Businesswoman leading meeting in conference room
Im grateful each and everyday that Ive been fortunate enough to be in a leadership positionwithout jeopardizing my integrity. But, it hasnt been the smoothest of roads. Ive definitely made my fair share of mistakes along the way and am constantly working on making sure that I never repeat them.
How have I been able to do that? By following these 25 leadership lessons that myself, and every business owner, just cant live without.
1. Foster teamwork
Heres one of my favoriteleadership lessonsfrom “the founder of modern management” Peter Drucker;
The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say I. And thats not because they have trained themselves not to say I. They dont think I. They think we; they think team. They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and dont sidestep it, but we gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.
2. Hire exceptional talent
Exceptional leaders know how to pick exceptional talent based on intelligence, creativity, work ethic, and flexibility.
As the great Steve Jobs said, “When you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things. A-plus players like to work together, and they don’t like it if you tolerate B-grade work.”
If you’re striving to become this leader, bring people on your team that are smarter than you in every way. They raise you up and make your company better.
3. Have clarity, discipline, and consistency
As author, speaker, and consultant Simon Sinekpoints out, People dont buy what you do, they buy why you do it. In other words, leaders can articulate why an organization exists beyond the products and services that they provide. This begins with employees and is passed on to customers.
Additionally, Sinek says that leaders have the discipline to stay focused on the why and If youre not consistent in the things you say and do, no one will know what you believe.
The best leaders are proactive, strategic, and intuitive listeners. They recognize knowledge and wisdom are not gained by talking, but by listening,writesMike Myatt, author of “Hacking Leadership” and “Leadership Matters,” the chairman at N2Growth.
Myatt suggests that you take the following six steps to become a stronger listener;
- Focus on what others are saying.
- Make the time to listen.
- Pay attention to non-verbals.
- Look for the story behind the message.
- Be known as a good listener.
- Recognize the contributions of others.
5. Help your team see progress
Your job as a leader is to help them see this progress,saysDavid Finkel, co-author of “Scale: Seven Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back.”
Whether you highlight victories at your next staff meeting, or send out a team update bi-weekly, or just congratulate an individual performer as you’re walking through the office, the best leaders train themselves to spot the behaviors and progress they want to see more of. It is a powerful leadership habit to form.
6. Resolve disputes
Another responsibility for leaders is to resolve disputes.
George Mitchell, former U.S. Senator and peace negotiator, tells theHarvard Business Review, First there has to be a certain level of knowledge about the history and nature of the conflictThe second thing you need is a recognition that the people involved must own the resolution because theyre the ones who will live with the consequencesThird, you must really have deep reservoirs of patience and perseveranceFourth, you have to gain the best possible understanding of the bottom line, or basic objectives for each partyFinally, you have to be willing to take a risk when its warranted.
7. Be courageous
Courage is in my opinion the single most important quality a leader can have. You have to be willing to stick up for what you know to be true and right. The ability to take huge risks will define you.
When I started my company, everyone thought we were crazy to even take on the task toaccept payments. With so much fraud in the world, we were told by every bank that we would be eaten alive. Though we did have hardships, I was courageous and pushed out team to be better. Years later I can look back and realize that what we were doing was building the foundation of our company. This courage is in every person in our company now.
8. Get thrifty
Leadership doesn’t require fancy sports cars or expensive office furniture. In fact, I’ve found some of the most inspirational people in my life (2 of which are billionaires) are still very thrifty. They drive nice cars but not the high-end luxury that you would expect. Both billionaire friends of mine live in nice average homes.
Learn to live well below your means, this will teach others around you that there is more to live than sports cars and big homes. It also helps you relate more to those around you.
9. Nothing beats handwritten letter
Although technology has made it easier than ever to communicate with people around the world, nothing beats a handwritten letter. In fact,when asked, “What technology have you discovered that could make a difference in marketing?,” Jeffrey J. Fox, author of How to Become CEO: The Rules for Rising to the Top of Any Organization, responded by saying; “A personal letter with an envelope and a stamp.” A personal letter trumps 1,000 emails. It has a huge impact. No one disposes an old-fashioned letter.
10. Encourage growth
According to Jack Welch, Former Chairman and CEO of General Electric, Great leaders love to see people grow. The day you are afraid of them being better than you is the day you fail as a leader.
Welch also said, Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
11. Always look for innovative ideas
The most successful leaders are constantly on the lookout for exciting new ideas and are open to new ideas.For example, Norman Brinker, founder of Chilis restaurants, used to ask his team, Whats working, and whats not? Go try something new. Remember, leaders are never content with the status quo.
12. Invest in yourself (and others)
I invest in myself each and every day. I read books, take courses and am constantly learning. I have a mentor that I invest time each month to visit and learn. Learn to invest in yourself each and every day. There is no better investment I’ve ever made than in furthering my progression in my life.
Something most people don’t talk about is a coach at the gym. This helps me to become better and more fit as well as holds me accountable. I find this investment helps me to be more alert.
That being said; successful leaders, pass that passion to become a stronger person along to their teams as well. Being a teacher will teach you to become an even better leader.
13. Eliminate inflammatory language
How did you feel when a former manager said that Youre wrong, or asked What the hellwhat were you thinking? It probably didnt motivate you. It may have actually made you leave the organization and have resentment towards your boss.
Instead, focus on the overarching problem and listen. Eliminate the language in the discussion that might cause the person to shut down.
14. Take care of others
Yahoos CEO Marissa Mayer oncesaid, Really in technology, its about the people, getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment and helping to find a way to innovate.
Of course, taking of others extends into other industries besides technology. The takeaway here is that its your duty to have an environment that encourages your team to develop creative and innovative ideas by taking care of them physically, mentally, and emotionally. Thats why we see companies like Google provide napping areas, access to healthy food, and creative labs to foster innovation.
15. Dont back away from an argument
This doesnt mean that you allow your teams members to start attacking each other. Thats just unethical. What this means is that the best leadersencourage a healthy debate and discussionso that something positive and brilliant arises.
This also can mean, standing up for things you believe in and not letting people push you around.
16. Keep calm
Managing a business is stressful. And, there are plenty of times when the proverbial shit hits the fan. Leaders, however, mustremain calmin the face of a storm so that they can provide guidance and inspiration so that their teams can steer themselves out of any disastrous situations.
17. Trust matters
Trust matters and you should focus on earning the trust of those around you.You can do this by being transparent, consistent, holding yourself accountable, and being a role model.
If someone doesn’t trust you, they won’t be putting in 100%.
18. Demonstrate humility
Researchhas found that CEOs have a unique mix of drive and humility which allows them to an accurate view of the self and strengthen bonds with others. Theyre able to put aside their ago and do whats best for the organization.
19. Aim for a goal
For any organization to succeed, everyone needs to get on-board with a common goal. If not, then you have a team of people going in various directions aimlessly.
Instead follow these words of wisdom from Walt Disney, Of all the things Ive done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.
20. Be accountable for actions and results
Without accountability, you will fail.
When effective leaders take accountability for their actions, they show their teams that they take responsibility for the actions and choices they are making. They dont blame others and try to make things right.
Accountable leaders are honest, admit when theyre wrong, seek input from others, and do not avoid responsibility.
21. Adapt and facilitate change
During his career J.P. Morgan was known for being able to adapt to and facilitate change. In fact, this process was known as Morganization. As noted inBloomberg, He would take over problem companies, flush out incompetent managers, and appoint people he trusted. Over time, many of the companies would recover and become profitable, keeping capital flowing into other Morgan deals.
More recently, the leaders behind companies like Pinterest, Twitter, Groupon, Slack, Venmo, and Periscope allpivotedfrom their original business ideas in order to adapt to the market in order to become successful.
22. Dont sugarcoat reality, but also give hope
While its necessary for leaders to be transparent and real with their team and customers, they have to strike the tough balance of not sugarcoating the truth, but also offering hope. Take for example Dr. Martin Luther Kings iconic and inspirationalI Have a Dream” speech.While moving and optimistic, Dr. King was also completely honest with the current reality. Especially when referring to Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so weve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
At the same time, Dr. King said, I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
There may be no better example of a brutally honest leader, while still providing glimpses of hope like that.
23. Delegate work
Warren Buffett doesnt have direct contact with his dozens of companies everyday. Instead, he relies on a team of trusted managers to handle the day-to-day operations and to report back to him. In other words,he has a hands-off approach.
Great leaders are able to empower their team members anddelegatethe tasks that they are best suited to conquer.
24. Be disruptive
You cannot be a leader and make tough decisions without upsetting some people,saysMichael Sanderson, CEO of Sanderson Stewart.
If you are going to make improvements or initiate change or do anything at all unique or innovative, it is going to be disruptive for people. Some people will appreciate you for it, but there are just as many who will want to blame you for it. Once I realized that I couldnt be the leader I need to be and be everyones friend, things got a little easier.
25. Walk the talk
There are typically two types of leaders. The ones who speak and the ones who do. Can you guess which one employees and customers want to get behind?
Leaders who do exceptional things, or walk the talk, like putting their employees needs before their own, getting their hands dirty, being enthusiastic, and are genuinely passionate about the organization are the ones that people will rally behind and follow.
John Rampton is a serial entrepreneur who now focuses on helping people to build amazing products and services that scale. He is founder of the online payments company Due. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine. Time Magazine recognized John as a motivations speaker that helps people find a “Sense of Meaning” in their lives. He currently advises several companies in the bay area.