Leadership lessons to keep your head high

Former UEFA president, Michel Platini’s spectacular fall from grace brought to mind a few leadership lessons I’d like to share. We can learn a lot from those giants who believe their sun will never set. Following these tips would have helped them save their good name and keep their pride intact.

1. Treat others as you want to be treated

Be generous and merciful when you are in charge. Do not think it will remain as it is forever. Youngsters, smarter ones and those on the rise will replace you someday. Then you may find yourself being treated the way you treated others. If you were merciful to others, they will most likely be merciful to you. If you let others down, you might be let down by others.

 As you ride someday, you may carry some other day. Be generous now. Tomorrow may be a different story, and not one in your favor.

2. Be a rebel from time to time

When you follow your boss blindly, you run the risk of making the same mistakes as the one you have followed. So it never hurts to question and rebel a little in order to shake things up and remain true to yourself. When considering offers I follow a very basic principle. I would not accept a great looking offer if it had the potential to make me unhappy. Over the past 20 years, I have disappointed several high ranked executives by saying no to their amazing offers. It may seem ill-advised or even rebellious. However, I have my own definition of happiness in which power and wealth are not high on the list of components.

Do yourself a favor and don’t follow others blindly.

3. Know when to step down

We’ve all experienced times in our lives during which we perform at our best. After a certain number of years, we will be done; having no more power, energy and up-to-date knowledge to lead our teams or organizations successfully. New challenges require new skills and new solutions. When we’re done we need to offer our place to the next generation voluntarily. If we don’t, it will be taken from us, harming our name and pride in the process. I admire people who voluntarily step down while at the top. When you do so you will be remembered as the hero, the powerful leader or the great world cup winning footballer.

When you continue until you make a terrible mistake (sometimes unconsciously) not only is your pride damaged, but you may also find yourself broken and psychologically bankrupt.

4. Top secrets may not be secure forever

We live in a time in which teenagers can hack highly secure systems and gain access to top secret information. In the course of time many secrets become public – planned and unplanned. Take for example the FIFA Scandals and the Panama Papers. There should be a good balance between risk and reward. Is the reward worth the risk? If you take the risk, bear in mind that it may become public someday. How bad would it be if your secret became public? If it became public, how great would the pain, shame and potential damage be? It’s worth thinking more than twice when taking risks. Remember, technology does not always work in our favor: instead of traditional trusted hard copies, almost everything is digital nowadays.

  When something is digital, we can never be sure it is 100% secure.

5. Our children may suffer because of our actions

When I was 15 studying at high school, a schoolmate of mine lost his father in a bloody war between drugs dealers. In addition to this painful loss, the poor boy endured several miserable years as his schoolmates regularly brought up his family’s past. Remember, there is at least one guarantee in this life. We’ll all pass away when our time comes. No matter who we are, or how much power we have. In some cases, innocent children pay the price of unacceptable actions taken by their parents. If we are well-known and leave a bad name behind, it may create difficulties for our children.

6. A new kid on the block will always appear

Time is the one obvious limiting factor. We may have glorious days, weeks, months, or even years. But it’s a fact that the glorious time will not last forever. The better days or years are always counted. Great leaders create more years of glory for themselves, their people and their country. I am sure many of you remember Nokia and Blackberry; the kings of mobile phones some 10 years ago. The leaders of these companies really believed there wouldn’t be any competition. Nokia and Blackberry didn’t see it coming. They were enjoying their huge market share when Apple came along with the serial revolution of iPod, iPhone and iPad.

7. Watch for arrogance

Arrogance has long been the enemy of success. When people are on top, they see one success after the other. After a while, they get used to success and take it as a given. That’s when hubris creeps in. Their conceit may be so great they believe nothing can happen to them. They start to operate in a vacuum as if they are immune to everything. The moment a leader starts to believe nothing can happen to him, is the moment when it all begins to break down.

  The biggest battle a leader should win should be the one with his own arrogance.

8. If it doesn’t feel OK, it is probably not OK

We’ve all been there. Things come along which don’t seem to be quite right. When we listen to our intuition it says don’t do that. In many cases if it doesn’t feel right it is indeed not right. Decisions that are ethically wrong, are being taken by some leaders every day. It will not remain sunny all the time. One day it may get cold. It may snow or rain heavily. You better be prepared. If you get an offer which seems too good to be true, find out what’s on the other side of the coin. If you accept an offer which may bring your integrity into question, do so with the knowledge that it may become public someday. If you believe you can live with the consequences, then accept the offer. But if you believe your reputation would be ruined if it becomes public, just don’t do it.

9. Never feel too big to ask for support

We’re human. Sometimes we’re mentally and physically at our best and sometimes we’re not making the best decisions. When you don’t feel comfortable about something, reach out for support; consult a trusted adviser or book a couple of sessions with a qualified coach. By enlisting the support of an adviser or coach, you’ll gain precious insights that will help you make better decisions.


What do you think?

Do you agree with the above? Do you have anything you’d like to add? Please share your thoughts. Always appreciated.

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About the author

Hamid Safaei is the founder of ImOcean Academy. He is a qualified executive coach helping executives and budding entrepreneurs unleash their potential. Hamid has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies.

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