10 Qualities of Masterful Leaders
In the book Extreme Ownership, retired Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin explain there are “no bad teams, only bad leaders.” These 10 highly successful entrepreneurs share their best piece of advice on how to successfully lead any team.
1. Stay true to your vision.
An outstanding leader balances two opposing skills: external sensing and internal conviction. Be sharply sensitive to external cues from customers, employees and competitors. But concurrently, have the internal conviction to push a visionary agenda, even when it’s unpopular. The trick is to steadfastly navigate between the two modes.
Great leaders aren’t in the weeds making day-to-day decisions; rather, they communicate the organization’s mission and big ideas to their teams and clear roadblocks so their team can execute. Keeping everyone moving in the same direction is more critical than ever. Thanks to technologies such as Salesforce, Google Analytics and Slack, information hits the front lines of the organization first.
Remember, repetition supports great communication. Keep relaying your big ideas and your mission because not everyone will hear you initially. This is something bright leaders struggle with. They feel their team only needs to hear something once to understand. That’s plainly not the case. It isn’t that people don’t get it; they’re just busy.
3. Make yourself, and those around you, better.
I’ve always cultivated a personal and professional development environment. Our leaders conduct daily motivational trainings to improve their skills. Once a month, I do an all-hands meeting that includes personal development. We regularly send all team members specific YouTube trainings with articles from Entrepreneur, SUCCESS and Lifehacker. We send our teams to conferences. And annually, we complete an extensive goal-setting workshop.
When someone works on themselves, they transform their personal lives and bring massive value to others. When they get better, everything around them improves. I’ve made it my mission to support, encourage and create opportunities for my team to achieve what they want.
You’re going to screw up, and your team will know when it happens. Own it and give away the credit when it goes right. This lays a foundation for truth-telling and humility throughout your team instead of scapegoating and blaming. You set the pace. Your team wants to follow someone human, someone they believe in and someone who believes in them. Humility has charisma. Arrogance can be repulsive. Be boldly humble.
—Mike Zeller, founder of Elevate United; launched businesses in five industries, which have generated over $100 million
Everyone has an ego, but most people manage theirs poorly. From Greek mythology to the Bible, humans have been warned of their biggest enemies: pride and ego. A virtuous mantra is to remind yourself of your goals and that “it isn't about you.” As President Reagan said, “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Keeping your ego in check will pay dividends, and the impact can be profound. Recruiting a talented and experienced team is a good example: A willingness to hire people better than you makes for a great leader.
6. Supplement your shortcomings.
Good leaders employ great people. Take me, for example: I’m dyslexic; my spelling is shocking. I have ADHD, can’t read very well nor use computers—not the qualities of a great CEO. How am I running five companies that perform very well?
I attract, recruit, nurture and care for the people I hire to run my companies. I used to think that our clients were the most important element of success. I now know that this distinction belongs to my staff. The more I appreciate them, the more my companies’ profits grow.
7. Keep your people passionate.
Last year, our team worked with a local nonprofit organization to provide sustainable footwear to children in South Africa. The contagious level of passion and purpose this project created in my team transformed our thinking. It created a heightened purpose for our work and individual contributions in the world.
Passion is a hallmark quality of a masterful leader. It is essential for leaders to focus on activating the hearts of their people. Too often, I see companies’ employees merely show up and perform the tasks at hand. A leader’s responsibility is to empower their people to find passion and purpose in their work and lives. In business, our people are our edge. When you can tap into the hearts and minds of your people, that is where the magic happens.
8. Always learn, and ditch stubbornness.
Persistence, constant communication and self-improvement are the things I nurture, both in myself and in others. It’s a learning curve: I’ll never finish learning or perfecting. No other qualities emulate the impact of constant growth, learning and facing your fears. Stubbornness can serve a leader for only so long; communication and nurturing lasts a whole lot longer.
—Jay Georgi, founder of Nadvia and operations/management/profits-retention coach
9. Harness your team members’ strengths.
I care about each of my team members, and they know it. I ensure everyone knows our overall goal through simple, concise communication. I observe individual abilities and efficiently coordinate my team through knowing everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. I don’t place people in positions to fail. I put them in positions to succeed and achieve more than they thought possible. Success breeds success—as each team member develops confidence in their abilities, they add to the team’s overall success. Great leaders observe this and work to maximize the team’s collective strength.
10. Get everyone on the same page.
As a sales professional who works with C-suite executives for a living, I’ve learned that a big role I play is helping corporate leaders explain both the mission and the why to the profit-and-loss managers overseeing execution.
Many C-suites have an incomplete picture and limited situational awareness. Creating awareness up the chain of command overcomes the all-too-common culture of reactive, anti-change management and enables you to focus on executing the mission.
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