Actions before words. How leaders benefit from avoiding the same mistakes. When does a leader’s appearance matter?
In this final episode of Ray Zinn’s Tough Things First podcast series on Essential Leadership, Ray looks back at some of the major lessons so entrepreneurs can look forward to a new energized focused on success in business and life.
Rob Artigo: Welcome to the final episode of the inspiring special series called Essential Leadership with Ray Zinn here on the Tough Things First Podcast. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo, I’m a writer and entrepreneur in California. Good to be back, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hey Rob, man I hate this’ll be the last one, but we’ll come up with some others, but this has been an exceptional series, Essential Leadership. I also call it Exceptional Leadership, both of them have E’s and so essential, exceptional. Those are things that define what we’ve been talking about during this series of ten podcasts.
Rob Artigo: If you understand the essential qualities of leadership and you put them in place, you will be demonstrating what it’s like to be an excellent leader. Don’t you think?
Ray Zinn: Well, exceptional leader, for sure.
Rob Artigo: Exceptional leader, sure.
Ray Zinn: Yeah, this is a reason why we did this series, is to give people a chance to hear what we believe are the essential attributes of good leadership.
Rob Artigo: Well, I thought maybe it’d be a good idea to close out just by reviewing some, not all, of what we talked about in the ten episodes, or the nine previous episodes. But to talk about some of those that stand out to me as being worth reviewing, I think they’re all worth listening to, learning about, but we only have so much time.
So, editing this down to a, kind of, a shorter list. But let’s walk through this, the qualities of a good leader. And talk a little bit about recognizing weaknesses and improving ourselves. So, this is kind of the theme throughout the whole thing, is looking at, a serious look at ourselves and how we conduct ourselves. What we might aspire to achieve in our personal conduct, to not just be successful entrepreneurs, but be successful in life, right?
Ray Zinn: Exactly. We talk about waiting until the end of the year to look at our New Year’s resolutions. As we look back over the prior year and say, “Whoa, I wish I’d done this, this and this.” If you can do this on a regular basis, daily even, you’re just going to be able to inculcate these principles in the way you lead and run your life. So again, don’t wait until the end of the year to look back and say, “Here’s what I need, here’s my resolutions, things I need to improve.”
Rob Artigo: Well, earlier in the series, you reminded us that, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. You insisted there was a caveat to that, which is, you need to learn from your mistakes.
Ray Zinn: Exactly. You know, again, the biggest mistake we make is not recognizing a mistake and repeating it over, and over, and over, because that’s called insanity. Making the same mistake and expecting a different result is just plain stupid.
Rob Artigo: It would take all of your fingers and all of your toes to count the number of examples of people trying to do the same thing over and over again, and just making it worse, and worse, and worse, and never really figuring it out. And I think that it doesn’t just cause failure of businesses, it can cause, really, the breakdown in the fabric of society, don’t you think?
Ray Zinn: Actually that’s what society is based on, is how the quality of the people that are in the society define who the society is.
Rob Artigo: We also discussed sound judgment and you were saying that this is, truly, one of those essential qualities you need, tell us why.
Ray Zinn: Well, knowledge is important, but the proper application of knowledge is wisdom. And so, if you take that knowledge that you have and make a stupid decision, or make unwise choices, that’s not being wise. So, a sound judgment is based on wisdom. You have that gut reaction, even though you don’t know the result, because of the action hasn’t taken place. Your gut will tell you if you’re doing, it’s your conscience, as some people call it, your conscience will tell you if you’re making the right decision.
Rob Artigo: Yeah. And again, we repeat this theme as well, throughout this podcast series, the idea that you’re doing, and we opened this episode, talking about it as well, is the idea of examining yourself. Being critical of yourself, to the point where you can see, am I practicing sound judgment here? It takes a serious self examination sometimes, when making a big decision where this can’t be emotional, this has to be sound judgment.
Ray Zinn: Well, as I mentioned before, knowledge is important, but using that knowledge in a wise way is your judgment. And so, you said, “At first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” Yeah, but don’t try to repeat the same mistake. That’s the final aspect of repentance really, is not repeating the same mistake, or not repeating the problem, over and over. So, learn from your mistakes, we all make mistakes. That’s absolutely inherent with being human, is that we will make a mistake. But it’s not the mistake that’s a problem, it’s not correcting it, is the problem.
Rob Artigo: In episode four, we talked about inspiring passion. It’s one of those things where, you can have passion, but you really need to be able to help that passion emerge in your employees, tell me about that.
Ray Zinn: Well, we all know when someone is passionate about something, they just talk energetically, enthusiastically, they’re excited. They are really very promotional in that respect. And so, you know when you’re excited. You know when you’ve got, when you have enthusiasm, and when you’re optimistic, and when you’re looking forward to it. That’s really the key to being passionate. What I talk about is, there’s three keys to being happy. One is to have something to do, the second is to have someone to love, and the third is to have something to look forward to. And so that is rolled up in what the keys of being passionate, having something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to, that’s passion. And so, the more you have to look forward to, and something you love, and something that you can get your arms wrapped around, the happier you’re going to be. And the happier you are, the more passionate you will appear.
Rob Artigo: We also talked about professional bearing, how you carry yourself in a professional manner. Why is this so important? Why is this an essential attribute of a good leader?
Ray Zinn: Because the way you appear is the way you are. If you appear sloppy, you’re going to… I mean, you look sloppy, you’re going to come across as sloppy. So, you want to have your demeanor, the way you present yourself, you want to do it in a way in which will come across positively. You don’t go to a funeral in a bathing suit, unless they’re going to bury the corpse in the water or something. You want to make sure that you’re dressed appropriately for the occasion, and I always say dress one level better than you’re expected. And so, therefore you’re not going to come across as just being like one of the other group. You’re going to say, “I’m going to show how important this particular function is, by the way I dress.”
Rob Artigo: Yeah, I’ve seen plenty of examples. And it’s also not just about the way that you appear, it’s about how you feel. And if you feel organized and clean, then you’re going to come across organized and clean. Then if you’re disheveled, you’re going to come across as not organized. And that could be a real failure if you’re in a sales situation, or other kind of marketing situation.
Ray Zinn: Exactly. So, appear as you want to be seen.
Rob Artigo: We talked about education. You said that it’s essential for would-be entrepreneurs to take four classes, accounting, financial and managerial accounting, business law, and basic economics. So, the importance of education, underscored here in some serious classes, but you got to get that education.
Ray Zinn: That’s that knowledge I was talking about a few minutes ago, is that your knowledge is important, and then the proper use of that knowledge is wisdom. So, these courses that we talked about, they’re not the end all, they’re what we call basic courses. So, as an entrepreneur, or in running your family, or in any other aspect that you want to improve yourself, these classes will help you do that, especially if you’re going to be a business person.
Rob Artigo: All these great topics, and matters of essential leadership, character attributes, just so much to talk about. Anything here stand out to you as the number one quality for essential leadership?
Ray Zinn: The number one quality is the ability to love the things you hate. In other words, being able to do the tough things first. Eat that ugly frog, first thing every day, I wrote a book about that. In fact, you can get it on Amazon or any of your book retailers. It’s that ability to really love the things you don’t like doing. And so, that’s probably one of the most important aspects of being a good leader, is loving the things you hate or doing the tough things first.
Rob Artigo: Yeah. This comes up a lot during the course of our podcast, our previous podcasts, not just in this series, but you have said it many times. And it is one of those attributes of a strong leader that for some people get overlooked because, “Oh, I’ll just hire somebody to do that, and I’ll ignore that.” Or for you, you get up in the morning and you go work out and that has kept you strong, and in the game, for a long time.
Rob Artigo: And it’s a great discipline to have, but eating the ugly frog first is just basically saying to yourself, “I’m going to take care of this stuff that I don’t want to do now. I’m going to take care of this stuff I don’t want to do, and I’m going to do it now, so that the rest of the day I can spend doing the more enjoyable things that I want to do with this job.” And it has proven over and over again, that if you can do that, and like you said, if you could start to love it, love that process, then your chances of succeeding are better than that nine out of ten, we talked about in a previous podcast.
Ray Zinn: Well, procrastination is the bane of leadership. So, if you want to improve and maintain your standards as a good leader, is to learn to love the things you hate, or doing the tough things first. So, they talk about good, better, best, and really it’s a process. It’s, as they say, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, but it’s not something you can just do one time. You got to be persistent, you got to be continuous in your pursuit of good, better, best. And it will take time and it will prevail, providing you don’t make it a one-shot thing. I know that we grow tired of doing the same thing over and over. But Emerson said, that which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the nature of the task changes, but our ability to perform it becomes easier. So, it’s that repetition, that keeping at it, is how we gain the ability to overcome any obstacle that’s in our way.
Rob Artigo: Well, I hope the listeners to Tough Things First enjoyed the series, with 10 episodes on essential leadership and listening to your wisdom on these topics just doesn’t cover it all. I could do a series with 20 episodes, and I don’t think we would get anywhere near the areas that that can help. But I think these are, the reason why it’s called essential leadership is, these are those elements of a leader, which can only be called essential.
Ray Zinn: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Exactly. And you’ll become more of an effective, that’s another E, another effective leader, when you know and understand the principals of essential leadership.
Rob Artigo: Well, I hate to say it, but we’ll close this one out. We’ll get ready for the next series, whatever that ends up being, and I look forward to it. I’m sure there’ll be other ideas coming up. I know that we should remind everyone, we’ve had this series, 10 episodes, essential leadership here on a special edition of the Tough Things First Podcast. You can go to the website, toughthingsfirst.com. You can find the rest of the podcast there, go back and listen to, we talked about it, summarized it here, but we really go into detail on these subjects in the other podcasts. Don’t miss out, make it part of your life and work it into your efforts to become a better leader and a better person. Make sure you check out the podcast, blogs, links, and other information at toughthingsfirst.com. Of course, find out more about Tough Things First, the book, and the other books, Zen of Zinn and Zen of Zinn Two and the upcoming Zen of Zinn Three.
Ray Zinn: That’s right, Rob. It’s going to happen.
Rob Artigo: Awesome. Thank you again. And Ray, I appreciate you inviting me to be the guest host during this series, it’s been a lot of fun.
Ray Zinn: Well, listen, it’s been great, Rob, and I hope that our listeners will take the time to listen to this series of 10 podcasts.