Some months ago, I met with a team of hard-working, brilliant entrepreneurs who have an amazing new service, which I will talk about in future posts.
This is what critical board level decision making is about. They asked me what I thought of several candidates, this is how I approached the problem.
I asked; Does anyone on the existing team have all the qualities you need to lead the company?
How would you decide?
In our 1st meeting, I advised that “The CEO needs competent people on the team so he or she can delegate tasks at the highest priorities.” The board looked upset when I said that. They thought the CEO would roll up his/her sleeves and start coding or write marketing copy or shop for new furniture.
They wanted the CEO to hold the title Marketing Manager or Sales VP and “help out.” Of course, the CEO would assist; visit potential clients, strategic partners and build strong outside relationships. That’s just some of what CEO’s do. But leadership is more than just helping out and I didn’t think this board was ready for real leadership.
Is that what is best for the company? I was confused, I wondered what the Board of Directors was looking for.
I smiled and thought “They really need to decide if they want a CEO or another team member.” As it turns out, they couldn’t afford a CEO yet needed leadership desperately. They had a functional team member who believed he was the perfect candidate for CEO but no one else did. It was a dilemma since this is typical of many startups. Good people are sometimes not ready even though they think they are.
It started me thinking about my own journey and how it takes time and experience for an entrepreneur to grow into being a leader.
So my question for you today is this: What are the qualities of leadership that YOU care about?
Take a moment and review what I think are the most important characteristics of being a leader.
See where you fit. Do you have all of these qualities?
What You Need To Lead.
Passion to execute in the face of unending hurdles. This may be the one ingredient that drives the team to the finish line, the passion you have for your clients, your products, and your staff are going to deliver success… as long as the other ingredients are in place as well. Starting with passion is easy. Maintaining it throughout the course of your leadership is the challenge.
Credibility. If you are able to stand up in front of a group of investors or clients and show quickly and succinctly the value of your proposition, you can make the sale. Your personal experience, integrity, and credibility play a huge role in who backs you, who you attract to the team and who buys from you. If you have the chance to bring credibility to the team, you should. It’s worth it.
Honesty is where the best show their mettle.
Can you be honest with your team even when it’s bad news or do you sugar coat the truth and spin it instead? Honesty inspires…. Trust.
Trust is what we all rely on to make decisions. Others MUST know how trustworthy you are. Team members literally bet their life on you. I have to assume that if you are in business for any length of time, you have developed mutual trust with your staff, vendors, and clients. An excellent book to help clarify what you need to do to accomplish this is from Steven M.R. Covey called The Speed of Trust. I highly recommend it.
Vision is what you see the future to be, in spite of those who tell you otherwise. Vision is your conviction to move against your past failures, your naysayers, the critics and those who are afraid to see you succeed. Vision alone will not make you successful. You need a few other important ingredients. But Vision comes from understanding the market, the company’s products, and services. It also comes from “seeing” what’s possible given your assets and your team’s assets.
Perseverance is a close cousin to Passion in that you must maintain your vision with the passion to live the leadership role. Without perseverance, you will lose. Business is the one game that tests you every day. Every test is a test between you and the market, you and staff problems, you and patent problems, you and health problems. Your perseverance will be your greatest strength when everything else is in jeopardy.
Sound Strategy together with Vision will get you to the finish line.
Sound Strategies to succeed can be part of a comprehensive plan YOU conceive and work on with your team. Get behind it and make it happen because no one else will, except your competition. Perseverance will take you to the end of the game. My dear friend and mentor Chet Holmes told me over and over again that his “Pig Headed Discipline” is what kept him in the game, even to the end as he fought his own body to stay alive. May he rest in peace.
If you have read this list and it made you think, then I am glad. I love to get reminders of what it takes to be the best and I hope you do too. My reminders come frequently as I work with some of the finest executives I know. My clients reinforce for me what it takes to be a leader and most of the time they are seeking clarity so they can make better decisions. When they have done a lot of the internal work, they know who they are, they know their “why” and they know what drives them, they are most effective. Getting clear on who you are, why you do what you do and what you want other than money will change your life.
Ultimately, the quality of our human interaction is higher when we really know ourselves.
It’s a lifelong endeavor, one which takes us on many personal journeys, leaving some of us more able to cope with the daily ups and downs. For CEO’s those ups and downs can change the lives of an entire staff, clients, and vendors. It’s that pressure that requires being centered and being able to differentiate information properly. This simply means you know what’s important and what’s not. Some have this natural filter that seems to just be there, others need to learn how. It’s all part of the journey.
CEO’s need counsel too. There are CEO masterminds, coaches, and advisors. All are designed to get the CEO to see a fresh perspective. It’s not just lonely at the top but the pressure can be immense. Everyone turns to the CEO for answers.