Staying focused and passionate might be easy in the early days of your startup, but how do people keep momentum over professional careers that span up to fifty years?
This is a question researcher and author of The Future of Work, Jacob Morgan, has been asking senior executives from some of the biggest companies in the US. Writing for Harvard Business Review this month, Morgan outlines the common themes that emerge when speaking with business executives who have been able to sustain success and influence over decades.
Here are three key approaches of these successful leaders.
Keep the impact in mind
Morgan found high performing senior executives spend a decent chunk of time outside the office seeing the impact that their businesses make, and they have a clear idea of why they are in business in the first place.
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Having the ability to connect with the end users of their products helps these leaders craft the story of their brand for customers and staff, and motivates them to think about work in context of the community.
Maintaining “peripheral vision”
Some of the most experienced chief executives Morgan interviewed spoke about the importance of being able to keep track of the broader context of their business, rather than the tasks immediately in front of them.
For example, current chief information officer at General Electric, Jim Fowler, said having a focus on geopolitical issues and economics was just as important as tracking information technology trends, as this ensures decision making reflects broader customer needs.
Morgan says this approach can help sustain executives by making them less vulnerable to being caught out by change, while also allowing them the opportunity to adapt to new ideas.
Leadership beyond obligation
Finally, Morgan says long-serving chief executives speak about their roles in terms of the service they provide to others, rather than the power their jobs give them.
He cites examples like McDonald’s chief of people, Jeff Fairhurst, as being one of senior executives who discussed his job as helping other people to do their best work.
Morgan says those who see their senior positions as an opportunity to mentor others, rather than simply leading a task to be completed to grow a company, find better rewards and more support from staff because of it.
“Those who clear that obstacle realise that a key part of their jobs as leaders is transferring their knowledge and skills to others. And once they carve out the time for it, they find it immensely gratifying,” he said.