered to you.

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Business Entrepreneur

Positive self-talk can improve your performance

(ENTREPRENEUR) Speaking to others can be scary, but speaking to yourself is normal and can actually improve your speech performance overall.



Performance mirror

Do you talk to yourself? Don’t worry, this is a no-judgment zone. I probably talk to myself more than I talk to other people – especially when considering the inner monologue.

I once read that people who talk to themselves are likely to be more intelligent. Whether or not this is factual I don’t know, but I do know that it’s important that you’re smart about the way you talk to yourself.

I’m a fairly self-deprecating person, so when I’m talking to myself about myself, it’s usually some sort of insult. About a year or so ago, I realized how often I was doing this, and made a conscious effort to be a little bit nicer. In that time, my mood has been a bit more positive.

This experience fits well into the research efforts of psychologist Ethan Kross, who has examined the differences in life success based off of how people talk to themselves. “Talk to yourself with the pronoun I, for instance, and you’re likely to fluster and perform poorly in stressful circumstances,” said Kross. “Address yourself by your name and your chances of acing a host of tasks, from speech making to self-advocacy, suddenly soar.”

This can be simplified as: Talk to yourself the way you would (or maybe, should) talk to someone else, and respond in the way you would want them to respond. Act with kindness, and receive kindness back – as a result, things are more cohesive, copacetic, and successful.

After working with participants in his study, Kross found a number of performance benefits to this self-talk method, including: better performance, higher well-being, and greater wisdom.

To demonstrate better performance, judges were brought in to listen to five-minute speeches prepared by participants about why they should be hired for their dream job. Half of the participants used “I” statements, while the other half referred to themselves by their own name. The judges found that the latter half performed better, and were found to have experienced less depression and felt less shame.

In regards to higher well-being, Jason Moser, a neuroscientist and clinical psychologist, measured electrical activity in the brain during participants’ usage of the different types of self-talk. During stressful situations, those who used their names instead of personal pronouns were found to have a significant decrease in anxiety levels, which positively correlated with a major decrease in energy use by the frontal lobe (talk about a win-win!)

With greater wisdom, the research found that people who use their names instead of pronouns are able to think things through more wisely and more rational and balanced way. “The psychologically distanced perspective allowed people to transcend their egocentric viewpoints and take the big picture into account,” Kross said of this piece of the research.

Well, Taylor is now ready to wrap up this article, and she hopes that you’ll give name-first self-talk a try, as The American Genius only wants what is best for their readers! Additionally, encourage people around you and those on your team to give this self-talk, first name idea a try – circle back after a week of trying it and share the results.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to turn your side hustle or hobby into a successful business

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Surely you have a favorite hobby by now, well what can you do with it? You can grow it into a full time business, but how?



hobby tools

Almost everyone has a hobby they enjoy doing in their spare time — something that sparks their creativity and engages their senses. If you look forward to your weekend pastime more than your nine-to-five job, perhaps it’s time to turn your passion into profits.

This path requires dedication and commitment. However, as you turn your hobby into a profitable reality, the hard work pays off. Getting to that point requires several steps. Thankfully, there are many resources out there that will help you pave the way.

  1. Establish the Basics: Establishing the basics will act as your roadmap for turning your passion into a business. This plan will no doubt change along the way, but it’s important to have preliminary ideas of where you want to take your enterprise.First, establish what you’ll be selling. Most hobbies can become a business, but you’ll need to hone in on what people will be buying. Anything of value — like products and services — can be an enterprise. Once you have that in mind, you can decide if you want it to be a part-time or full-time job. If you already have a job, managing your time between the two can get tricky.

    To stay on top of your tasks, you can look into a time management app or software. With these platforms, you can input how much time you spend on certain projects. From there, you can properly divide your time and give your new business the attention it requires.

    Next, you’ll have to conduct research. Is there a market for your product nearby? Can your business realistically take off in your location? How much needs to be e-commerce? Market research can help you determine who’s interested in buying and what you’ll need to get your business off the ground.

  2. Know Your Finances: Your finances are one of the biggest factors when starting a business. Too often, people rush into things without planning their expenses and resources first. Be sure to ground your plan with actionable steps. For instance, If you’ll be working from home, you can save on renting costs. However, some businesses require a storefront, so keep that in mind.You can also look into financial planning software or budgeting tools. Research relevant tips for budgeting when starting a small business. One pro-tip to keep in mind, if renting, is that you’ll want to save around six months’ worth of rent beforehand. That way, when you get started, you won’t rely on revenue to pay this expense.

    Additionally, don’t forget about taxes. You’ll likely need to pay estimated quarterly ones and potential sales taxes, too. There are multiple tools to help calculate these expenses online. Don’t be surprised by the costs, a hobby can be inexpensive but ramping up to a business can be costly, but worth it.

  3. Take the First Steps: As you form your plans and goals, you can start to take the first steps toward a sale. This phase consists of setting up space in your home or a store and developing your products or services.You’ll also want to set up a digital platform where you can access information at any time. In this central base, you can refer to all the details about your plans, finances and marketing strategies. With tools like Google Docs and Spreadsheets, creating accounting documents and client lists become easy.
  4. Create Marketing Strategies: Your first sale will likely be to someone you know. That’s an important step. No matter who it is, though, marketing and advertising can take your business to the next level. Make sure you have a strong online presence. With social media and Google’s resources, you can increase your reach.Having social media pages on multiple platforms can help spread awareness of your business. You can use hashtags and locations to establish yourself so others can find you. Most of these platforms have analytic tracking, too, so you can see who engages with your pages and when.

    From there, you can work with Google Analytics. It connects to your website and tracks activity and sales. It shows you which visitors come from social media, referrals and search engines. Then, you can focus your marketing strategies on strengthening those areas.

    Additionally, it’s vital to focus on search engine optimization (SEO). SEO works with search engines like Google to push your listing to the top with keywords and links. As you cover your bases with SEO and social media, your online presence can grow along with your sales.

  5. Network: Outside of the online world, you have options for growing your business, too. Local companies can work together to help each other succeed — you can look into other small businesses in your area for new opportunities. People often overlook the power of collaboration, but it can bring about significant results.If you can provide a service or product to local businesses, they may be able to advertise for you at their locations. For instance, if you’re a florist and provide arrangements for a local coffee shop, it could put your business cards next to your display. Customers will see your information and know they have a local option should they need flowers.

    You can also bring this connection to the digital realm. When you interact with other businesses on social media, people will see that engagement and click on your pages. That dynamic could translate to more traffic and sales. Check online to find the communities of your chosen hobby, the people there can fill you in on vital info that may be missing, or be a customer base you can connect w

  6. Keep the Growth Going: The last step is to perpetually keep your business growing. In this phase, you can quit your full-time job or reduce your hours to be a part-time employee. You can then focus on your new enterprise.You should expand your outreach through email newsletters, deals and coupons. You can give rewards to loyal or returning customers if you’d like, too. You can also add a blog or a section for customer service and inquiries to your website. Once your business grows enough, you may need to hire help.
    As you progress, adjust your goals. You’ll see that your trajectory differs from your original ideas, but you can keep building to take it to the next step. Set new milestones and watch your business thrive.

When a Hobby Becomes a Business

You should be aware that this a long-term process. Building a brand won’t happen overnight, but the small changes will add up until your company is a force in the market. It’s also an ongoing activity. The more you grow your enterprise, the more possibilities open up. It all starts with your hobby and your entrepreneurial spirit, which can take you anywhere.

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