One of the most important elements of ongoing business success is gaining and maintaining competitive advantage. Lots of businesses talk about it, lots of businesses strive for it, but very few businesses really understand it. Put simply, competitive advantage means being different – not just different from your competitors, but being noticeably different as perceived by your target market – and the difference has to be substantive, not cosmetic. And it is in substantive real competitive advantage that most businesses simply fail. They don’t understand that to be different, the key people who lead the business need to actually lead, behave and be different. Different from what? From the norm.

Research shows that normal people are all the same, they use their mind the same, the behave in the same automatic and reactive way – they conform to norms, that is how they are normal. Research shows that normal people are, at best, dysfunctional and there’s a vast body of research that proves that business teams, peopled as they are by normal people, are totally dysfunctional. Research indicates that normal people only apply about 1% of their mental capacity to what they do every day. The normal mind is otherwise engaged in dwelling in the formative past of our childhood years. These long-gone experiences enable the normal person get through the day, but do little else.

So, it is quite bizarre, in these economically challenging times, that those businesses who are seeking to achieve ongoing success continually endeavour to recruit only those with a proven track record and past experience in what? In doing the same things, the same ways that led to the economic disaster that we are now living through. A client, an innovative thinker with a track record in enabling a number of his client companies achieve abnormal success is currently finding it difficult to get consulting work in the financial sector. Financial institutions, banks in particular, who want to recover from their recent problems and thrive in the new environment only wish to recruit bankers with previous experience or those who have worked for the major consultancy firms who have a track record in... well, let’s be blunt about it, creating the current mess. In other words, these companies are not serious at all about doing things differently.

Substantive difference, which leads to substantive competitive advantage and abnormal business success, comes about as a result of a business’s leadership behaving substantively different. And if these people are normal (and there’s a 96% chance that they are) there is simply no hope whatsoever of their behaving in an abnormal fashion. Perhaps that’s why there is such little evidence of real leadership – either in politics or business. So-called “Leadership Development Programs” in business are simply relying on broken management theories and are creating a whole new breed of normal, crazy, lazy, automatons who are incapable of leadership.

Real leadership, delivering real and sustainable competitive advantage, comes from vision and presence. Presence, the hallmark of all great leaders, simply means that those that have it are more present than the normal poor idiots who are only 1% present. If you want to be a real leader – one who drives real change and delivers real and tangible results – you’re going to have to develop your ability to be present. There’s no weird complex formula for doing this. Nor can only the chosen few be leaders. Research in the field on neuro-psychology indicates that one’s ability to be abnormally successful is directly correlated with one’s ability to pay attention – more than 1% attention.

So, the process is simple. You have to re-learn how to pay attention. Some call it focus, some call it single-mindedness (another hallmark of all great leaders). But the bottom line is you simply have to re-learn to be attentive to what’s actually going on in the here and now. I say “re-learn” because, as children, we all had a natural and innate ability to pay attention – it’s only as we “developed” into adults that our psychological processes distanced us from this innate ability.

When enabling my clients re-train their minds, I like to explain to them that they, in fact, all that they need to do is come to their senses. I mean this quite literally. We have five senses – a two-year old opening a new toy on Christmas morning uses all five of them to fully experience the moment. As adults, we become lazy, no longer paying attention to what our senses are telling us, preferring to experience the moment using what psychologists call our “stored knowledge” – out-dated subconscious snapshots from our formative years, useless nonsense when it comes to making sense of the here and now. You need to re-learn how to pay attention to what your five senses are telling you – not re-interpreting what’s going on on the basis that you think that you know best. The normal person doesn’t know best – the normal person knows precious little when it comes to handling the challenges that arise in the here and now, nor indeed, is the normal person equipped to spot and embrace the present moment’s opportunities.

So, to establish substantive change, substantive competitive advantage and an abnormal level of effortless business success you need to pay attention! You need to embark upon a program of mental training – you need to begin each day with a quiet reflective few minutes to set your mind appropriately for the day ahead. You need to meditate – a word that rubs many people up the wrong way because they simply don’t understand that, through meditation, you develop the necessary mental discipline and attentiveness to be more tuned in, more present and different – the central prerequisite for gaining and maintaining competitive advantage.

Author's Bio: 

Willie Horton has been enabling his clients live their dream since he launched is now acclaimed two-day Personal Development Seminars all the way back in 1996. His clients include top leaders in major corporations such as Pfizer, Deloitte, Nestle, Merrill Lynch, Wyeth, KPMG, G4S and Allergan together with everyone from the stay-at-home parent to sports-people. An Irish ex-banker and ex-accountant, he lives in the French Alps from where he travels the world as a much sought after motivational speaker and mentor. In 2008 he launched Gurdy.Net where is self-help seminars are now online. For more information visit Willie Horton’s Personal Development Website Gurdy.Net