Why apricots are the secret to outstanding leadership
To get the best out of your teams, you as a leader have to get one habit very right. It’s the secret to outstanding leadership, whether you lead a team of two, or a team of two thousand. Here are two true stories, both of which are beauties and illustrate the ‘habit’ perfectly.
The first is about a chief executive of the Australian operations of a global software giant with whom I worked in the mid 1990s. His background was in sales, where his prowess had seen him rise to the top of a demanding, high performance organisation.
Every year he’d go home to New Zealand on holiday. There he’d take a day out to practice the secret habit of outstanding leadership. He’d buy several crates of apricots, and pack them in the back of his car. He’d then drive to a random suburb, park at the end of a street, walk along it, and knock on each door to try to sell trays of apricots. “I challenge myself to keep working on my sales pitch so that I have sold the boot load of apricots before it gets dark,” he told me. “I do this annually to get back in touch with basic selling skills, to prove to myself I can still sell, and then to use that confidence to bring new energy and sharpness to the example I set for our sales teams.” I love this story.
The second story is about Phil Waugh, a former Australian rugby team and current New South Wales Waratahs captain, and one of the most relentless, physical and enthusiastic player I’ve seen. “How do you week in and week out, game after game, season after season, manage to keep inspiring, motivating and leading your team,” I asked him.
“The secret is simply this,” he replied. “You have to be on your own game first, lead by example.”
“If you want your forwards to get to the ball first, you get there first. If you want them to tackle harder, be the hardest tackler on the field. Be on your game, lead by example.”
To keep on our game, we have to work at it. Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People encourages us to ‘Sharpen The Saw’, to continually work at improving and fine tuning our skills.
To be an outstanding leader, get into the habit of being on your game. Lead by example. We can’t expect others to behave in ways we want them to unless we’re doing it ourselves. Keep showing your teams that you never rest on your laurels; that you work relentlessly to ‘sharpen the saw’, to fine tune skills and evolve better ways of delivering peak performance.
Oh, and eat fruit, it’s meant to be good for you!