I want to talk to you about your “leadership diet” but let me talk to you about diets of another kind first.
With the excitement and drama of the recent American Super Bowl, the world has become vastly interested in the diet of Tom Brady. For a man in his mid-forties to function at his elite athletic level, Brady has to eat in a disciplined, super-nutritional manner. He virtually lives on vitamin-packed smoothies. He doesn’t drink alcohol or consume dairy. He devours supplements. You get the idea. He has to eat so as to feed his near legendary level of play.
I saw the same when I was embedded with US forces in Iraq in 2005. The special forces teams who came and went from the facilities I visited ate in very unusual ways. They couldn’t afford to get drowsy or to run out of energy during their high-intensity operations. So they ate large, extremely nutritious meals at the D-Fac (dining facility on base) and then carried every kind of energy goo and rapid nutrition/caffeine packs with them in the field. Lives depended on it.
Now, you are reading this Leading Thoughts because you aspire to be an elite leader. This means that you have to carefully craft your leadership diet.
You know the old principle from computer science: garbage in, garbage out. It is the same with your diet. If you are watching pure silliness on Netflix or Amazon Prime all day, then you aren’t feeding at the elite level you aspire to. A little fun viewing with family or friends is fine. A pure diet of tele-crap will weaken you, dim you, taint you. So, be intentional and elite-thinking about your leadership diet. Here are some suggestions.
First, build variety. I strongly suggest TED Talks, for example. They are short, focused, and many of them are about leadership themes, from emotional intelligence to the brain science of inspiration, from how to design offices to what makes for flawed hiring. They are also finely crafted. I’ve done a TED Talk and I can tell you the TED team worked me hard for weeks in crafting a 15-minute talk on a subject in which I was already an expert. Trust me, TED isn’t wasting your time.
Second, enjoy Netflix and Amazon Prime, but turn a lot of your viewing to documentaries and movies about leadership themes. Right now, for example, there is a documentary on Netflix called “Challenger: The Final Flight.” It is all about the explosion of the space shuttle in 1986. Now, it is wonderful history, but it is also an analysis of the flawed decision-making in NASA that led to disaster. Watch it. Learn from it. Maybe make it lunch-time viewing with other leaders. This kind of enjoyable, stimulating documentary will help you.
Third, watch less, read more. Trust me. Brain science confirms this wisdom. We are more likely to live and be changed by what we read than by what we view on screen.
Fourth, make sure that one fourth of your book reading is about leaders—biographies, autobiographies, military history and the like. Remember that story is the most effective form for gaining information.
Finally—and this is my favorite hack in this area—use aggregator apps like Flipboard and Apple News to gather the latest leadership news and analysis. You decide the themes you want to read about. The app searches the internet for the best material. It’s like having your own research team for leadership.
Okay. Here’s the deal. If you’re going to be the elite leader you dream of being, you’ll have to think like Tom Brady. Feed well, lead well. Go to it. This may be more important now, in this recovery year, than at any other time in your life.