Professional Speaker on Leadership Explains How to Turn Ordinary Into Extraordinary


Mark Sanborn, president of Sanborn and Associates and a professional speaker on leadership, shared with NTD his message of what it means to be extraordinary.

Mr. Sanborn said his message is underlined by what he calls the “Fred Factor,” based on a man who inspired him with true passion for what he does. It is through Fred that Mr. Sanborn learned about the real meaning of leadership and that being extraordinary is simply a choice.

He highlighted four main principles that set the foundation for becoming extraordinary.

“The overarching principle for all my work is that nobody can prevent you from choosing to be extraordinary. To be extraordinary is a choice. You may not be encouraged or rewarded for it, you might not have been taught how to do it, but, ultimately, we make that choice.”

Mr. Sanborn added that another determining factor is the building of relationships. Even just starting by building connections that lead to shared moments of affinity, this will eventually build into a relationship.

“It takes about five connections to begin to form a relationship. So over time, we can build relationships with the people we live and work with,” he told NTD.

The third principle is based on adding value to anything we do. This does not have to incorporate any kind of financial investment or financial sacrifice, but merely giving the best of oneself, being creative and imaginative. The final principle, he said, is reinventing oneself every day.

“The ultimate Fred is excited, not because he or she has to do these things, but because they can, they choose to,” he said.

Mr. Sanborn said that these principles are key to being a strong leader, not just in one’s private life but also at work. He once again emphasized ‘FRED,’ although this time as an acronym that can enable one to remember important concepts.

“The ‘F’ is for ‘Find the ones you’ve already got.’ You’ve got a lot of great people in your organization. But it’s so easy to be distracted by the few underperformers, the problems, the troublemakers, so don’t take the good performers you have for granted—recognize and reward them. And that’s really what the ‘R’ is about as far as the recognition and the reward,“ he said. “Once you’ve identified those people, let them know you appreciate them.”

The “E” is for educate, while the “D” he said “is the key to leadership.” He said it stands for “demonstrate it.” Rather than making people do something, one should lead by example.

“I think what you can do is invite people into greatness, not through some kind of arrogance, but just by choosing to be a role model for what it’s like to do the things that Fred did,” he said.

As Mr. Sanborn explained, before embarking on a quest to become a good leader, one should examine one’s motives for wanting to do so. If one’s motives are purely based on personal ambition and recognition, these are very short-lived. One has to have a bigger reason than merely oneself for wanting to be a leader.

He further explained that being a leader is not simply a matter of having a position or job title.

“Titles indicate position, but ability is what makes you a leader. And I think those are two important things when you’re hiring, when you’re coaching, counseling, mentoring people is that you give them the skills so they have both the desire and the ability to make a positive difference.”

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