Almost 30 years ago I moved from a field sales role to enter my first in-house corporate role. I quickly realized I could not make everyone (or anyone) happy unless I developed a set of personal priorities that would guide my choices each week and each day.
I was gaining weight, losing sleep, and almost everyone was a little to really frustrated with me. I was also more than a little frustrated and working towards being angry at myself. So, I started with a simple list of 10 things that included specific tactics about things like exercise, time with my children each week, time for me, investing in my growth and things like that.
Over the next 30 years the list has grown and become more specific and informed by years of experience. I call it my Leadership philosophy. It has evolved into my second book called, “Get Over yourself, Decide to Lead; Insights from Hard Lessons Learned.”
To embrace your own leadership style, you must first develop your own leadership philosophy. This is your guidepost, your North Star, and the principles you must live by during the good times and especially the tough times. Living by your own set of leadership principles make you a strong, predictable, and long- lasting leader.
These are 10 of my Leadership Philosophies:
1. Define your brand and live up to it
Many people proclaim their brand to be things like, “honest”, “credible,” having “high integrity,” “inclusive” and other words that sound really great. The problem is that they never live up to them. You don’t proclaim your brand-- you earn it--one decision at a time, day after day, year after year. If you know what you want your personal brand to be, then start living by it.
2. Be a great listener
Early in my career a very Senior Executive stopped by my little cubicle and said,
“Write this down young man. ‘You are the master of what you don’t say and the slave to what you do say. Choose wisely’.”
Clearly I had be rambling about something no one cared about in a meeting and he was sending me a message.
After a month of rarely speaking, he stopped back by and said,
“Ok, you can talk again. But now you need to start with asking great questions about things you don’t know. I am pretty sure you already know what you know.”
That was a message I never forgot. It informed how I would structure meetings and lead teams throughout the rest of my career.
3. The best team wins
A great leader knows that the best team will outperform all other teams over time. Any team can get lucky one year and hit a few numbers, but the best team will win the most over time.
Because of this, a great leader is always recruiting. Always. They are looking for new talent everyday in meetings, in the field, with other suppliers and with customers. They know when their best people will be moving on and have a top shelf list of replacements ready to go. They also know when their bottom performers will need new jobs and have replacements for them too.
I never waited for an HR team to provide me with a candidate list for a job. I already had my list.
4. Never give feedback about your boss, ever
Yes this one is personal, and that’s why it’s on my list and one you should consider. Years ago, a consulting group was getting input for a project and one of the questions was ways your boss could improve. I gave 3-4 very specific ideas and it backfired. My boss and I had been friends for years and he took it as a stab in the back. I thought I was doing my job.
Our relationship never recovered and I will never give feedback about my boss again. If you have a problem or issue, schedule a meeting and bring it up directly to them.
5. Focus on the marketplace, not a conference room
The longer people are in assignments, the more time they spend in a conference room with other people who work at the same company. This means less time in the marketplace where the real transactions happen.
Spend time in the marketplace. It has the answers you won’t find in a conference room. Go see first-hand what the competition is doing. Go see how other companies are launching new products. Go look at new merchandising and marketing ideas. For certain the next big idea is being tested, it just has not been scaled yet. Do you know where and what it is? It’s not in a conference room, that’s for certain.
6. Be aware of and own your optics
You have to own your optics at work. What time you come to work, when you leave, how often you work from home, how you look, and how you work with others all tell a story about you. You are responsible for all these decisions and they reflect your brand.
If you are too far from the norm of your company in any of these categories, you will need to have superior performance to advance.
7. Stop the drama
Drama will derail a leader and a team. Normally drama occurs when a person or team doesn’t accept accountability for their results and starts pointing the finger at others. This is a waste of resources and it can eventually cost you your job. As a leader you must stop the drama when it becomes part of your team and put it to bed immediately.
8. Give credit to your team
When great things happen, pass along the credit to the team or individuals on the team. Never take individual credit for accomplishments. Also, when something bad happens, take the blame and don’t pass it off publicly to the team or an individual. If an individual needs coaching, do it privately.
9. Know when to make the decisions
Having the leadership savvy to know when to make a decision is more important than making the decision. There are many factors to consider such as capacity, other priorities, having the resources acquired, informing the right stakeholders first, etc. When is more important than what you decide.
10. What gets measured gets done
Another phrase is “measure what you treasure.” Without a doubt what the leader measures and talks about is what the company delivers. Your strategy should drive your tactics and measures. Make sure you measure the key actions from you strategy.