What make a successful leader? For many, it’s gaining power and the prestige of a position. If that were the measuring stick, people such as Henrique de Castro wouldn’t have been fired as Yahoos COO after only 15 months. Rather, we can actually learn something from his termination that proves how NOT to be a successful leader.
Flickr image by Walmart Corporate
Mashable had the following to say about de Castro’s fifteen month stint as COO at Yahoo:
De Castro wasn’t just lavishly compensated, though; he was also tone deaf to the demands of the advertising industry that he was supposed to be charming on Yahoo’s behalf. Instead of wooing the industry, he was repelling them with an arrogant attitude and slow response to industry trends, notably programmatic buying. His lack of enthusiasm for the industry was epitomized in this this February 2013 IAB speech, which was widely panned in the industry.
Successful leaders don’t always acquiesce to everyone’s demands, but they listen. Sometimes your customers, employees, or shareholders will tell you what they expect. Only a fool would ignore this. If consumers are telling auto manufacturers that safety is what is most important in their buying decision, and the company decides to focus on improving the quietness of the cabin while neglecting to improve or add safety features, they are going to loose customers to another manufacturer who adds more airbags and improves the braking systems.
With social media, a company can get valuable and detailed information about what customers want. If you know how to listen, the information is there. Your customers will tell you what is important to them. Listen.
Hire People Smarter Than You
A successful leader doesn’t expect to have all the answers. That is why they build the best team they can. You need people that are dedicated to your business and are better at some things than you are. As a leader, you may be great strategist but know little about accounting or law. A leader with those from whom he seeks counsel on a regular basis.
Give Praise and Purpose
There is an amazing video about a study that was done on what motivates people. The assumption has long been that money motivates. While the study found that is often true for routine tasks, money does nothing to improve motivation for more cognitive tasks.
Two of the greatest motivating factors are purpose and praise. People want to feel like they are contributing. If you put someone into a job that involves basic rote work when they really want to be helping to solve problems or grow the business, they aren’t going to be motivated or satisfied. They want to feel needed.
In addition to wanting to feel as thought they are contributing, they want to be recognized. Money has been the way this is done in the past, but what the study shows is that a thank you or job well done comment goes much further. (The video can be found at the bottom of this post if you are interested. It’s fascinating, really.)
According to a recent study, nearly one third of employees that quit do so because they feel a lack of empowerment. Nobody likes to be micromanaged or bound by guidelines that are too strict. Employees need to have the ability to make decisions and use creativity to solve problems.
You can require updates on a project, but you don’t want your staff coming to you to approve every little decision. Be sure to make it known how what they are working on fits into the goals of the organization. This helps employees to “buy-in” and take an ownership role. An employee that takes responsibility for improving the company is indispensable.
Create Challenges and Opportunities
It’s easy to settle into a routine and accept the status quo. I know of a company who sets no goals for their sales force and their growth is almost non-existent. One day they hired a new sales rep who knew how to set his own goals, and he started opening more new accounts in a matter of weeks than his managers though possible in a year. Many of these accounts were opened simply by going in and asking for the business.
Many people won’t challenge themselves in the workplace. It is much easier to be comfortable and do only what is expected, but that doesn’t lead to their growth. By looking at their talents and providing opportunities to use those talents, the business and the employee will be better. Imagine you had a sales person that was successful because they were able to educate the customer about a product. Maybe that sales person should be asked to lead a sales class at a staff meeting.
Leasership is More Than Managing
Management is only a part of leadership. A good leader is one who also knows how to inspire, train, equip, listen, and care about those under his guidance. An executive’s office should never be in an ivory tower, but in the trenches where those being led can see the example of how they should work and live.
What other characteristics or tips can you think of for leaders?