There’s no such thing as a natural-born leader.
Leadership is not an innate gift from the Almighty. Instead, it’s a skill that must be learned.
And the hard truth is, your leadership abilities affect everything in your business whether you’re a “natural-born leader” or not. So, if you ever find yourself unhappy with your team’s performance, don’t blame them.
Look in the mirror!
That amount of pressure is terrifying. For many, it’s hard to bear.
And since our culture has bought into the idea of a “natural-born leader,” many people believe that if they weren’t born with it, they’ll never gain an aptitude for leadership.
And that’s a huge mistake. Because learning leadership skills is not just a personal investment…
It’s a business investment.
Your business’ success depends on your ability to lead your people. To have them take ownership in the process. To give them the confidence and the space to take the reigns. To make them a legitimate part of the team, rather than a cog in the machine.
All businesses have a leader, but the most successful businesses have good leaders.
The good news is that leadership skills can be learned.
So let’s talk about some of the foundations of leadership, from which you can begin to build your leadership skills.
Why Is Leadership Important?
I recently read an Inc. article on the topic of successful leadership. The writer talked about an interview he had with Terry Turner, CEO of Pinnacle Financial Partners, one of Fortune’s Top 100 Best Companies to Work For.
Turner said all successful leadership can be traced to the decision to:
- Have Compassion
- Have a Radical Loving Care for Others
- Give People Ownership
- Engage People in Work with a Purpose
- Build a Unique Culture
No offense to Turner, but I’m going to combine 1 and 2. It just makes more sense to me. So…
Successful leadership happens when you have compassion for your team, give them ownership over their outcomes, engage them in the purpose or vision behind your work, and build a unique culture.
I’m going to use these items as a framework for our discussion of why leadership is important.
Let’s take them one by one.
1. Having Compassion
Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A founder, worked in restaurants before opening his own in the 1940s.
He knew how taxing a seven day per week schedule could be, not just for the worker, but also for the worker’s family. So, when he opened his first restaurant, he made the decision to give his employees at least one day of rest baked into the restaurant schedule. To secure that luxury, he put his money where his mouth was by closing on Sundays.
The results of this compassion toward employees has truly been astounding.
Each Chick-fil-A store brings in an average yearly revenue of around $4M. This amount is nearly double the amount of the next highest grossing revenue-per-store in the fast food industry, McDonald’s, whose $2.6M per-store revenue comes with many restaurants being open every day of every week and nearly every hour of every day.
We know that closing on Sundays is not the only reason for Chick-fil-A’s results, but we also know that that act of compassion for employees helps create a culture where service is a pleasure.
This is why leadership is important to your business. It exists whether you know it or not, and when you’re intentional about having compassion for your team, it can create incredible results.
2. Giving People Ownership
Ritz-Carlton is known for its customer service, but why? How did they create such a culture of excellent guest relations?
Well, the answer is shockingly simple.
They gave their employees the power to fix customer service issues as they arose. Any employee. Any time.
The manager? Yes. The bellhop? Yes. The janitor or cleaning crew? Yes.
Any employee. Really.
Then, they empowered their employees further by following through with action. Specifically, each employee can spend up to $2K per day per guest to make their stay go right. (This isn’t a joke. They’ve confirmed this.)
What does this level of ownership get for Ritz-Carlton?
Literally dozens of customer service awards throughout the world. Check out this page.
Excellent customer service is a hallmark of a successful luxury hotel, and Ritz-Carlton is the best at this.
Again, this alone is not a silver bullet to their success, but it is an incredible platform from which to build more and more success.
3. Engaging People in Work with a Purpose
Serial Entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie popularized a whole new genre of entrepreneurship (social entrepreneurism) by directly tying his company’s results to purpose.
As the founder of Tom’s, Blake made it clear that his purpose was to provide shoes to those in need throughout the world. Keeping the purpose at the forefront has not always been easy, but Blake has stayed the course.
Because of this clarity of vision, Tom’s has thrived.
At the time of this writing, Tom’s has given away over 60M shoes in just over 13 years in 70 different countries. More than that, when Blake sold 50% of Tom’s in 2013, the company was valued at around $625M.
4. Building a Unique Culture
You’ve probably heard of Burton, the snowboard behemoth brand. But you may not know that Burton’s culture is completely unique.
Stories of early Burton employees leaving work to catch a good wave at the beach have made the rounds, and that’s because they’re true!
Burton has formalized them in a ride-day that the company celebrates every year. More than that, they want their employees to have a voice in the company culture, and they’ve committed to that by allowing employees to start groups that spearhead employee-satisfaction initiatives.
Burton owns 40-45% of the market share in the snowboarding space.
We don’t know what this means in actual income, but we do know that Jake Burton, the founder of the company is worth an estimated $100M.
One thing to note about all of these examples:
Talking about leadership or trying to talk about implementing one of these successful leadership strategies won’t do anything for your business.
In each example, the executive team of the company continually and repeatedly put real resources and real risk in to standing behind each of these core tenets. You must do the same.
Leadership without action is not real leadership.
Importance of Leadership Development
Continuous leadership development pushes your business toward lasting success.
Why is that?
Successful leadership makes a successful team…
A successful team becomes a proving ground for successful leaders…
Successful leaders produce more teams with more amazing results…
Amazing results draw the best talent…
The best talent turns into effective teams…
Effective teams learn from successful leaders…
And the teams and leaders that make up your business create a culture defined by successful results.
All of this stems from how well you are able to develop your leadership skills.
Here’s my advice:
Don’t try to scale your leadership strategy in your company from day one. Make an intentional effort to give one of your team members more responsibility.
Ask an employee how their day is going, and listen to the answer. Remind your team why what they’re doing is important.
Heck, remind yourself.
Make sure the culture you’re creating is one you’re proud of. If it isn’t, change it.
Take one small step to develop a skill listed here that is outside of your comfort zone. Do it today.
Leadership Is Directly Tied to Your Company’s Success
It really boils down to this:
Leadership is directly tied to your company’s success.
It’s not the silver bullet answer. It’s not the be-all-end-all. But it is something you can control that will give you an upper-hand.
And there’s something comforting about that.
As a team leader, you know there’s so much going on that you cannot control everything. But you can take intentional steps to control this. So do it. Invest in yourself, so that you can invest in your team.
Let us know how we can help in the comments below.