Great leaders have learned a set of practices, that if done well over an extended period of time, can provide you sustained leadership success. There are simply things great leaders consistently do that unsuccessful leaders don’t.

Grant Wahl, the great writer for Sports Illustrated, gave us a glimpse into just some of these practices in their June 27th edition.  Grant profiled German team Bayern Munich’s top midfielder Xabi Alonso.  Alonso is an Apex Leader, one of the very best at what he does.

As I read Wahl’s article, I gleaned 7 Things Great Leaders Have Learned To Do:

  1. Great Leaders Have Learned To Prepare For The Future. – The leaders you study under, learn from and have been led by matters.  Alonso has played under legendary managers Carlo Ancelotti, Vicente del Bosque, Rafa Benitez, and Jose Mourinho.  In preparation for one day going into coaching, he played the last two years under Pep Guadiola.  He says, “(It was) very useful for me to understand more about football and how I want to do things.”
  2. Great Leaders Have Learned The Value Of Compounding. – Greatness is often not the spectacular but rather small things done well over an extended period of time.  Alonso says, “It’s all about balance, about making a lot of right decisions.  Maybe they look unmeaningful (individually), but putting all of them together, they make sense.  My job is not to make spectacular actions.”
  3. Great Leaders Have Learned To Position Others For Success. – The greatest leaders know their success in found in the success of others on their team.  Alonso noted, “When we win the ball, my job is to get it from the defense to the attackers in the best possible way.”
  4. Great Leaders Have Learned To Make Great Decisions. – Alonso is always two-to-three steps ahead in his decision-making.  He said, “Before receiving the pass, I try to have an idea of what’s going to be the next decision.  When you get the ball, it’s probably too late, because you will have the opponent on top of you.”
  5. Great Leaders Have Learned To Provide Solutions. – When a leader walks into a room, they will either bring problems or bring solutions.  Alonso says, “When I make a pass, my goal is for (my teammates) to have the best possible way, on the right foot or left foot, to have an advantage…That’s my idea: to create a pass with an advantage, not to create a problem.”
  6. Great Leaders Have Learned To Take Risks. – The fruit is on the end of the branch, not by the tree trunk.  Great leaders go out on a limb and take great risks.  Alonso acknowledged, “When you’re closer to the goal in the attacking end, you should take passing risks, because one good pass can turn into a goal.”
  7. Great Leaders Have Learned To Be Decisive. – Alonso feels it is better to make 2 or 3 decisive shorts passes  rather than one long pass.  He said,  “When you’re playing long passes, your players have much more distance between each other and when they lose the ball, it’s harder to get the ball back because they can’t pressure as well together.”

Prepare For The Future, Compound Excellence, Position Others For Success, Make Great Decisions, Provide Solutions, Take Risks, and Be Decisive.  Learn and practice these seven qualities and you too may one day be an Apex Leader.

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