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Six Things Modern-Day Leaders Need To Succeed

Written by: Christian Roach, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Christian Roach

Leadership is a widely discussed topic that will always have relevance and value. Leadership theory and practice have evolved somewhat in the last fifty years, and it has come a long way from theories such as the great man theory which suggested we were all born with or without the necessary traits to lead or the Theory X, Theory X debate which argued that people were either completed self-motivated or naturally lazy.

group of colleagues having a discussion in a modern office

This article will touch upon some of the key aspects that I feel all modern-day leaders need to succeed, including some traits they need to embody. This is not an exclusive list by any means, and you will have many more to add from your own experience; however, I feel this is a great starting point, especially for those starting out in their leadership journey. Here are six things modern-day leaders need to succeed:

1. A get it done mentality

“Some people have a problem for every solution, some people have a solution for every problem.”

Some people also wait to do things tomorrow, next week or next month when they don’t need to and by doing so, they hinder progress rather than promote it.

This was drilled into me as a child, by my mother who used to call it “mañana habit” which essentially means, I’ll do it tomorrow. This mentality can foster a level of laziness on a subconscious level which leads to or at least contributes to procrastination and sub-par performance. Doing what you can do right now will also achieve a small, easy win, and these small, easy wins can lead to a build-up of positive momentum, which can be hard to stop. This momentum is needed to get anything significant done because without it, you won’t get anywhere fast.

This mentality is also about finding solutions to problems, even if they are unorthodox. Sometimes, problems require unorthodox solutions, and to get these solutions to come to fruition, we need to think outside the box. Surprisingly to some, inspiration comes by acting even when things aren’t fully clear despite most people thinking it’s the other way round. The action puts your brain into solution-finding mode, and the more you compound it and expose yourself to different stimuli and reference points, the more efficient it becomes at finding solutions. If you waited for inspiration, you could be waiting a very long time whilst time and opportunity pass you by.

Some things need to be done tomorrow because they aren’t a priority and that’s fine but the things, I’m talking about in this context are the things that can be done now without a downside. If you are familiar with colour personality insights, this falls into the red category which is attributed to action, fire, assertiveness and speed. As a natural red, I have found tapping into and honing my red side has been my most effective strategy as it has allowed be to become hyper efficient, fast and get a lot done.

This doesn’t mean be reckless and without thought, details sometimes matter and when they do they need to be accounted for however waiting for the perfect time to do something won’t always present itself and sometimes you must create the perfect time and that starts by acting now.

“Do what you can do now, now so that you prevent yourself from distraction and procrastination later.”

2. Prioritising a collaborative/transformational leadership style

Autocracy has its place in certain contexts but generally the modern-day leader needs to adopt a collaborative and/or transformational style at least some of the time.

Autocracy works well in crisis situations where direction and commands fall on the most experienced and authoritative person, and they work well when someone is being trained to do something that aren’t competent at yet. They even work well in some hierarchical organisations such as the military where a top-down approach could be encouraged “to follow orders”.

The reality is that it doesn’t work in most modern-day businesses. Employees have a lot more freedom to operate in a unique way, especially since COVID and the work from home emergence. Employees are also more likely to have a side hustle or project now more than ever. This essentially means that job roles are more transient, short term and opportunities are everywhere so highly skilled people, especially those with experience are usually not going to stick around in a “do as I say” culture. If you’re anything like me and a lot of you reading this are, you just won’t tolerate it. Employees don’t need employers like they used to – just look at the digital nomad culture in 2024.

Autocracy can be useful in small doses and it’s an important tool to have in the toolbox but there’s rarely a good instance in business where it should be the default. Admittedly, I had to use this style in the first year of building my company, Redefining Fitness, because I knew what I wanted to build, and that year was largely about telling people what I needed doing and by when. I was aware of this approach being a short-term solution so when the business got to a certain place, I started to collaborate with experts and bring in my team in a more collaborative approach. It’s different styles for different contexts.

The real skill is having the tool in the box and knowing when and when not to use it. This means that treating everything like a nail in the wall that needs hammering won’t get you very far as that’s a small piece of the puzzle. You will need to pull out the hammer from time to time but you also need a screwdriver, a wrench, a drill and all your other gear if you want to be effective. This metaphorical toolbox is fundamental to any leader being successful.

Transformational leadership styles can be a huge time and energy investment from the leader/manager, and this can take its toll quickly, especially if it isn’t implemented properly. Implementation is a skill and will take a lot of getting it wrong before it becomes right however it’s an endeavour worth pursuing because when done correctly, it’s arguably the most effective style when it comes to creating autonomy and a positive work culture.

Transformative leadership style is about providing input and guidance but teaching your team members to think for themselves, come up with their own thought process and become predominantly self-sufficient. Rather than disempower people, it gives power to other which is why insecure and immature leaders are afraid to adopt it. If you want to lead well, the collective need must surpass the individual desire. The common goal comes first.

“Leadership is knowing when to get certain tools out and how to use them whilst also knowing when to put them away”.

3. Having a clear idea on standards and expectations

This needs to be articulated in the vision you have for your team and the business you are operating it. It needs to be set from the start so that expectations can be managed for all involved.

This needs to cover communication, strategy, integrity and what kind of traits you want your team to embody so that you can create a clear culture in your image. This is a hard one to do and I have been guilty of falling short with this at times in the past but looking back, the reality is that if I had managed my expectations of others with them better, more positive outcomes may have played out.

Standards are also key here. Dress code, hygiene, punctuality and boundaries all need to be ironed out so there is no miscommunication. Using clear and definitive language and providing manageable timelines are the difference between success and failure when it comes to teams. This is especially important if your natural leadership and management styles are vastly different to what your team are used to.

Having a different leadership and management style to the status quo, can be tricky and some people will take time to adjust. This means you must be extra mindful of how you come across and how other people might respond. Change takes time and Rome wasn’t built in a day.

In the fitness industry, standards are largely around how clean a gym should be, how a layout should look, mannerisms and customer service as well as how classes and personal training sessions should be run. Providing a replicable but flexible structure allows team members to have guidance that will help them to succeed whilst giving them autonomy and input to put their own stamp on things.

Something I introduced several years ago was having all class timings preformatted into an iPad/tablet prior to a class start. This would include introduction, verbal health screen, warm up, the main session, transitions, cool down and debrief. This meant that the instructors knew exactly where and when to cue in and out of exercises and members could clearly see that the session was planned, and attention was being paid to the detail. This enhanced member and staff experience exponentially whilst improving retention and return rates on both sides which is a win-win-win for business, member and employee.

“Pay attention to the details and the details will take care of you”.

4. High emotional intelligence

Most people are aware of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) which is loosely focused on logic and the ability to see patterns – it’s one form of intelligence but there are many. Another is Emotional Quotient (EQ), otherwise known as emotional intelligence which is more geared around intelligence with other people’s emotions as well as your own. A large part of EQ is being able to read the room.

IQ is mostly fixed, although can move with concerted effort over prolonged periods of time but the good news with EQ is that It’s malleable and everyone can improve it. It’s a vital skill for anyone who wants to lead teams effectively as doing so requires buy in from the members of the team and that buy in often comes from whether someone knows, likes and trusts the person in charge. People may follow a boss or leader who they don’t like and trust, for a while however it won’t be willingly, and it will be out of obligation due to fear of reprimand in their work. This authoritative power is a tightrope that needs to be walked delicately, every day because once we don’t take care of it, things can very quickly spiral out of control.

Having high EQ is also about being aware of yourself. This includes your emotions, your triggers, your conscious and unconscious bias so that you can communicate effectively with those around you. It can be further extended to being able to navigate when someone is feeling angry, upset or approachable and amenable and not being able to do this can get you into a lot of trouble or at least stop you from getting what you want because you don’t know how to get people on side.

The term “bull in a China shop” or “rubbing someone up the wrong way” are terms you will hear about someone with low EQ because these people lack awareness. Lacking tact can also be a sign of low EQ but there are exceptions to this because if someone has strong rapport with a person or group and their personality type leans towards blunt communication and everyone is aware then this isn’t showing low EQ, it’s being authentic.

This doesn’t mean be careless and being direct doesn’t equate to being rude as it’s down to the context and tone. I take myself as an example, I have a direct and straightforward communication style and type as an ENTJ when it comes to Myers-Briggs. The way I mitigate my communication with strangers is to frame and be upfront about how I can come across and for them to understand it’s not personal, this is how my brain operates and being anything different would be a hindrance to everyone. Here this is showing awareness of my own self and others which shows a level of EQ.

It's also important to understand that this isn’t a free pass for me to say what I want without a care in the world, it’s merely a buffer to minimise the fallout if something is construed in a way that wasn’t intended. If you are more of a diplomatic type, you will naturally have a higher level of base EQ and will be naturally more empathetic towards others but with it being a malleable skill, everyone has the capacity to improve.

If you’re not sure where to start, start by listening before you speak and taking time to respond without diving in before the other person has finished speaking. Also, start paying attention to your feelings, especially in charged situations, and reflect on how you can manage your emotions for a productive outcome. Emotional intelligence can be improved by building a strong set of positive habits over time.

“IQ will show your technical competence however EQ will show your people competence. It doesn’t matter how technically sound you are if you can’t master people.”

5. A strong peer group

No man is an island, and no man should ever try to become one.

This is an important tenet that those of all genders should embrace because too much isolation and solitude can severely hinder our effectiveness as leaders. In contrast, there is a lot to be said for not enough introspection, and if that is the case, then a different approach may be needed; however, the strength of our business is in who we know and who we work well with. This means building our squad, tribe or clan rather than trying to do everything ourselves.

Whether we like it or not, we usually can’t do every well ourselves and in the rare instances we can, it doesn’t make sense to do everything ourselves because we need to prioritise on what we can do well and delegate the rest effectively. Failure to have the right people to delegate can make or break a business, especially if it’s a start up that has investors and shareholders to answer to.

Trying to do everything ourselves will also lead to burnout and imposter syndrome because of the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves. Letting go can be hard because someone else may not do something 100% to the level you want it but leadership is about deciding what’s worth sweating and what’s not. If 80% still puts you in a strong position and frees up your time, that’s 80% better than nothing and it may be good enough to give you the platform to do what you need to do.

Having a strong peer group is also building a circle of friends, colleagues and mentors that have been where you have been, are where you are or are going where you are going. Having these people with similar experiences to lean on can do wonders as a sounding board, think thank and a place to vent when times require. Not having these people can lead to you taking things out on your friends and family so these are a MUST.

Strong peer groups can also be a source for inspiration, support and ideas to help you to balance the burdens of leadership as those who have walked the path before you will have many valuable insights that can help you on your journey.

“If you want to go slow, go alone. If you want to go fast, go together”.

6. A Growth Mindset

If you aren’t familiar with growth and fixed mindset, I highly recommend the work of Carol Dweck. To oversimplify, a fixed mindset is a mindset ingrained with beliefs that things are the way they are and cannot be changed. It’s predominately negative and arguably a low vibration mindset to have. It can severely hinder happiness, progress and success.

In contrast, a growth mindset is a mindset ingrained in tenets, beliefs and thought processes that prime us for success. This is essential for every successful leader because I strongly believe that without one, there is a low ceiling on our progress but with one, the world is ours to mould in our image.

Examples of fixed mindset:

“We’ve always done it this way.”

“That’s not been done before so it’s not possible.”

“It didn’t work last time so what’s the point in trying again?”

Examples of growth mindset:

“It’s always been done this way and hasn’t worked so it’s time to explore something different. The worst that can happen is we stay where we are and learn, the best is we create a better outcome for everyone.”

“It’s not been done yet because the right way hasn’t been refined yet. We can be the first to make it work.”

“There is no failure if we improve from our mistakes, there’s only feedback to get better.”

There is a huge difference in the way of thinking between the two and this feeds into my first point about finding solutions to problems. A growth mindset is about being okay with the outcome and seeing everything as something that takes us closer to our end goal, even if it means taking a step backward to go two steps forward. A growth mindset will make you feel happier, more productive, and more confident in your ability, whereas a fixed mindset will reinforce your insecurity and self-doubt and lower your self-esteem. I know which of the two I would rather feed.

The ultimate tenet of a growth mindset is that success is inevitable, and every failure along the way is a necessary lesson in order to adapt and grow into the person and leader we need to become. This means that we are never the finished product, and we should always keep improving and striving for more in our professional and personal lives. Once we adopt and develop a growth mindset, our lives will become more fulfilling, and our contribution beyond ourselves/to others will grow exponentially, helping us to become a better and more complete version of ourselves.

“If you want to win in 2024, you need to adopt and cultivate a growth mindset.”


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Christian Roach Brainz Magazine

Christian Roach, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Christian Roach is the Director of Redefining Fitness – a multi award winning, UK based education and consultancy company. He is the Author of Becoming Superhuman: 99 Ways to Become Your Own Superhero and a highly sought after Fitness Educator and High Performance Coach.

Christian has worked in the fitness industry, internationally since 2009 and ha helped hundreds of clients to improve their health, wellbeing and mindset whilst helping over 2000 aspiring and existing personal trainers to achieve their qualifications.

He is known for transforming the quality of fitness education through defying the norm and creating a learning experience which helps students to become the most inquisitive, confident and successful version of themselves.



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