33 Things Successful Leaders Have Given Up

The last leadership post you’ll ever need to read.

Tim Denning
Mar 7 · 13 min read
Image credit: Nike/Virgin

Here’s an article you might not expect. The advice here is harsh and it will help you understand leadership and the traps that exist.

I’ve met a few leaders during my time who try so hard and then never seem to get anywhere. They scratch their heads wondering why. Let’s look at those successful leaders we all admire and what they *don’t* do. What these leaders don’t do says more than what they actually do.

Leadership is a privilege and it’s time all of us divorce the bad leaders so that the true leaders can rise up.

It’s time we vote with our lives and stop supporting these bad leaders who don’t understand one simple philosophy: everything starts with you. Leadership doesn’t exist to make you happy; it exists to make others happy and that’s the reward.

We’ve got to stop accepting mediocrity and these unsuccessful, pathetic leaders who only seek to please themselves. We don’t need to tolerate them and we should vote against them by leaving their asses behind.

You can be so much more without being subjected to poor leadership.

Here are 33 things successful leaders have given up:

1. They’ve given up worshipping hierarchy

Successful leaders don’t expect praise they give praise.

It’s not about your job title, how much experience you have or how many people you have around you who say nice things.

Hierarchy assumes you are better than someone else when the truth is you’re not. Let your inner belief guide you as a leader and give up hoping people will be impressed by your leadership title when they won’t be — we’d rather be impressed by who you are as a person.

2. They’ve given up making others live in fear

Fear doesn’t motivate people to be led by you. It causes the opposite to come true. Spreading fear is a mask for your own fear and insecurities.

It’s those things that happened to you as a kid or as an adult which you haven’t dealt with that causes you to want to make others live in fear and experience pain.

Maybe you threaten their job, or their position, or their livelihood but all that will guarantee is that they’ll do everything in their power to get away from your leadership as soon as possible.

3. They’ve given up getting the other leaders fired

Your successful leader counterparts are not walking around trying to get the other leaders fired in some Game of Throne type tournament where the last one left wins the kingdom.

Having someone fired is not impressive. That person has bills, a home to pay for and a family that cares about them.

Just because someone is not right for a leadership role, does not mean they are stupid or deserve to be fired in some kind of Mexican standoff.

Even worse is wanting to fire other leaders so you can gradually build up your own empire and have more power. This is ugly and driven by ego.

4. They’ve given up being afraid to be fired

Successful leaders know they have an expiry date and they’re not afraid to be fired. In fact, successful leaders are courageous and happy to sacrifice their leadership title for the sake of the people they lead.

Rather than worry about being fired, they concentrate on doing the best they can while being given the privilege to be called a leader.

5. They’ve given up being afraid of the old regime

Perhaps the previous leaders have moved on. Successful leaders are not concerned with eradicating an invisible virus which could be labeled as ‘the old regime.’

The people who followed the previous leadership will follow you too if you respect them, take care of their needs and lead them towards something meaningful.

6. They’ve given up a ‘revolving door policy’

Have you ever worked under a leader who has people leaving their team on a weekly basis? Do they make excuses about why every one of them is flawed and they will reign supreme?

Successful leaders don’t think like this.

When good people leave, they ask themselves “What could I have done better?”

An even better question they ask is “Could I ever be in a position to invite this person back again at some point?”

A revolving door policy is a sign that the current leader is doing a poor job.

Image Credit: The Project Twins

7. They’ve given up acting like a dictator

Successful leaders don’t tolerate the Wolf Of Wall Street way which is to lie, cheat, steal, sabotage and show people who’s boss.

Dictators who rule with an iron fist don’t last in positions of power long because the very people they lead end up turning against them.

Trade dictatorship for empowerment.

Build others up and let them too become a leader in something that is meaningful to them.

8. They’ve given up treating people like cr*p

More than anything, successful leaders are obsessed like a junkie to treat their people well because they understand it pays ten times the dividends in the long run.

Successful leaders treat everybody well — even the ones who don’t like their leadership.

In fact, they go even further to spend time with those who don’t like being led by them, so they can understand what they need to develop and see the side of them that is not coated in sugar.

9. They’ve given up having to recruit round the clock

A constant drive to bring on more people is healthy when your team is growing because of the collective good work.

If you’re being forced to recruit new people, to replace the ones leaving on a weekly basis, then the problem is you, not the people leaving.

People leave bad leaders — not teams, companies, sporting clubs or brands

10. They’ve given up making a bad example of someone

When someone does something wrong, they coach them in private.

Successful leaders do not subscribe to the idea that it’s worthwhile making an example of someone to show others how *not* to act.

Instead, successful leaders make examples of the role models to help inspire others.

11. They’ve given up letting their ego run the show

Ego is the enemy as Ryan Holiday would say.

Fantastic leadership book by Ryan Holiday

You can never be a successful leader if you flash your ego and expect it to impress, inspire or motivate others to follow you. No one is following a self-obsessed fool; they’re following someone who is SELFLESS.

Your ego can be ugly and it will blind the people who follow you from seeing your true leadership potential. A leaders ego is about themselves whereas a true leaders goal is about everybody else other than themselves.

12. They’ve given up *NOT* listening

Rather than talking as if they have all the answers, successful leaders listen first. They accept that the collective wisdom is where all the best solutions are found rather than their own.

13. They’ve given up threatening people

It’s what scared, insecure, wannabe leaders do to cover up their own flaws and wear a mask of confidence.

Successful leaders don’t threaten; they inspire. They understand that threatening people only leads to mediocrity and it’s what we’d do as kids on the playground, not adults who’ve been given the privilege to lead others towards their hopes and dreams.

No one is inspired by a threat and it only creates more hostility.

14. They’ve given up talking behind peoples backs

Backstabbing is not a habit that successful leaders practice because they would rather tell people to their face in a diplomatic way, what they think.

Successful leaders are afraid to backstab because they know that eventually, it will happen to them if they do. They’re obsessed with transparency and giving feedback that is meaningful.

15. They’ve given up asking others to stroke their ego

They don’t want to be told how good they are and they don’t expect praise from their followers, or gifts, or privileges.

Ego stroking makes them uncomfortable because they know, like you and I, that they too are flawed, imperfect and have a long way to go in their development.

Ego stroking is only required when a leader is insecure and hasn’t spent the time to understand why they seek attention and praise.

16. They’ve given up telling lies

Lies like “I took the business from $9m to $700m” when the people in the room listening to that sentence worked with that leader previously and know that claim to be a lie.

Successful leaders don’t have to lie because speaking the truth has been one of their many hidden talents.

They know that lies eventually get found out and this won’t serve their goals. They prefer to tell the truth even if that means admitting they were wrong, owning up to failure or highlighting one of their flaws.

17. They’ve given up doing stuff they don’t believe in

Leading is meaningless if you don’t believe in the reason why you’re doing it. Successful leaders attach themselves to causes, people and goals they believe in even if they’re unsure whether they can succeed.

They do not chase things they don’t believe in because they know that it will be impossible to stay motivated and lead against their values, beliefs and purpose.

18. They’ve given up standing for nothing

Successful leaders stand for something. They create movements and tribes of people who are connected beyond the work itself.

They’ve given up standing for nothing and have a few key things they stand for.

Values such as:

  • Respect others
  • Lead with positivity
  • And the phrase “I’ll never ask you to do something I’m not prepared to do myself”
Image Credit: Salesforce/Dreamforce Event

19. They’ve given up being disrespectful

Shooting your mouth off and talking down to people is disrespectful and successful leaders know that those actions will kill any thriving culture.

They prefer to be obsessed with respecting people at all costs. They understand that having people respect them starts with their own ability to respect each person first.

20. They’ve given up motivating people using their mortgage

This one’s directly related to leadership in business.

Successful leaders never threaten someone’s livelihood by attempting to bring their ability to pay their mortgage into the conversation.

There are a 101 ways you can pay your mortgage and if a leader uses this as motivation, you can be sure the person they are using it against is stockpiling their savings so they can leave you behind.

Successful leaders don’t motivate their people through money or threatening them with being able to put a roof over their head. Instead, they help you to be more successful so you can create more value and maybe pay your mortgage off quicker.

21. They’ve given up expecting people to work long hours

We’ve all heard of a leader who demands their team to work long hours. These leaders play games like sending emails at 11:30 at night to see who answers, and the speed of each person’s response.

Successful leaders believe in work-life balance and are afraid of their team burning out by working 12-hour days.

They want their people spending time with their families, traveling the world and having a healthy reason to come to work each day.

They do not want their team becoming tired and frustrated through working long hours because they understand that the work they do, and the relationships they must maintain, will be destroyed in these states.

22. They’ve given up penalizing someone for starting a family or being sick

Yes, this sort of thing happens. When someone is sick or starts a family, they need time off. Unsuccessful leaders get upset by this and want to find replacements who can show up despite being sick or their child being born.

It’s a sad fact and one that successful leaders run a million miles from. They’d prefer people to recover from illness and experience the birth of their child so that they can show up with a new sense of purpose.

23. They’ve given up *NOT* focusing on personal goals

Successful leaders tie a person’s personal goals to everything they do, so they can be consistently ticking off boxes that serve their people’s goals, and help them to develop.

Personal goals are how you inspire people to do their best work.

Letting people achieve their personal goals through the work they do only makes them more inspired to be led by you.

24. They’ve given up blocking side-hustles

Allowing someone to scratch their itch through a side hustle is something successful leaders get satisfaction from.

Maybe one of your team wants flexible hours to work on a project.

Maybe one of your team wants to leave on time so they can spend the evening working on their craft.

Maybe someone wants to leave your team altogether to let their side hustle takeover for good.

Successful leaders encourage side hustles and celebrate when someone goes from working for them, to working on their side hustle full-time. Not letting people do their side hustles will only make them find ways to work for someone else who will let them.

25. They’ve given up worrying about people starting their own business

Some of the people you lead may start their own business. These same people may even become your biggest competitors. You can’t stop this from happening.

Successful leaders know that having someone start their own business to compete against you is not the end of the world. It’s better to have people you’ve led be your competitor than entire strangers who will show you no mercy.

If you’ve coached someone to start their own business as a result of your leadership, then we salute you.

26. They’ve given up *NOT* dedicating time to their people

People need a leaders time and when a leader is impossible to reach, they’re forgetting their most powerful weapon: the people they lead.

You can’t lead someone unless you give them some of your time and help coach them, problem solve with them and give them guidance.

Leaders who are not approachable and are always too busy don’t last.

27. They’ve given up refusing to take feedback

Feedback (especially negative feedback) can be hard to swallow as a leader.

Successful leaders welcome feedback because they know that it’s the only way to grow and become an even better leader.

These same leaders encourage 360-degree feedback and get good at swallowing the sometimes harsh truth.

28. They’ve given up *NOT* empowering others to make decisions

A leader who must make all the decisions is not a real leader. Leadership is about delegating and trusting others to make decisions in your absence.

When you don’t trust people to make decisions, what you’re really saying is “I don’t trust you.”

Let your team make decisions. Start them off with small amounts of authority and then build from there. You’ll be surprised how good it feels to see your team making decisions and becoming leaders in the process.

Delegating the right to makes decisions will also give you more time to be a leader instead of being bogged down in emails and requests for approvals of $4 staplers.

29. They’ve given up outlining how people are exited

Successful leaders don’t draw pictures of how people who leave will be exited.

They don’t make you afraid to leave or force you to stay back after hours to pack your things and even delete all your social media profiles off your computer.

Successful leaders also don’t require you to leave right away once you speak your truth and make your intention to leave clear. Instead, they allow you time to finish up, transition to your next gig, and celebrate what you’ve done to date with a lunch/dinner.

Exiting a team should never be a shameful event.

30. They’ve given up assuming that someone who leaves is a traitor

People will leave your leadership and that’s normal.

Those who leave your leadership are not traitors. Take the time to understand why they are leaving and if it’s because of you and your leadership, be accountable.

Learn from your mistakes as a leader because no one starts out leading a team perfectly — not even Nelson Mandela.

31. They’ve given up clock watching

Focusing on output rather than minutes served is what successful leaders care about.

We all have lives to live and sometimes stuff happens. Trains get delayed, family members need to be taken to the doctor, children start their first day of school, teenagers graduate university and some days people wake up late.

32. They’ve given up *NOT* wanting to be replaced

Success looks like having one of their team replace them. The satisfaction of leading someone to become a leader brings them immense pleasure.

Successful leaders understand that true leaders breed more leaders.

33. They’ve given up *NOT* seeing their life from their deathbed

This one might sound strange but hear me out.

Successful leaders put their lives in perspective by thinking about what their final days will look like and what they will leave behind when they leave this world.

Image Credit: Andrew Wyeth

From this perspective, all the things these successful leaders need to give up to truly lead, become crystal clear.

You can’t be a terrible leader when your heart is full of compassion, gratitude and the need to leave this world behind better than you found it through being a leader.

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Tim Denning

Written by

Aussie Viral Blogger - Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship. www.timdenning.net

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +541K people. Follow to join our community.

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