Lessons In Leadership

As the CEO of a business, you have one big important job with several underlying jobs and tasks that fall into it. Your job isn’t about clients, or sales numbers, or meetings; it’s actually about leading your people. Everything else falls under this leadership umbrella.

If you are leading your people poorly, nothing else will succeed (at least not for long). But if you are leading them well, things will go well for you. Even better, if you are great at leading your team, you will find that greatness follows, and those sales numbers and client satisfaction will all be on the rise.

So how does bad become good and good become great?

There are several factors and characteristics that make up a leader, and not everyone has them, but everyone can get them, and it will create a ripple effect through your organization that is felt from the top to the bullpen, to the client, to the income statement. It can be easy to determine who is a bad leader against a good leader, but what makes a great leader? 

We spoke to Matt Herring, VP Sales Development at Thread, about what it takes to improve your leadership and how it can affect your people and your organization. Matt shared with us how he figured that out first hand … “I was sitting in the conference room to work on a project with Lori [Winters], and there was a sense of energy, synergy, and I was excited to be working with her.”

A good leader is someone you don’t mind working for, and a great leader is someone you love working with.

Matt explained that there are often times when employees dread working with their managers because of several reasons, including lack of communication, passive-aggressive tendencies, aversion to conflict, and a lack of trust. “A position and a company may look good on paper, but if you get into the business and are on an emotional roller coaster, or feel like you’re always looking over your shoulder, there’s weak leadership within that organization,” Matt said. So trust, communication and a willingness to butt heads from time to time, or at least face someone in a professional manner, are all positive attributes.

Furthermore, a good leader listens to the people who work for him, but a great leader provides feedback and coaches his people along the way.

Matt stated, “Both probably equip their team with resources, and both have metrics and supervise you, but a great leader is a coach, consultant, and mentor, and has conversations with you regularly.” These are also the qualities that set managers who simply manage apart from managers that gain followers. It’s not enough to tell someone what point A and point B are, but rather being there to help along the journey is how someone in management becomes someone in leadership. Matt put it like this, “if your leadership is based on quantitative instead of qualitative you’ll end up with a company of managers rather than leaders.”

So where do we gain leadership qualities if we aren’t natural-born leaders?

Matt believes that whether leading comes naturally to you or not, everyone can learn to be a leader, “nurture can be more effective than nature, so growing into a leader is something I think anyone can do with the right coach and a strong desire.” For you to nurture leadership within your organization, you need to gain those qualities first, because it is a trickle-down effect. You have to come from a place of leadership because then you will hire those traits and appoint leaders.

Consistency, communication, trust, and honesty will go a long way for your leadership team in gaining the respect of its employees.

Think of a baseball manager who leads his team, but there is also a pitching coach and a hitting coach and base coaches – these people are extensions of the manager. They are leading different pieces of the team because they have a specialty, but they also have the qualities to be an extension of the manager of the team. You will hire other directors, VPs, and managers in your organization that you will need to be extensions of yourself with a focus on a specific area, be it sales, marketing, production, and you will want them to lead your people as well as you would if you were on that team.

Leadership Styles

There are many different styles of leadership (some sources quote as many as 15) but in broad terms, there are a few core ones that cover the topic, including:

  • AUTOCRATIC: Centered on the head honcho, with no input from others, very top heavy
  • LAISSEZ-FAIRE: Employees have much authority with little supervision
  • PARTICIPATIVE: Chair holds final decisions, but the team is involved in decision making
  • TRANSACTIONAL: Simply put, an exchange of reward for meeting clear objectives
  • TRANSFORMATIONAL: Initiates change, leader empowers employees to achieve more

When discussing with Matt, he explained that this isn’t quite a one-style-fits-all scenario, rather the best leadership style will evolve as your company changes and grows. In one season, you might need a more autocratic and transactional approach, whereas other times your best option is to be a transformational leader. Depending on your stage in your business lifecycle, your industry, company size, or even individuals on your team, you may need to incorporate various types of leadership styles. Matt simplified it by saying …

A good leader has a tool belt of core competencies, the basic tools to get the job done, but a great leader has multiple tools to adapt to the varying circumstances of the job at hand.

When you provide strong leadership in your organization, your people will trust you and follow you; they will want to work for you and succeed in themselves and see the business succeed. You want to be monitoring how you are running your company, not just when times are bad, but when times are good as well, to see what works in those times of up and to the right. Listen, help, and be honest with your people, because they will do the same for you.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE!