5 Leadership Lessons

When Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett asked top executives to detail to him the most important strategy each employed crucial to the art of effective leadership, he was rewarded with five valuable lessons for every manager.

Lesson 1

The first lesson came from Andrew Liverlis, former CEO of Dow Chemical. Its three parts embody the fundamental traits of what a leader should possess with a primary focus on vision. Liverlis suggests strong leaders must be creative and charismatic enough to develop a vision, smart and broad enough to  formulate a good strategy to implement that vision, and empathetic enough to help the team buy into it.

  1. Develop the vision
  2. Create strategies to execute the vision
  3. Communicate the vision and tap into the team to implement the strategies to achieve the vision

Lesson 2

Sometimes the process itself can become the means to an end. That, advised Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania, is why sometimes the strategic process can be less formal, bringing together people with shared priorities without being too complex. Focus on  developing strategic plans rather than formulating how those plans are developed.

Lesson 3

Meetings can be the secret weapon to your success, according to Ken Chenault, CEO of American Express. Diversity in the meeting room is key to better decision making. As a CEO, you hold the cards to make the final call, but you will perform better when you genuinely consult your team and there is real variety of experience and differing perspective behind your decisions. Another benefit of creating an environment for your team that allows them the confidence to contribute in such a way is that a stronger unit is formed where employees feel valued. And this lends to employee buy-in and more help in executing your vision.

Lesson 4

As a leader, observing rather than offering the solutions can be very rewarding. Al Carnesdale, former Chancellor of UCLA, has found that CEOs are viewed as the smartest people in the room. It’s easy and tempting to cater to that view, but a leader who encourages others to speak up and contribute will find the best collective knowledge and intelligence of the group. It’s okay to let people struggle a little and to make mistakes. As a leader, your job is to inspire and engage your team. Lead your team to think and to access the creative vaults of their minds.

Want to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team? Surround yourself with people who are different than you. Diversity creates a balanced culture. Map your company by listing all employees and assigning them a letter in the DISC profile.

D = Driver: fast, task-oriented

I = Influencer:  fast, people-oriented

S = Slower Paced:  steady and supportive, people-oriented

C = Conscientious: analytical, task-oriented

By mapping your team and creating a chart with this information, you will have a visual that shows if there are clumps in any area. This is a great balancing tool when looking to add new members to your team.

Lesson 5

Bill McNabb, CEO of Vanguard, shared the importance of recharging yourself to achieve success and prevent burnout. According to McNabb, a popular mindset is that the job of a CEO is like a marathon, but he disagrees. It’s a series of sprint, and just like athletes, CEOs must recover from each sprint or series of sprints. Everyone has their own blend of self-care activities to recoup. Some of the best ways include vacation, exercise and diet, meditation, reading and learning, and expressing gratitude.

As a CEO, you are also a coach. Your organization will only be a strong as the buy-in of your team. Following these five lessons can improve your success as a leader.

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Peg, Pete, Michelle