15 Things Texas Hold’em Taught Me About Leadership

Be Prepared

Showing up with a clear mind and a solid strategy is key to performing at your best. In Texas Hold’em this consisted of reviewing previous play, determining what your general strategy will be and making sure your mind is clear and ready to play. This is also important in leadership. Reviewing what has or has not worked in the past, determining how you want to handle your work challenges and leaving any baggage at the door is key to being a great leader.

Be Passionate

Texas Hold’em is a game that has a lot of volatility and one of the only games a professional can sit down with an absolute beginner and lose. While a professional will be able to win over the long run, this volatility can be too much for someone who is not passionate about the game. In leadership you will face challenges and setbacks that you will be too much to handle if you are not passionate about what you do. The passion the enables leaders to persist amongst the biggest challenges is what sets them apart.

Be Disciplined

Experienced Texas Hold’em players know what it takes to win. What separates the mediocre players from the great players are those that can stay disciplined. Doing what you know is right and not what is easy can be difficult. Leaders have to stay true to their knowledge and experience so that they can be successful in the long run.

Control Emotions

Handling your emotions is probably the most critical aspect of being a great Texas Hold’em player. In Texas Hold’em they have a term called going on “tilt”. Tilt is when you act from emotions and not from knowledge and experience. It is usually caused by losing a big hand or the actions of another player. Great Texas Hold’em players do not let their emotions get in the way and they will also use others emotions to get them to take actions in their favor. Leaders have to do the same. Emotional intelligence is key to making sound decisions. Leaders should have techniques to clear their mind and release negative emotions such as deep breathing and meditation.

Understand Image

Understanding your image is important in Texas Hold’em because you can use that to your advantage to catch other players off guard. While leaders should not use image to manipulate others, understanding your image is still important. Leaders have to understand how they are viewed to know if it is positive or negative and what they can do to change it. Also, doing things that are uncharacteristic of your image can have a dramatic impact if used appropriately.

Read Body Language and Micro Expressions

Body language and micro expressions are information gathering tools in Texas Hold’em. Body language is easier to read but can be faked. Micro expressions are harder to read but are much more difficult to fake. If leaders use these tools to gather information and non-verbal feedback they can communicate more effectively and have a better understanding of how others feel about what they are saying or doing. This is helpful for leaders because it will make them more aware and in tune with what others are thinking.

Use Equity Based Decision Making

Math is a big part of Texas Hold’em and because it is not a game of absolutes, the use of equity calculations are often used to determine the best possible play. Equity is used in pretty much every decision and is calculated against the current amount of money in the pot. Equity can also be used by leaders to determine how they should move forward with specific decisions. By weighing decisions on the return on investment and the likelihood of the outcome you desire can help leaders make decisions that provide the best results.

Understand Position

Position is key in Texas Hold’em because it determines when a player is going to act and the later you act, the more information you have from the players before you. We are not talking about titles here but instead positioning yourself in situations where you have the most information before making decisions. Leaders should put themselves in positions that allow them to have the most information before making decisions. Leaders that do this will be better equipped to make the best decision.

Be Patient

Trying to create action or rush results is key to being a losing Texas Hold’em player. There have been times were I would go over an hour without playing a single hand. The ability to stay true to your game plan and continue to make the best decisions even when you do not see immediate results is a great leadership trait. Immediate gratification is nearly demanded these days but for leaders to be effective they may have to slow down and wait for the right opportunity.

Be Aggressive

Aggressive Texas Hold’em is winning Texas Hold’em. You will not find a single pro that is a passive player. It is the same with leadership. Leaders have to know what needs to be done and do it. This does not mean running over people but it does mean that you have to be constantly taking action even when the options are not black and white.

Maintain Focus

One of the easiest ways to determine if someone is a good poker player is by watching how they act at the table. If someone is watching TV, checking their phone, constantly sparking conversation or day dreaming, you can be pretty confident that they are note focused on the game. If they are not focused they are playing with very little information. This is the same for leaders. Leaders must maintain focus and limit distractions as much as possible so that they can stay informed and be alert to opportunities or problems.

Analyze Yourself

The best way to improve at Texas Hold’em is to constantly analyze your play. Good players spend time after playing reviewing their play and looking for ways to improve. It is similar to professional sports teams. Leaders do not frequently do this but they should. This a great opportunity to get a coach involved or a trusted co-worker. By reviewing the things you do well and the things you can improve on you are more likely to grow as a leader.

Understand the Inch Worm Concept

The Inch Worm Concept is a concept that I learned that deals with how we perform when we are at our best compared to times we may not be 100% on. It is nearly impossible to always play your best (you A game) so Texas Hold’em players spend a lot of time working on their C game. The Inch Worm Concept says that as you improve you A game, your C game will naturally improve. This is similar to focusing on your strengths. By improving your strengths your weaknesses naturally start to improve.

Take Care of Yourself

Maintaining a healthy and balanced life is important to be a top performer in anything. This was especially true in Texas Hold’em because it can be a very stressful game. It is equally true for a leader. Everything begins to suffer if you do not take care of yourself. It is important to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Do these things and you will be better equipped to handle anything the lies ahead.

Have Fun

Texas Hold’em is just a game and sometimes that is easy to forget when you are having a bad run or lose a big hand. While leadership is not a game, it is still just a job. Everyone should enjoy what they are doing and it sometimes take a reminder. Find ways to incorporate things you enjoy about your job into every day and help make sure others enjoy their job as well. Life is too short to get stressed out and be upset at work when we spend so much time there.

Tim Howell is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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