By Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D, The Father of Soft Leadership
“The highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for anyone but inspire them?” —Bob Dylan
CEOs must have strategies for their products and services. They must beat the competition and grab customers. They must innovate constantly to beat the competition. They must find out their customers and reach out to them. They must identify their competitors and understand their strategies to explore strategies to beat the competition. They must design innovative strategies to get new customers and retain their customers.
CEOs have several responsibilities and encounter several challenges regularly. If they lead with purpose, they can overcome challenges successfully, satisfy stakeholders effectively, and achieve organizational excellence and effectiveness. They must behave with character, courage, commitment, integrity, loyalty, and modesty. They must introspect and take feedback regularly.
CEOs have innumerable organizational challenges, especially in the post-COVID world. If they have the right habits, principles, and practices, they can overcome the organizational challenges effectively. In this regard, we will discuss the superstitions and habits of successful CEOs to lead organizations effectively and mindfully.
Great Habits of CEOs
“If you’re changing the world, you’re working on important things. You’re excited to get up in the morning.” —Larry Page
Here are some great habits of CEOs. Wake up early. Have a set routine. Start with a positive attitude. Prepare a ‘to-do’ list. Read books. Build connections. Ask the right questions. Avoid meetings unnecessarily. Give every single day of the week a theme. Try one new thing each day. Stay updated regularly. Explore and experiment regularly. Be punctual. Manage time effectively. Use travel time. Be a lifelong learner. Watch documentaries, view videos, and listen to podcasts of successful CEOs. Exercise every day. Meditate regularly. Do yoga. Enjoy solitude. Use social media judiciously. Take feedback regularly. Express gratitude every night.
Every CEO has their own way of connecting the body and brain. They must take the habits that suit their brain and body to achieve success because what worked with a particular CEO doesn’t necessarily work with other CEOs.
Most eminent leaders realized their goals by establishing a strategic daily routine and following it religiously. They realized that the path to success is incremental improvement. Therefore, establish a strategic daily routine and follow it religiously to become a successful leader and CEO.
Superstitions and Strange Habits of Celebrities
“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” ―Bertrand Russell
Humans have evolved from stone age to space age. Yet they fail to overcome their insecurities, superstitions, and strange habits. Although they are intelligent and make decisions with their head, heart, intuition, and gut, they are often seized by superstitions. They are ruled by so-called superpowers including superstitions.
Superstitions mean believing in something which is not backed by scientific reasoning and evidence. But humans believe in superstitions due to various reasons. Sometimes they depend on religious, cultural, and regional factors. At times, they depend on the individual’s experiences and beliefs. Whether it is political leaders, business leaders, religious leaders they follow superstitions. Most of them don’t disclose them for fear of being ridiculed by others.
What is considered a good omen in some cultures and countries is considered a bad omen in other cultures and countries. So, superstitions are based on cultures and countries. Here are some superstitions leaders follow. It is a good fortune when the sum of digits adds to 9. Avoid number 13 because it leads to downfall. Avoid starting a trip on Friday to prevent misfortune. Don’t break a mirror to avoid shattering your dreams. Avoid going out when a black cat crosses your path. Don’t cut nails after sunset and on specific days. Throw rice on a newly married couple to bring them prosperity. Wear birthstones to bring luck. Here are some quirky traits of celebrities. Mark Zuckerberg gets his armpits blow-dried to eliminate sweat. The US President, Donald Trump spends four to eight hours in front of a TV every day and gets uncomfortable if he isn’t the center of world news! Film star, Jennifer Aniston revealed, “If I walk on to an airplane, I always have to go on with my right foot first and tap the outside of the plane. I have always done it. For luck.”
Celebrities have some strange habits. The singer Mariah Carey eats purple food, such as beets, eggplants, and grapes three times a week. Bill Gates reads a book to fall asleep. If he does not read at least a few pages, he just cannot sleep. Eminem is obsessed with security. He cannot fall asleep if he does not check and secure all the windows in his house. Cameron Diaz never touches doorknobs with her hands and opens doors with her elbows only. Katy Perry carries 20 toothbrushes with her and brushes her teeth 6 times a day. Jessica Simpson is addicted to nicotine gum. In some ways, she became a passive smoker and that kind of chewing gum helps her to calm down. Singer, Rihanna cannot live without social networks because, in her eyes, being constantly on-line makes her more popular. Victoria Beckham used to spend 150,000 dollars a year on clothes. Rihanna’s legs are insured for $1 million and Julia Robert’s smile is insured for $30 million, which is extravagant when you consider Dolly Parton’s bosoms are only insured for $600,000. Meanwhile, Kylie Minogue’s butt is insured for a ripe $5 million.
In my personal life, I don’t reveal to others where I go and what I do. I reveal once I return home after completing my tasks because whenever I disclosed my tasks in advance, they did not materialize. Hence, I made it a practice not to disclose my cards with others. However, I gather information from all sources to complete my tasks effectively. After the successful completion of tasks, I disclose all my cards. I believe that if I disclose my plans in advance, I can be checkmated by evil forces. I don’t reveal my identity to others when I travel. I wear ordinary clothes whenever I go outside to remain as an ordinary person. My siblings and relatives are responsible for most of my struggles and sufferings. Hence, I don’t trust my relatives and keep them away. I consult my closest friends to resolve my issues since relatives brought me woes and bad luck.
I wear a sacred thread over my wrist regularly. I wear a sacred thread over my neck before I go outside on important assignments to ensure successful completion. I stay away from my relatives because they are responsible for most of my problems in life. My lucky number is 9 and the title of my books start with the ‘S’. I joined the Indian Air Force on February 04, 1982, and left Hyderabad for Chennai. I left Chennai for Hyderabad on February 04, 2007, to start a different life and pursue a teaching career. I was ranked #1 Thought Leader and Influencer on Culture Globally by Thinkers360 on February 04, 2020. Hence, I treat February 04 of every year as my lucky day. It is a coincidence that many great things happened to me on this day every year. In contrast, I have internal apprehensions on the festival day of Diwali because of several bad incidents in the past. Hence, I stay at home and avoid interacting with others on this day of Diwali to avoid getting into challenges.
I wore clothes in sandal color whenever I went for interviews in the past. However, my son, Ramakrishna wears blue clothes for interviews. I don’t give an advance amount of 1,00,000 to complete important assignments because I failed to complete them and lost my money also. Instead, I pay an advance of 5,000 only to complete major assignments. It is a big challenge to overcome superstitions in the world due to uncertainty and complexity. To summarize, superstitions and strange habits exist as long as humans and uncertainty exist in the world.
Time Management and Decision-Making
“Time is an inelastic resource. No matter how high the demand, we cannot rent, hire or buy more of it.” —Peter Drucker
A few people have an inbuilt attitude of wasting their time. They hardly realize that they waste their precious time. At times they are in a dilemma to make decisions. They often think excessively about the consequences of making decisions rather than making decisions. The reality is that the decisions must be made based on the prevailing scenario after weighing the pros and cons with an eye on long-term positive outcomes. Additionally, decisions must be made by blending the head, heart, and gut.
How to Manage Your Time?
“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” ―Stephen R. Covey
The fundamental principle of time management is to plan, prioritize, schedule, execute, and follow-up to achieve the desired outcomes effectively. Here are some tools to manage your time and make your decisions wisely. Be an expert in your domain. When you understand your tasks well, you will be able to execute them effectively. You will save your time from consulting others and approaching them for their inputs. Prepare a ‘to do’ list and execute them sequentially based on your biological clock and priorities. Write down three main tasks to be executed everyday morning. Focus on one activity at a time, execute it effectively, and move on to your next task. Avoid so-called multitasking. Remember that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Avoid the attitude of “leave it for later.” Believe in executing tasks now. Avoid unproductive meetings. Be disciplined. Simplify your calendar. Emphasize excellence. Prefer effectiveness to efficiency. Be prepared for external distractions. Don’t undertake the tasks when you are not confident. Overcome your superstitions and unfounded apprehensions. Keep your mind free from clutter and your surroundings clean. Use the power of your subconscious mind to focus on your tasks. Remember that you have four hours of uninterrupted time to focus on your creative work. Be assertive. Learn the art of saying ‘No’ politely but firmly. Delegate your routine tasks to others. Follow up with the tasks to check the progress. Audit your time. In a nutshell, find out how you spend your time in a day and a week to identify the time wastages. Address them effectively and eliminate them completely. Be time conscious. Have self-discipline. Above all, avoid procrastination. When you want to achieve success focus most of your time on your passionate areas, invest some time on learning regularly, and spend the least time in other areas.
Nohria and Porter collected 60,000 hours’ worth of data from 27 CEOs, interviewing each for more insight into how they think they use their time. The data set they created illustrates the ways CEOs navigate the inevitable trade-offs of this finite resource, no matter how well they manage their schedules. The findings have also been discussed with hundreds of other CEOs participating in Harvard Business School’s yearly workshop for newly appointed leaders. Jack Groetzinger, the co-founder and CEO of SeatGeek said, “I’ve enjoyed ‘gamifying’ my to-do list. I have an estimated number of minutes for all tasks and have written software to record when I begin and end each item. Each day, I challenge myself to hit an efficiency goal: the number of actual minutes divided by expected minutes. The best part of playing a game by myself is that I have every spot on the leader board.” According to Harvard research, CEOs worldwide spend just 4% of their work time on operational planning. Compare that to 25% spent on business unit reviews, 25% on interpersonal relationships, and 16% on the organization’s culture. If leaders manage their time, they will be able to manage their team effectively to improve organizational bottom lines. Leaders including Bill Gates and Richard Branson manage their time judiciously.
Avoid Switching Costs
“The shorter way to do many things is to only do one thing at a time.” ―Mozart
Undertake the task if you have adequate time to complete it. Otherwise, you will have to leave the task unfinished. Calculate the time each task takes. If you are persuaded that you have adequate time at your disposal, you must undertake the task to complete it. If you fail to do so, you disconnect with the task in the middle. You will have to reconnect with the task to complete it. In this process, time is lost mentally. It is known as switching costs. Usually, it happens when you multitask. Therefore, switching costs in time management means the time taken to connect, disconnect, and reconnect with the task. Senior executives encounter such challenges as they are constantly involved in firefighting and decision-making. Hence, ensure that you have enough time before you start executing a task to avoid being distracted to save your time and execute your task effectively.
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” —Charles Darwin
Harness technology because technology helps greatly to get things done much faster and with more accuracy. Therefore, focus clearly on your goals and work on them. Allocate your time judiciously every day to pursue your creative activities to unlock your potential. Avoid insignificant activities and unproductive tasks. Plan well and execute tasks that pay great dividends. Avoid information overload. Don’t endeavor to learn all areas. Emphasize learning your passionate and core areas. Use your travel time effectively. Jeff Immelt and Jeff Bezos use their travel time to achieve productivity and performance. Don’t get distracted by technology. Block email notifications when you do important tasks. Focus on social media at the end as it sucks your time. When you have enough time or find it boring to do your activities, you can focus on social media. Precisely, keep your urgent and important tasks as primary and social media activities as secondary. Understand and update with technology to leverage it effectively.
In the present global business environment, it appears that even 24 hours in a day is not enough to complete the tasks. Previously people had enough time available but they did not wear any wristwatches. Presently people wear wristwatches but they don’t find the time. It is the glaring scenario in the present hi-tech world. Although technology is a boon offering innumerable opportunities, it has become a bane throwing fresh challenges. So, use technology wisely.
I joined the Indian Air Force when I was 18 years old and acquired several qualities including punctuality, decision-making, leadership, and team spirit. I was taught to manage time and make decisions quickly. I made decisions quickly considering the risk factors and availability of resources. I failed a few times but learned valuable lessons and moved forward aggressively. However, the way I made decisions has changed drastically after I entered the teaching profession and became an author and researcher. I thought deeply before making decisions after I have become a researcher and author. I found a great contrast in my thinking and making decisions when I served in the Indian Air Force and as an author now. Sometimes I think that I waste my precious time thinking excessively while making my decisions. I decided to strike a balance between my military experience and research experience to make smart decisions. I believe that the outcome of the decisions is more important than the time spent in making decisions. When I explore from that perspective, I believe that I have become fairly an expert in making decisions as a researcher and author.
“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.” ―Tony Robbins
The richest people on the earth are the poorest in their personal time and the poorest people on the earth are the richest in their personal time. Both the rich and poor have the richest resource in the earth—time. Remember, if you waste one second, you waste one second of your precious life. Thomas Edison rightly remarked, “Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.” Time is an irreplaceable resource. Use this precious resource judiciously to excel as an effective executive. The biggest gift you can give to others is your time, not money.
To conclude, CEO must overcome their superstitions and acquire the right habits to remain competent and respected globally.
Note: Adapted excerpt from my upcoming book tentatively titled, “Strategy and Business: Tools and Tactics for CEOs to Build the Organizations of the Future.”
About the Author
Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with forty years of experience and the author of fifty books including the award-winning ‘See the Light in You’ URL: https://www.amazon.com/See-Light-You-Spiritual-Mindfulness/dp/1949003132. He is a C-Suite advisor and global keynote speaker. He brings a strategic eye and long-range vision given his multifaceted professional experience including military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine. He trains a new generation of leaders through leadership education and publications. His vision is to build one million students as global leaders by 2030 URL: http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.com/2014/12/professor-m-s-raos-vision-2030-one_31.html. He has the vision to share his knowledge freely with one billion people globally. He advocates gender equality globally (#HeForShe). He was ranked #1 Thought Leader and Influencer in Business Strategy globally by Thinkers360. https://www.thinkers360.com/top-50-global-thought-leaders-and-influencers-on-business-strategy-december-2020/. He invests his time in authoring books and blogging on executive education, learning, and leadership. Most of his work is available free of charge on his four blogs including http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.com. He is a prolific author and a dynamic, energetic, and inspirational leadership speaker. He can be reached at [email protected].