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Five Ways Leaders Can Keep Their Minds Sharp

Ashok, CEO of UnfoldLabs, is an innovation veteran who believes in making the world a better place with futuristic technology products.

Leaders are creatures of habit, which is a desirable trait in life since consistency delivers outcomes. Finding the perfect balance between work and personal life can lead to some of the best decisions.

This balance has been integral to the success of some of the leaders and mentors I have worked with. In many cases, their habits are responsible for their success.

Consider incorporating the following activities into your daily routine to keep your mind sharp and stay at the top of your game:

1. Spend more time reading.

One thing many of today’s great leaders have in common is that they read — a lot.

Steve Jobs had an insatiable curiosity. Elon Musk is an enthusiastic reader who answered, “I read books,” when asked how he learned to make rockets. Mark Zuckerberg made reading a book every other week his New Year’s resolution one year. And the list goes on. Reading keeps you informed about current events and helps you tap into the wisdom of the world’s leading thinkers.

On the other hand, successful people don’t read just anything. When it comes to what they read, they’re extremely selective. Many agree that reading across fields boosts creativity. Leaders who can apply insights from other fields, such as sociology, science, economics or psychology, are more likely to innovate and thrive.

The great ones vouch for themselves through their biographies and experiences. Our greatest leaders’ reading habits are frequently a defining attribute, catalyzing insight, innovation and personal effectiveness. To get started, here are a few books recommended by some of the most successful leaders in the world.

2. Be open to learning.

The most successful leaders are conscious of their own strengths and flaws and seek to overcome them. Set a goal to learn something new on a regular basis, whether it’s a technical skill, seeking mentorship from peers or simply getting lost in the written wisdom of others.

Your desire to learn will set the tone for your life and leadership. Encourage your team to follow their own passion. Then, see what you can learn from them and continue the cycle.

Here are a few suggestions you can implement right away:

• Listen to podcasts.

• Divide a book you’re reading into parts, so the entire book is only 50 to 100 pages. This is a psychological nudge that makes you think in small volumes and finish faster.

• Try micro-blogging about whatever you have learned for the week. This makes you feel more accountable and opens more doors than you can imagine.

3. Get lost in a hobby. 

Every leader requires a means of expression. Physical activity or regular meditation may be the answer for some. Whether it is sports, music or painting, approach hobbies with the same zeal as a business venture. You may never attain mastery, but learning a new skill or following a passion can help you develop new neural pathways that will benefit your leadership.

Here are some hobbies of successful leaders for inspiration:

• Sundar Pichai is a big cricket fan and plays when he can.

• Jack Dorsey commits to walking five miles to work.

• Sergey Brin is an adrenaline junkie and likes to push his body to limits.

• Larry Ellison likes to sail.

• David Solomon is a DJ and often goes to clubs to play music.

Finding and exploring a pastime or passion is more about becoming a human being and expanding your horizons. Hobbies are critical for long-term success in fast-paced fields like technology that are infamous for wearing people down and burning them out.

4. Pen your thoughts.

Writing allows you to express yourself clearly, connect personally with others and establish your credibility — all of which are essential abilities for leaders in any field.

While leaders are often big-picture thinkers with a magnificent vision of the future, they must also be aware of the minor tasks necessary to achieve that vision. Breaking down a goal into achievable tasks, delegating and collaborating with others and analyzing performance are things leaders manage on a regular basis.

Establish a passion to perfect your writing, even in the tiniest details. Use technology to brush up on your skills using these online writing tools. One more tip: Use an active voice and keep your sentences short.

5. Practice deep listening. 

Great leaders pay attention to learn. In most conversations, people just respond to the most recent comment, which is a logical and often effective strategy. The best leaders, on the other hand, listen to learn. Listening, learning and putting what you have learned into practice will always be the most effective strategy to achieve success.

Leaders pay attention to make connections. The best listeners have honed their capacity to hear and connect the dots. When you listen carefully and make connections to what is being said, you will be well-equipped to assist others in putting their thoughts into context.

So, for those who think they save time by multi-tasking during the meetings, nothing could be further from the truth. Put away tech gadgets or any other distractions, and fully focus on the person talking and then turn off the inner judge that keeps passing verdicts inside your mind.

Final Thoughts

Authentic leaders establish their inner thoughts — how they got to be who they are — to create and establish their leadership identity.

The hobbies of many leaders began in childhood and are thoroughly incorporated into their life stories since they serve as a powerful manifestation of their ideals. PayPal’s Dan Schulman, for example, has credited martial arts training for a slew of leadership principles, including “never standing still,” “keeping one’s cool in a crisis” and “avoiding unnecessary conflicts with competitors.”

Are you trying to fit some serious leisure time in between the solid blocks of your calendar? Don’t worry, the beauty of pursuing a serious non-work interest is that it will compel you to make time for it, and once you do, your intellect will only continue to sharpen.


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