What does it mean to be a leader? Being a leader is about responsibility to yourself, your organization, and, most importantly, your team members. A great leader understands the power of building a winning process for a sustainable, high-performing team.

In the nearly 20 years since I created the human performance company EXOS, I’ve discovered there’s nothing more fulfilling than bringing a group of people together to achieve a far greater goal. And those decades also taught me so much about leadership.

Here’s what I’ve learned, and how you can apply it to your own leadership.

1. Never stop learning

If you look at a leader you admire, you’ll likely see a diverse resume with a variety of roles in the organization or even a completely different industry. Why is that? Leadership skills are transferable. Once you’ve built them, you can use them in any environment. And building these skills starts with learning everything about an organization’s vision, purpose, responsibilities, and strengths and weaknesses. Only with this information in hand can you start to prioritize problems, assign tasks to teammates, and excel.

Mark Verstegen from the back standing on stage in a stadium and coaching a huge group of people during a workout. EXOS, adidas, leadership, leadership skills, leadership advice, interview, GamePlan A
Embrace your organization’s culture and lead by example. This creates a foundation for trust.

2. Be a helper

Leadership is often mistaken as authority or power. But it’s exactly the opposite. Great leaders are focused on helping those around them, regardless of whether they’re above, below, or alongside them on an organizational chart.

The priority is to create an optimal environment and position each teammate to achieve success in their role. Each teammate’s success will then trickle to other parts of the business, helping move the organization closer to its goals.

Leaving behind the need to be the smartest person in the room or prove their idea is right allows leaders to focus on serving and solving in the best interest of the organization.


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3. Talk less, listen more

You’ve seen the pictures of leaders standing at a podium speaking to large groups of people. While these speeches come as part of any leadership role, they’re only a small part of how a leader spends his or her time.

Growth mindset allows leaders to overcome setbacks and map a path to success.

The information and successes shared in those public moments come from countless hours spent in collaborative meetings. It’s in these meetings that the leader asks the right questions and listens as the teammates on the ground share insights and problem-solving techniques.

Building a culture of creative collaboration versus one of intimidation and fear allows teammates to feel confident in you and in the importance of their role in the organization.

4. Look at the big picture

Setbacks are part of any career, and leaders aren’t immune. But great leaders can look past the disappointment and use their creativity to see all possible paths to success. They’re then able to map an efficient, lasting solution.

It’s in these tough moments that leaders need to know that they can achieve success — it’s just a matter of how long it might take. This growth mindset allows them to navigate a complex, evolving journey to long-term, sustainable solutions.

5. Live the culture

Organizations often tout their culture, but what is your organization’s culture?

If it’s about healthy living and creative collaboration and you’re driving yourself into the ground and shouting orders, your teammates see that. And what they take from that is that you don’t embody the vision and values of the company you’re leading. The result: a lack of trust in you and your organization.

Mark Verstegen doing a lunge on stage while presenting a workout at the adidas Stadium in Herzogenaurach, Germany. EXOS, leadership, leadership skills, leadership advice, workout, fitness, coaching, GamePlan A
Great learners continuously improve themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

So, build a genuine foundation for trust with your teammates by embracing your organization’s culture and leading by example.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about leadership? Share it with us in the comments below.


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by Rhett Tronc 23.10.2018
I like all the points in this article. Positive leadership has an incredible ripple effect that starts inside the organisation yet filters outside of it, to external stakeholders and the loved ones of the people inside it. Some leaders forget that how they treat their team, at the end of the day has an incredible and impactful ripple effect.

So in saying that, one of the greatest things I’ve learnt is..... they may not remember everything you said, but they will remember how you left the feeling.

Thank you for the article.
by David Malcolm Williams 13.01.2021
Listen more, talk less. Old saying, Seek to understand rather than being understood.
by Ryan 13.01.2021
Here’s to becoming a better leader.