9 Things Every Aspiring Leader Should Know

UPDATED: June 10, 2016
PUBLISHED: June 10, 2016

It is universally understood that the road to success is paved with failure. And although all great leaders experience speed bumps, detours or head-on collisions, every leadership journey is unique and provides valuable lessons to pass on.

Related: 12 Leadership Books to Add to Your Reading List

These nuggets of advice from nine members of Young Presidents’ Organization range from thoughts on hiring practices to self-empowerment, running fast to drinking beer. You might agree with some things and disagree with others, but it is always enlightening to hear from those who have gone into the fire and come out the other side.

1. Hiring is all about talent.

If you can’t delegate and let those people spread their wings, you can’t build a lasting organization and will be too stressed trying to push everything along while micromanaging. You have to let people make mistakes so they become better at what they do.

—Jason Robbins, CEO and president of ePromos Promotional Products

2. Discipline and consistency.

It’s the same stuff you need to succeed in business that allows you to win races; it’s only through hard work (and a bit of talent) that you can build the confidence needed on race day. The same applies to our professional lives—when we do our homework, when we are prepared, when we know we can offer a good service, that’s when we become successful.

Timothy Cosulich director and board member of Fratelli Cosulich and triathlon and Ironman competitor

3. Give back.

The best path to empowerment is through entrepreneurship and that entrepreneurship can be a force for social good. One of the best ways I serve society is through leading a successful, socially conscious business and having a seat at the table for issues that are important to me.

—Julie Smolyansky, president and CEO of Lifeway Foods

4. Welcome failure.

You can’t succeed if you don’t try. You won’t always get what you want, but you’ll learn from each attempt, and you’ll refine your goals and focus.

—Cuan Chelin, founder and chief executive of Super Brands Group

5. Keep your eyes open.

Every two weeks we go out into the field to understand what our competitors are doing and then we come back and talk about it. We take from it what we think we need for that time. We haven’t torn down the studio and rebuilt it, but we have added some things we think are relevant to our brand.

—Jennifer Maanavi, owner of Physique57

6. Value your people.

The hospitality business is all about people; finding the wrong people can cost you a lot of headaches and money and finding the right people are worth their weight in gold.

—John Wong, CEO of HFS Concepts4

7. Trust your instincts.

So often, entrepreneurs get caught up in the idea they need to do things the way their customer expects them to versus the way they personally feel. In 1987 when I first tasted Anchor Steam (San Francisco’s historically distinctive craft beer), I didn’t know there was beer that tasted like that; it was different from anything I’d ever had and that offered me a chance at discovery. From the very beginning, Steve and I made a conscious decision to create a beer for people like us—people who wanted to discover something new.

—Greg Koch, CEO and founder of Stone Brewery Co./Stone World Bistro

8. Be a forever student.

The most advantageous way to learn is to “take yourself to Harvard every week.” During the process of negotiating the sale of my company, whenever I didn’t know something, I would hire somebody and say “Teach me X,” and for three days I would lock myself away and focus on only that aspect of the business.

—Lizanne Falsetto, president and CEO of thinkThin

9. Work hard.

No matter how well the wind blows for you, consistency and hard work are crucial.

—Samir Kayali, CEO of Euroamykasa

Related: The Key to Getting All You Want? Discipline


YPO is the premier chief executive leadership organization in the world, representing a global community of leaders committed to the shared mission of becoming "Better Leaders Through Lifelong Learning and Idea Exchange." YPO today provides more than 24,000 members in more than 130 countries with access to extraordinary educational resources, alliances with leading institutions, and specialized networks designed to support their business, community and personal leadership. Altogether, YPO member-run companies employ more than 15 million people around the world and generate USD6 trillion in annual revenues. For more information, visit www.ypo.org.