Lots of people I’ve mentored have asked me repeatedly how I attained an executive position in leadership. They’ve asked this question as if there must be some secret sauce or silver bullet I possess. The truth is I don’t have any secrets. There is nothing mystical about the approach I’ve taken to leadership. The leadership principles I’ve chosen to live by are really very simple:
It’s not about you. Your job as a leader is to build and develop a great team. You need to be able to identify the kind of talent you need. It’s not just about getting the technical skills. You need people who can communicate, who are collaborative and who are motivated to achieve. You can teach communication, you can teach people how to be collaborative. You can’t teach motivation.
On developing people, it’s your job to develop your replacement. As a leader, you have a responsibility to mentor and provide new learning opportunities for your team. Whether you want the next opportunity or you want to create a legacy, you won’t get either if someone is not ready to take your place.
Share your Vision and then Trust in your team. Create a vision and share the vision, create stretch goals and then let people execute. You must be able to have confidence and trust your team. Give them opportunities to learn new things and to take risks. It may not always be done exactly the way you would have done it. Focus and reward people for results.
Communicate constantly. When you think you’ve communicated enough, communicate some more. Don’t underestimate the power of communication. Be clear. Be aware of the words you use. Be respectful. Encourage. Motivate. This of course is easier said than done.
Shut up and listen! On the other end of outward communication is listening. This is a critical skill to develop and one that’s easy to lose sight of as you take on leadership positions that require more outbound communication. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are the one who should talk the most. To be a successful leader you must listen! To your team and to your customers!
Be a life-long learner. Always focus on getting better. When you stop learning, you stop growing, which means you will stop adding value, eventually.