Five Things Every Leader Should Do

Number on the wooden plate

I was recently asked what I saw as major focus areas for leaders. There are many things a leader needs to balance, but here are a few key things that they should always keep front of mind.

Create Focus: A leader should strive to paint an inspiring vision. Most people don’t want to run from something, but rather they seek to run to something. As individuals, we want to be a part of something greater than ourselves. A leader should paint this inspiring vision, and then articulate the priorities to help people know how to make progress against that vision.

Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution: It’s human nature to love our own ideas. But sometimes that means that we hang on to them too long. Along the leadership or innovation journey, you must ask: Are we making sufficient progress to believe that our original hypothesis is correct, or do we need to make a change? If you never lose sight of the problem, how you attack the solution can remain more flexible, iterative and ultimately, be more likely to succeed.

Lead With Questions Not Answers: The best leaders don’t need to have all of the answers. They surround themselves with great people, and ask the right questions. It’s not what you know. It’s the questions you ask that help you become a more effective and inspiring leader.

Build Capability Through Principles & Frameworks: Leaders must unpack “why” a decision has been made, and not just the “what” the ultimate decision is. This practice makes explicit the principles or criteria that you applied to reaching a conclusion. These principles can then provide teams with a compass to navigate uncertainty and make their own decisions when you are not available or able to assist, moving beyond your individual ability, and building organizational capability.

Cast a Tall Shadow, Not a Dark Shadow: All leaders cast a shadow. The question is whether yours is blocking the sun, or inspiring others with its silhouette to strive for more. As a leader, we must all walk the talk. Leaders need to role model the behavior they want their organizations to emulate. The two greatest indicators of what we view as important are (1) how we spend our time and (2) the questions we ask. Organizations watch these cues to determine what leaders “really view as important”. So be clear on your say/do ratio, and ensure the shadow you are creating is the one you aspire to project. – Brad Smith, President and CEO of Intuit

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