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The #1 Secret of Great Leadership (+ 26 Questions to Help You Master It!)

Over 20 years ago, I read a book that transformed my life because it started me on a process of doing Weekly Reviews.

It was “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey.

And ever since, almost once a week for two decades, I’ve sat down to reflect on the week that just passed and the week ahead.

Sometimes, I’ll do this with my coach.
Sometimes, I’ll do this with my assistant.
And, sometimes—my favorite—I’ll do this out in nature, on my own.

We use this very process every 90 days in 4PC—my community of elite coaches and extraordinary leaders.

But it’s not just reflecting on what I’m DOING…

It’s the years of reflecting on who I’m BEING that have had the biggest impact on my life and my business.

Who Are You, Really?

One of the secrets of great leadership is self-awareness.

Nothing new here—over 2,500 years ago, the maxim “Know thyself” was inscribed on the Temple of Apollo in ancient Greece.

Those words ring true to this day.

Have you ever noticed that the people you meet are run by their hidden motivations? (If I’m honest, and I can catch them, I know that’s true about me!)

Have you ever noticed that the people you meet have a number of unconscious cognitive biases that influence how they show up? (If I’m honest, and I can catch them, I know that’s true about me!)

Have you ever noticed that the people you meet are sometimes still run by their childhood wounds? (If I’m honest—and I wish it wasn’t so—but that’s definitely true about me!)

How would you like a process that will help you to uncover your own hidden motivations, your unconscious biases and even your childhood wounds?

I have a tool that can help you do just that—for yourself, and for your clients.

But first some background…

The Diversity of High Performance

I understand the struggles and the successes of being a top performer—from the inside out—both personally and professionally.

And I’m the founder of 4PC—a group of coaches, entrepreneurs and leaders who are world-class in their field.

But we’re a very diverse group.

Some of us have had huge financial success. Some of us not so much.

Some of us are known as experts in our fields. Some of us are still on our way.

Some of us have been coaching or consulting for less than a year. Some of us for over a decade.

Some of us coach mainly entrepreneurs, some of us coach mainly in corporate and a few of us are not coaches or consultants at all.

Some of us are married, some of us are divorced. Almost all of us have had our heart broken.

Each of us has lost a loved one.

Some of us have made over a million dollars in a single year. Some of us have lost everything financially or been in real poverty at some point in our life. Some of us have experienced all of the above.

Some of us are in recovery. Others have a loved one in recovery.

Some of us are dealing with a serious health issue or are supporting a loved one who is ill.

Our members include 7-figure business owners, leaders of non-profits, world-class athletes, martial arts experts, military veterans, performers, pilots, shamans, ministers, fundraisers and CEOs.

I wasn’t kidding when I said we’re a very diverse group!

(If you want to “meet” some of them, check out this video)

The 1 Thing We All Have in Common

There is however one thing this mixed group has in common:

We are all fully committed to our personal growth and professional development.

And this means that we’re committed to being given challenging questions to answer, rather than trying to get the “right” answer to the questions we already have.

It means that we use a tool called “Distinctions” to help us learn and grow. (Below, I’ll share a series of 26 facsinating distinctions.)

The Power of Distinctions

My life is spent seeking out the tiniest of distinctions between those who are excellent and those who are elite in their field.

You see, distinctions give you power.

Distinctions are not ‘truths’. They are a tool, an interpretation or story that is empowering.

They help you to DISTINGUISH your world.

The more distinctions you have, the more empowered you are.

In an everyday example, I only have a couple of distinctions around wine. It’s red or white, cheap or expensive, cork or screw top.

So, I’m definitely not very empowered when it comes to buying wine or serving it to my guests.

By chance I went to a wine bar the other day that is rather unique in the United States because it sells rare wines by the glass, not the bottle.

A $30 glass of wine was interesting to me because I rarely spend that much even on a bottle! So, I spent a great deal of time talking to the sommelier.

His knowledge of wine was absolutely fascinating to me. He talked about grapes, countries, regions, colors, sugar content, blends, flavors, alcohol content, brands, “Old World” vs “New World” wines, and even herb, earth, mineral and floral components.

For the first time, I really got the power of distinctions that allow sommeliers to command extremely high salaries.

Distinctions always give you power. They allow you to see yourself in a way that most people cannot. They allow you to make a bigger impact as a leader and to support and challenge your clients in an empowering way.

A Series of 26 Fascinating Distinctions

I ask each of my private clients a number of questions to help them distinguish their invisible preferences and to illuminate their hidden tendencies.

Want to play? See which of the distinctions below best describes you. Or look for what alternative distinctions, that aren’t even listed, help to describe the world you live in.

1. Lark vs Owl

Are you a morning person or an evening person? (I’m a lark. I go to bed around 8 or 9pm and I’m out of bed by 5 or 6am. Ellington (4 years old) is just like me. Monique can easily stay up until past midnight and loves to hang out in the bed in the mornings. Kaleo (6 years old) is usually snuggled next to her in the mornings!)

2. Marathoner vs Sprinter vs Procrastinator

Do you like to work at a slow and steady clip (and you hate deadlines or maybe even finish work early)? Do you consciously choose to work in quick bursts of intense effort and deliberately wait for the pressure of a deadline to sharpen your thinking? Do you work at the last minute but you actually hate the pressure this feels like and you agonize over the work you’re not doing? (I’m a recovering Procrastinator who is learning to Sprint).

3. Underbuyer vs Overbuyer

Do you hate to shop and buy stuff? Do you love to shop and buy stuff? (I’m an Underbuyer—I hate shopping!)

4. Experiences vs Stuff

Do you prefer to spend your money on experiences (eg. a movie, a vacation, a parachute jump, learning to cook, learning to fly) or on stuff (eg. food, gadgets, clothes, office supplies, stuff for your kitchen, furniture, artwork)? (I spend most of my money on experiences. It’s notoriously hard to buy birthday gifts for me!)

5. Simplicity lover vs Abundance lover

Do you prefer empty shelves and spartan rooms? Do you prefer a full pantry, fridge, shelves and highly decorated rooms? (I love simplicity!)

6. Efficiency lover vs Ease lover

Do you prefer to arrive at the last minute (or even late) so no time is wasted? Do you prefer to take your time and arrive on time or early so you can relax? (Monique loves the Efficiency of cutting from one lane to another on a freeway. I love the Ease of picking one lane and staying in it. Or—even better—having an Uber driver drive me!)

7. Finisher vs Opener

Do you prefer completing projects or starting them? (I enjoy the thrill of opening a new packet of cereal or tube of toothpaste. And I’ll secretly throw away something that’s not quite finished just so I can open a new one! Monique gets pleasure from using the last egg in the carton and would hate to know what I wrote in the previous sentence!)

8. Familiarity lover vs Novelty lover

(I’m a Novelty lover. I rarely ever watch the same movie twice. Monique loves re-watching old movies—especially ones from the 80s!)

9. Promotion focused vs Prevention focused

Do you focus on achievement, advancement, and getting more love, praise and pleasure? Or do you concentrate on fulfilling your duties, avoiding loss and minimizing pain, loss and criticism? (I’m promotion focused, in case you hadn’t guessed! ????)

10. Like small steps vs Like big steps

I like small steps. If I’m restarting exercise after some time off, I’ll start slowly with modest steps. And I help my clients accomplish massive goals by taking tiny steps.

11. Prefer headlines vs Prefer details

I love summaries and get overwhelmed by details. Sarah on my team loves the spreadsheets and databases we need to run a successful business. I’ve never even seen the Infusionsoft system that we use to manage our data!

12. Prefer individuation vs Prefer systems

I’m a people person and want to really get to know YOU. And I’ve grown a team who love systems, which is how we can run Intensives for 150 people. (Of course, I’ve found a way for these big events to feel as personal as possible!)

13. Need control vs Need challenge

I have a low threshold for boredom and I thrive on a challenge. Which is why I’m balanced by some of my team members who create the safety, security and systems we need in order to grow.

14. Action vs Plan

I have a high quick start energy. I’ll jump out of the plane and build my parachute on the way down. Not always a good idea! Sarah, Danielle, Kendra and Wendy on my team are extremely good at the planning that can balance out my action-focused energy.

15. Imagination vs Physical

I was waiting for around three decades for my Dad’s home improvement gene to kick in! He loved to fix things at home but I don’t even like to pick up a tape measure! And then I did the Kolbe profile and discovered that I have an innate preference for the conceptual rather than the physical. It was a relief to know that I’m never going to enjoy changing the spark plugs in the car or putting together an Ikea bookshelf. No wonder I’ve created a business that’s idea-based.

16. Front of house vs Back of house

I love to be on a stage or on video or giving a presentation. Front of house is where my magic comes alive. But I couldn’t create any of my magic without the support of a team who thrive behind the scenes.

19. Slow vs Speed

Slow down to speed up is one of my mantras. But it’s not for everyone. Some people need to move really fast (and break things) in order to bring their genius out in the world.

20. Introvert vs Extrovert

You know you’re an introvert when plans for a night out get cancelled and you’re secretly relieved. And you know you’re an extrovert when you can do things alone without tweeting “OHHHH MY GODDDD I LOVE TO DO THINGS ALOOOOONE!!!!!!!!! #INTROVERT”

Ok, technically, being an extrovert means you get energized being around people. And being an introvert means it takes energy to be around people, and you need alone time to re-energize.

Ambiverts (a new distinction) act like extroverts in social situations and introverts when alone. At a party an ambivert might be very social, fluttering from person to person all night. But that same ambivert also enjoys dinner and a movie alone.

21. Support vs Discipline

Are you someone who thrives with support and an ally by your side? Or do you love using self-discipline or having a “Sergeant” barking orders at you to make you do what you know you really want to do?

22. Freedom from vs Freedom to

Are you more motivated by ‘Freedom from’—eg. freedom from a job you dislike, a boss you hate, a spouse you’re tired of? Or are you more motivated by ‘Freedom to’—eg. freedom to make your own money, to have more time with your family, to help other people?

23. Away from vs Towards

Do you get in action by channelling your anger, irritation, fear, or frustration as a motivator to get you going? Or do you get in touch with your dreams, desires or a vivid vision of the future in order to get in action?

24. Giver vs Taker vs Matcher

Does your success result from giving to others, from getting the most you can from any situation, or from matching your output to others input? (It’s worth checking out Adam Grant’s research, in the excellent book Give And Take, how the most successful people in life are the Givers and the least successful people in life are also the Givers).

25. Growth mindset vs Fixed mindset

When it comes to dancing I used to have a fixed mindset. You can do it. And I can’t. Mistakes are embarrassing. Everyone is judging me. And it’s safer not to try than try and screw up. When it comes to building a business, I have a growth mindset. I’m only going to get better by making mistakes. Failure is inevitable, so keep going. In fact, screwing up is part of the path to success. And it’s better to own and share my struggles than try to hide them.

26. Love Languages

The book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman outlines five ways to express and experience love: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. My top 2 love languages are words of affirmation and receiving gifts. Monique’s top 2 love languages are physical touch and acts of service. This book was a life-changer for us because before reading it, it was like I’d tell her I love her in Swedish and she’d tell her she loved me in Urdu—and we’d both be upset because it didn’t seem like our partner loved us or could even get just how much we loved them!

Let me know where you line up on each of these distinctions in the comments below. And also let me know of any distinctions that have had a life-changing impact on how you approach life and business.

Love. Rich

P.S. If you’d like to dive deeper into your growth — by not only reflecting on what you’re DOING but also in who you’re BEING — there’s no better place than 4PC. As we say, it’s the only place where you can never get “too big” and you can’t never get “too messy.” You can meet some of our members here. We accept new members in January and June each year – learn more and apply.

Attribution: Most of these distinctions come from a mix of Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before, the Kolbe profile, The Five Love Languages, Adam Grant’s book Give And Take and Carol Dweck’s book Mindset.

I love sharing resources and books that I love. Please note that the links in this article are my affiliate links. If you prefer not to use my affiliate links you can search for any of these titles directly where ever you purchase your books.

PS. Whenever you’re ready – here are 3 ways you can drastically increase your income and impact as a world-class coach… 

  1. Rich Litvin’s 1:1 Coaching Playbook: Learn my top 10 proven tools for coaching elite clients in this live training. Over 100 people joined me for our first live call – and all calls are recorded, so it’s not too late to join me…
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