3 Steps Leaders Should Take Right Now to Build and Maintain Trust

3 Steps Leaders Should Take Right Now to Build and Maintain Trust

Authentic thought leadership content is one of the best ways to establish trust with skeptical online audiences. Here are 3 steps for creating it.

Trust is at the core of every meaningful relationship you have: every client or customer you sign, every person who works for you, every friendship or partnership you cultivate.

It’s present in those relationships, but it doesn’t just show up. You have to build it over time, and you can’t force anyone to feel that connection. In fact, you can’t force anyone to feel anything. All you can do is set the stage for that feeling to develop on its own.

And consistent content is one of the best ways to do that.

Content is one of the most effective ways to create the conditions for trust to develop and to build on it over time. But just pumping out content doesn’t make you more trustworthy. I’d actually argue that churning out content for content’s sake makes you significantly less trustworthy.

Instead, you’ve got to create educational, valuable thought leadership content and get it into the hands of the right people — and that can be hard to do.

I know firsthand that, as a leader, it’s difficult to create high-quality content consistently. You have a thousand items on your to-do list. You’re responsible for setting the vision for your company, and you work every day to push yourself and your team closer to that vision.

It’s hard to devote time to content, but trust with your audiences that you can scale is a powerful force for creating opportunity. So, crafting that content has to become a priority. Here are three ways I’ve learned leaders can produce better content that builds trust with their audiences:

1. Assemble the right team.

I’m a big believer that you are the average of the people you spend your time with — and that applies to your team just as much as it applies to your friends and partners.

Whom you work with is important, and trust between your brand and your audiences starts with the trust you build in your own team first. I know I wouldn’t be able to get half as much done as I do if I didn’t trust my team so completely.

Build the right team, and make it a priority to figure out the best way to work together. Even a small team can make a big difference, especially when there’s a good amount of trust between everyone. Obviously, that takes time to build, but you’ll get there when you hire the right people.

2. Stick to a process that plays to each person’s strengths.

Leaders may not be the best people to actually craft every piece of content. I know I’m certainly not. I love sharing ideas and talking with people, but my communication skills aren’t quite as strong when forced onto paper as they are in person. And that’s OK.

That’s why I have my team and why all leaders — especially those who aren’t naturally gifted writers or who have a hard time setting aside the time to write full articles — need to find a process and the tools that work for them.

There are plenty of free content marketing tools that can help, and you can borrow a page from my book and begin with a simple “brain dump.” The goal should be to play to your strengths, so if you’re not a gifted writer, then stick to providing the raw insights, and let your team take it from there — which leads me to my next point.

3. When in doubt, get out of the way.

As a leader, it’s important to learn when it might be best to get out of your team’s way. You need to recognize that you may not always be the right person to do a particular task.

I know this is probably tough to hear. After spending so much time working to grow your company, you’re likely used to being involved in just about everything. Especially if you started your own business, it can be hard to let go of some things.

But you don’t need to be heavily involved in every single step of every process. That’s how your content gets bottlenecked, production stops, and your audiences are left without the content they need. Let your team do what they do best, and focus on the goals only you can achieve.

Trust has always been important, tough to build, and necessary to maintain over time. And the current climate isn’t exactly helping, either. There’s a serious lack of trust on the internet, but don’t let it negatively affect your brand. Follow this advice to create better content that builds trust with your audiences and creates opportunity for your company.


3 Steps Leaders Should Take Right Now to Build and Maintain Trust


What great leadership and music have in common

What great leadership and music have in common

Music is all-consuming. Our reaction to a great song can be so visceral that we are forever connected to it. Hearing that song can bring you back to a moment in time, and often, it binds you to a person too; every time you hear it, you are there with them again, reliving a wonderful moment. This is something every leader aspires to do with those around them as well: to inspire and move people like great music does.

In 1996, I watched a concert with singers from around the world, including Zucchero and Pavarotti. I was amazed by the performers — but beyond that, I was enthralled by the leadership lessons embedded in the music. That concert helped me frame these lessons, which pull together stories and insights from some of the great people I’ve worked with.

1. A leader is both a singer and a songwriter.

People don’t really listen unless there is an emotional impact that causes them never to forget. As a leader you have to touch people’s hearts as well as their heads. What you say, the lyrics, must tell a meaningful story — and the way you tell that story, the music, must resonate in the heart of the listener.

Many executives tend to deal more with the mind and not so much with the heart. One executive I’ve worked with is really, really good at solving for this. He’s the company’s founder and is looked at by everyone as the person in charge. Yet in every company-wide meeting, he talks about what the company has accomplished as a whole, and he calls out other people in very positive ways. He focuses on their values and their commitment to excellence. It is the music of his leadership, and it is subtle but powerful.

He pays attention to the little things. For example, he asked a nutritionist to study the snacks in the company break room and make sure all of them provided nutritional value. It’s one thing to tell people “we care about you” — it’s another thing when somebody is paying that kind of attention. Every time you go into the break room, you know you’re cared for. It’s a decision that’s been made intellectually, but it impacts you emotionally because you know it’s in your best interest. That’s the music.

Ted Turner was another leader who was really good at this. His counter-intuitive insights forced people to think in ways that touched people’s hearts beyond normal business decisions. I was asked to help frame a strategic workshop that ultimately led to the creation of CNN and headline news on a global scale. At one point in the discussion, the company’s MBA-educated executives in the room were thinking: “Okay, we need to figure out how we’re going to broadcast in German, in Chinese, etc.” And Ted Turner, as only Ted could, says, “Y’know, I know that’s what they taught you in business school, but we’re not going to do that. How many of you have ever heard of the Tower of Babel?” All these executives looked at each other as if to say: “What is he talking about?” Ted went on: “We’re going to broadcast CNN in English in order to teach the world a common language, so that people can understand each other and create peace in the world.” You could see the intellectual business argument immediately dissolve and the music take hold. Trust me, nobody has forgotten that moment in the history of that company — nobody.

2. Make sure everyone is on the same sheet of music.

At the concert, every violin player, drummer and singer knew why they were there and what their role was. The result was harmony. The same is necessary in any organization. Each employee needs to be on the same page. And that page must be seen, understood and emotionally absorbed.

When I first start working with any new company, I go onsite and talk with the key people and write a report about what I have learned. In my first conversations with one particular company, I asked 15 people: “What’s the vision of this company?” I got fifteen different answers. So I wrote my report, and recommended that the executive I was working with should take this group offsite for a workshop, to create a vision statement and set three strategic goals they could commit to. Eighteen months later, I came back and interviewed this group and a few more people, a total of thirty employees. This time when I asked them what the company vision was, everyone had the same answer. Everyone was on the same sheet of music and understood how their role and the role of others created strategic harmony.

3. Develop a simple theme — then repeat it.

Have you ever noticed how a song’s lyrics repeat themselves over and over again? They become so familiar that you sing along; you absorb them into your being. An effective vision statement does the same thing. As a leader, you need to put it in language so everybody can “see” it and understand it. And get it into everybody’s hands. Remember that company that had 15 different ideas of what the vision was? When they developed their new vision statement, the CEO held a company-wide meeting for it. He said, “Every time you make a decision within your own department, ask one question: ‘Does it line up with our objectives?’” If you go into his employees’ workspaces today, they have that vision statement on a card in their offices. What’s amazing is, they can tell you the vision and the key strategic objectives without even looking at the card. It has become part of who they are and how they do what they do.

It’s the job of a leader to get a team to see and feel the mission, vision or task. People tend to focus on the familiar, on their previous experience. You need to get their attention on the vision — and keep it. They have to hear and see what you are after, over and over again, until that story becomes so dominant that they commit it to memory and their focus is absolute and intuitive.

The vision should be one sentence long, simple and picture-like, or it’s worthless. When General Tommy Franks led the 2003 invasion into Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, his vision statement was simple: “Get to Baghdad as fast as you can.” Now that’s visual. He left it up to his individual commanders to figure out how to execute that vision.

4. Get the right players around you.

Playing in the concert were people from many nationalities and ethnic groups, children and senior citizens, women and men, it did not matter. All were dedicated to excellence and being in harmony with one another for a common purpose. Their cultural diversity built a harmony and strength that fed off itself to produce results. It is the same in an organization.

When I used to hire people for my organization, I was always reviewing a pile of resumes. Of course, by the time the resumes got to me they were all good — everyone was equally qualified. So I always asked these final candidates just two questions. First: Tell me about your life. I wanted to hear people talk about who they were, and what formed them. The second question: Rank, in order of importance, the five most important things in your life. Some people would say money, faith, family, etc.; others faith, family, money, etc. Everybody had a different answer. But their stories and answers gave me a clue to their character. I really listened and watched their behavioral response. Once the interview was over and they left the room, I’d ask myself one question: If I’m in a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and the boat is in trouble, who do I want in that boat with me? Those are the people I’d hire. They were the people who had the character I could count on when things got tough. Every organization has tough moments. You want people working with you whom you can count on when the tough moments come. I always chose character and attitude over skill, and that insured I always had the right people in the boat.

5. Let others shine.

The concert in Modena, Italy, had three conductors, who were somehow invisible. It was the same with Zucchero and Pavarotti. One minute they were stars; the next minute, they were in the background, replaced by the voices of children or the sound of a guitar player. The focus was on the music, not the individuals. It is the same in a company. The focus should be on the message and the music.

One executive I worked with had been an Army company commander — a leader of 150 people. The military regularly takes units into the field for training, in order to grade the leader and their unit’s combat readiness. So one night this commander is about to start a graded night attack exercise. Just before the exercise starts, he turns to the evaluator and says: “Before you start, I’m telling you right now that I’m dead, one of my sergeants who is responsible for resupplying ammunition to the troops is dead, and one of my lieutenants is dead.” The evaluator says, “Are you out of your mind? Your unit is going to fail the test!” But the former company commander said: “If they can’t do this without me, then I’ve not served them well.” Guess what: His unit had the highest scores of any company evaluated. He had ensured that his team was well trained. They had the confidence to act in spite of unforeseen and compromising circumstances. He said, “I wasn’t out front, I wasn’t even there.”

6. Cultivate commitment and enthusiasm; they’re contagious.

As the music reached into the hearts of the audience, everyone began singing along and clapping their hands with the singers and the orchestra. At the end of the song, the singers and the orchestra and the 1,000 people in the audience were as one, united by purpose.

I remember once talking to some pension fund managers, and I asked one of them: “What are you here to do?” And I love what he told me: “Well, if I’m successful, I’ll be providing jobs for people.” There’s a difference between people who think “I’m investing money for this pension fund, or that university,” and others who say, “We’re making it possible for people to live their lives. Our real clients are the students who need a scholarship, the families whose livelihood is preserved by our fund.” That kind of commitment permeates the culture of the company.

It is my experience that people who commit themselves to something bigger than themselves are just different people. There’s some new research that shows that these people have a more significant impact than those who see what they do as just a job. They are so driven beyond the normal that their actions are contagious. People stand in awe of their determination and drive.

7. Commit yourself to a bigger cause than yourself.

The concert was not just about the music; it was dedicated to raising money for Bosnian refugees. People will follow you if they come to believe that you are about something greater than yourself.

I’ve helped build leadership development programs across 40 countries in the world as a volunteer, and all I can tell you is that you can’t compete with the heart of a volunteer. There are 62 corporate executives, some with their spouses, who volunteer to serve as facilitators and coaches in these leadership programs; they pay their own way to the Middle East, Southeast Asia or Central Eurasia and spend two weeks of their own time with no compensation. Big things happen when people see others giving of themselves with nothing expected in return. One of the participants in a two-week leadership program in the Middle East was involved with a local NGO in Oman that served the deaf. He was so inspired by the example of these volunteers that he wanted his NGO to produce the very first Braille book in Arabic — and he did it. He told me later, “This program taught me that I needed to do something bigger than myself, beyond this program, beyond my family and beyond my country. I said to myself that if these people will come 10,000 miles away from home to help me, why not expand my efforts to serve the entire Middle East?”

The key to understanding the music of leadership is to understand that really good leaders know how to manage emotions as well as direction. In effect, they are in tune with those around them. And when the time comes to sing a new song so that they can take people in a new direction, they do just that.

What great leadership and music have in common

22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

1. Focus

“It’s been said that leadership is making important but unpopular decisions. That’s certainly a partial truth, but I think it underscores the importance of focus. To be a good leader, you cannot major in minor things, and you must be less distracted than your competition. To get the few critical things done, you must develop incredible selective ignorance. Otherwise, the trivial will drown you.”

—Tim Ferriss, bestselling author, host of The Tim Ferriss Show

2. Confidence

“A leader instills confidence and ‘followership’ by having a clear vision, showing empathy and being a strong coach. As a female leader, to be recognized I feel I have to show up with swagger and assertiveness, yet always try to maintain my Southern upbringing, which underscores kindness and generosity. The two work well together in gaining respect.”

—Barri Rafferty, CEO, Ketchum North America

3. Transparency

“I’ve never bought into the concept of ‘wearing the mask.’ As a leader, the only way I know how to engender trust and buy-in from my team and with my colleagues is to be 100 percent authentically me—open, sometimes flawed, but always passionate about our work. It has allowed me the freedom to be fully present and consistent. They know what they’re getting at all times. No surprises.”

—Keri Potts, senior director of public relations, ESPN

4. Integrity

“Our employees are a direct reflection of the values we embody as leaders. If we’re playing from a reactive and obsolete playbook of needing to be right instead of doing what’s right, then we limit the full potential of our business and lose quality talent. If you focus on becoming authentic in all your interactions, that will rub off on your business and your culture, and the rest takes care of itself.”

—Gunnar Lovelace, co-CEO and cofounder, Thrive Market

5. Inspiration

“People always say I’m a self-made man. But there is no such thing. Leaders aren’t self-made; they are driven. I arrived in America with no money or any belongings besides my gym bag, but I can’t say I came with nothing: Others gave me great inspiration and fantastic advice, and I was fueled by my beliefs and an internal drive and passion. That’s why I’m always willing to offer motivation—to friends or strangers on Reddit. I know the power of inspiration, and if someone can stand on my shoulders to achieve greatness, I’m more than willing to help them up.”

—Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California

6. Passion

“You must love what you do. In order to be truly successful at something, you must obsess over it and let it consume you. No matter how successful your business might become, you are never satisfied and constantly push to do something bigger, better and greater. You lead by example not because you feel like it’s what you should do, but because it is your way of life.”

—Joe Perez, cofounder, Tastemade

7. Innovation

“In any system with finite resources and infinite expansion of population—like your business, or like all of humanity—innovation is essential for not only success but also survival. The innovators are our leaders. You cannot separate the two. Whether it is by thought, technology or organization, innovation is our only hope to solve our challenges.”

—Aubrey Marcus, founder, Onnit

8. Patience

“Patience is really courage that’s meant to test your commitment to your cause. The path to great things is always tough, but the best leaders understand when to abandon the cause and when to stay the course. If your vision is bold enough, there will be hundreds of reasons why it ‘can’t be done’ and plenty of doubters. A lot of things have to come together—external markets, competition, financing, consumer demand and always a little luck—to pull off something big.”

—Dan Brian, COO, WhipClip

9. Stoicism

“It’s inevitable: We’re going to find ourselves in some real shit situations, whether they’re costly mistakes, unexpected failures or unscrupulous enemies. Stoicism is, at its core, accepting and anticipating this in advance, so that you don’t freak out, react emotionally and aggravate things further. Train our minds, consider the worst-case scenarios and regulate our unhelpful instinctual responses—that’s how we make sure shit situations don’t turn into fatal resolutions.”

—Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle is the Way and former director of marketing, American Apparel

10. Wonkiness

“Understanding the underlying numbers is the best thing I’ve done for my business. As we have a subscription-based service, the biggest impact on our bottom line was to decrease our churn rate. Being able to nudge that number from 6 percent to 4 Percent meant a 50 percent increase in the average customer’s lifetime value.
We would not have known to focus on this metric without being able to accurately analyze our data.”

—Sol Orwell, cofounder, Examine.com

11. Authenticity

“It’s true that imitation is one of the greatest forms of flattery, but not when it comes to leadership—and every great leader in my life, from Mike Tomlin to Olympic ski coach Scott Rawles, led from a place of authenticity. Learn from others, read autobiographies of your favorite leaders, pick up skills along the way… but never lose your authentic voice, opinions and, ultimately, how you make decisions.”

—Jeremy Bloom, cofounder and CEO, Integrate

12. Open-mindedness

“One of the biggest myths is that good business leaders are great visionaries with dogged determination to stick to their goals no matter what. It’s nonsense. The truth is, leaders need to keep an open mind while being flexible, and adjust if necessary. When in the startup phase of a company, planning is highly overrated and goals are not static. Your commitment should be to invest, develop and maintain great relationships.”

—Daymond John, CEO, Shark Branding and FUBU

13. Decisiveness

“In high school and college, to pick up extra cash I would often referee recreational basketball games. The mentor who taught me how to officiate gave his refs one important piece of advice that translates well into the professional world: ‘Make the call fast, make the call loud and don’t look back.’ In marginal situations, a decisively made wrong call will often lead to better long-term results and a stronger team than a wishy-washy decision that turns out to be right.”

—Scott Hoffman, owner, Folio Literary Management

14. Personableness

“We all provide something unique to this world, and we can all smell when someone isn’t being real. The more you focus on genuine connections with people, and look for ways to help them—rather than just focus on what they can do for you—the more likable and personable you become. This isn’t required to be a great leader, but it is to be a respected leader, which can make all the difference in your business.”

—Lewis Howes, New York Times bestselling author of The School of Greatness

15. Empowerment

“Many of my leadership philosophies were learned as an athlete. My most successful teams didn’t always have the most talent but did have teammates with the right combination of skills, strengths and a common trust in each other. To build an ‘overachieving’ team, you need to delegate responsibility and authority. Giving away responsibilities isn’t always easy. It can actually be harder to do than completing the task yourself, but with the right project selection and support, delegating can pay off in dividends. It is how you truly find people’s capabilities and get the most out of them.”

—Shannon Pappas, senior vice president, Beachbody LIVE

16. Positivity

“In order to achieve greatness, you must create a culture of optimism. There will be many ups and downs, but the prevalence of positivity will keep the company going. But be warned: This requires fearlessness. You have to truly believe in making the impossible possible.”

—Jason Harris, CEO, Mekanism

17. Generosity

“My main goal has always been to offer the best of myself. We all grow—as a collective whole—when I’m able to build up others and help them grow as individuals.”

—Christopher Perilli, CEO, Pixel Mobb

18. Persistence

“A great leader once told me, ‘persistence beats resistance.’ And after working at Facebook, Intel and Microsoft and starting my own company, I’ve learned two major lessons: All great things take time, and you must persist no matter what. That’s what it takes to be a leader: willingness to go beyond where others will stop.”

—Noah Kagan, Chief Sumo, appsumo

19. Insightfulness

“It takes insight every day to be able to separate that which is really important from all the incoming fire. It’s like wisdom—it can be improved with time, if you’re paying attention, but it has to exist in your character. It’s inherent. When your insight is right, you look like a genius. And when your insight is wrong, you look like an idiot.”

—Raj Bhakta, founder, WhistlePig Whiskey

20. Communication

“If people aren’t aware of your expectations, and they fall short, it’s really your fault for not expressing it to them. The people I work with are in constant communication, probably to a fault. But communication is a balancing act. You might have a specific want or need, but it’s superimportant to treat work as a collaboration. We always want people to tell us their thoughts and ideas—that’s why we have all these very talented people working with us.”

—Kim Kurlanchik Russen, partner, TAO Group

21. Accountability

“It’s a lot easier to assign blame than to hold yourself accountable. But if you want to know how to do it right, learn from financial expert Larry Robbins. He wrote a genuinely humble letter to his investors about his bad judgment that caused their investments to falter. He then opened up a new fund without management and performance fees—unheard of in the hedge fund world. This is character. This is accountability. It’s not only taking responsibility; it’s taking the next step to make it right.”

—Sandra Carreon-John, senior vice president, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment

22. Restlessness

“It takes real leadership to find the strengths within each person on your team and then be willing to look outside to plug the gaps. It’s best to believe that your team alone does not have all the answers— because if you believe that, it usually means you’re not asking all the right questions.”

—Nick Woolery, global director of marketing, Stance Socks

22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

Pivoting to success: Agile founders who turned their companies on a dime

Pivoting to success: Agile founders who turned their companies on a dime

If there’s one word every startup founder can associate with, it’s agility. When faced with rapidly changing market conditions, winners and losers are often decided by their willingness to adapt, even if that means having to completely reinvent the business. This, of course, is known as the pivot; business leaders who are able to pivot at the drop of a hat earn the distinction of being agile, something every startup founder strives for.

Although no two business pivots are alike, they all have one thing in common: a leader who isn’t afraid to take risks in the face of uncertainty, especially when the entire company is on the line. We teamed up with the BMW Hot Lap Pitch to profile three founders who pivoted their companies at the right time and turned them into blazing successes.

The many false starts of Instagram

It’s hard to imagine a world without Instagram, but the photo-sharing app had humble beginnings in 2010 as Burbn, an app that let users post pictures, check in at locations and make plans with friends. Kevyn Systrom, the founder, was able to raise $500,000 from prominent venture capitalists, but despite quitting his job and adding Mike Krieger on as a co-founder, Systrom wasn’t getting the traction he needed to sustain growth.

The problem?

The app was bloated with too many features and had come to resemble Foursquare, making it hard for Burbn to differentiate itself in a crowded app store. After looking at the data from their users, Systrom and Krieger quickly discovered that photo-sharing was the most popular feature on the app, so they scrapped Burbn and pivoted to Scotch, their first standalone photo-sharing app.

After months of prototyping, the pair launched Scotch, a social media app designed primarily for photo-sharing, but it quickly failed due to poor design and performance. Instead of giving up, however, Systrom and Krueger rebuilt the app from the ground up as Instagram and added several features that allowed users to try distinctive photo filters and post pictures in as little as three taps. In just three months the app had reached 1 million users and continued to attract new ones at breakneck speed, which is often attributed to its stability and clean design—two things that were far from the norm in 2010.

In 2012, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion, and today the photo-sharing app has become a substantial growth engine for Facebook’s revenue with 700 million active users.

The comeback of Priceline

Priceline, the US travel giant and owner of holiday reservations websites like Kayak and Agoda, enjoyed huge successes in the dot-com era as a bidding website for airline tickets. Their bullishness on the company’s future even led them to sell discounted gasoline and groceries, but after the events of 9/11, domestic travel spend sharply decreased, forcing Priceline into a freefall.

In an effort to turn things around, Jeffery Boyd, Priceline’s general counsel, was promoted to CEO and his tenure marks one of the most impressive corporate comebacks of the last decade. Among his most notable changes was dropping the ‘bid on flight prices’ service the company was built on and pivoting to emphasize hotel reservations over flights. Boyd also eliminated booking fees and prioritized international expansion by acquiring Booking.com—two key decisions that put immense pressure on the competition and allowed Priceline to get a foothold in international markets.

Soon enough, Boyd’s efforts started paying off, and under his leadership Priceline went from nearly being delisted from the NASDAQ stock exchange to collecting 80 percent of their revenue from international sales and earning a profit of over $2 billion.

The minification of Devialet

In 2010, Pierre-Emmanuel Calmel, a French entrepreneur with a background in electrical engineering, bet all his savings on a hybrid analogue-digital amplifier that would bring a new sensory experience to the listener. He pitched his innovation to Nortel, the telecommunications company where he worked, but was turned down, so he quit his job and founded Devialet to build a working prototype.

Together with his eventual co-founder Quentin Sannié, Calmel raised €1.3 million to build his amplifiers, which he priced at $15,000 a pop. Calmel and Sannié quickly realized that their ability to grow was stunted by the low demand for high-end amplifiers, so they looked for other ways to make use of their patented technology.

The pair set their sights on consumer devices that featured audio, including smartphones, televisions and cars. To accomplish this pivot, Calmel redesigned his amplifier and shrank the technology down to a microchip in order to fit the technology with highly compact form factors. At the same time, Calmel and Sannié partnered with companies like Sharp and Renault to begin rolling out their technology and secured additional funding from a number of investors including Jay-Z.

Today, the Paris-based company employs over 200 staff members and generates €60 million in annual revenue. The company hopes to embed their chips into cars first, followed by televisions and then smartphones. “One day, “ Sannié told Bloomberg, “everyone will own a Devialet.”

Pivoting to success: Agile founders who turned their companies on a dime

The CFO’s Critical Role In Driving Corporate Culture

The CFO’s Critical Role In Driving Corporate Culture

In today’s highly competitive business environment, corporate culture must be a top priority, as a poor culture can ultimately lead to poor performance. But the CHRO and other traditionally people-focused leaders aren’t the only ones who can drive this aspect of the business. As CFOs, our actions have an enormous impact on corporate culture, and how well we handle that responsibility directly impacts the overall organization.

Business Managers discussing strategy

Traditionally, the head of finance focused on the numbers and the head of HR stood for the people. I think most of my peers would agree that’s an archaic leadership approach in today’s knowledge-based economy, with people and finances being so closely intertwined.  At Workday, two-thirds of our costs are related to people, and our global workforce’s collective brain trust is our biggest asset.

With this in mind, here are some key areas where forward-thinking CFOs can play a significant role in driving corporate culture:

Always evaluate the potential impact on people. When it comes to financial guidance, I consider it my job to think not just about the impact on the bottom line, or how investors might react to a financial decision, but also how these decisions may impact our employees and the environment in which they work every day. This mindset also results in a far more productive collaboration with our Chief People Officer Ashley Goldsmith than the traditional clash that can happen between finance and HR leaders when it comes to budget decisions. In addition, when providing input on decisions related to how we grow our companies, I think CFOs share responsibility in thinking about how our choices will influence the culture, whether it’s the benefits programs we choose or where to locate a new regional office.

Lead a team that delivers positive experiences. Like all leaders, CFOs can influence culture through how they engage their own teams and foster an environment that people want to be part of. Yet the CFO also has a responsibility to positively impact company wide culture by establishing a finance organization that’s easy to work with and provides great service to its internal stakeholders. It’s imperative we have in place systems and processes that are flexible and friendly, and make everyday actions like filing an expense report a breeze rather than a chore. While it’s our responsibility to ensure we have the right levels of control around processes, we should also have policies that empower our employees and show we trust them. All of this combines to cultivate a positive culture that removes barriers and lets employees spend their time innovating for the business.

Engage employees across the business. Also consider the different parts of the business that many CFOs now touch and how that impacts culture. For me that might entail sitting alongside our product development team to provide feedback on proposed new features for finance, or working closely with sales to help educate a prospective customer on Workday and our products, or discussing our finance goals in a town hall-style webcast shared across the company. By partnering more closely with other company leaders, and even key stakeholders outside of the company, we can foster a sense of collaboration and openness that reverberates throughout the workforce.

As CFOs, it’s true that we’re ultimately responsible for the numbers. But we also have a huge opportunity—and a responsibility—to help create a culture that inspires everyone to do their very best and work together to achieve common goals.

CFO or Chief financial officer word on black block

The CFO’s Critical Role In Driving Corporate Culture

6 Things Every Mentor Should Do

6 Things Every Mentor Should Do

As academic physicians, we do a lot of mentoring. Over the course of our careers, and through our formal research on mentoring within and outside of academia, we’ve found that good mentoring is discipline-agnostic. Whether you’re a mentor to a medical resident or marketing manager, the same principles apply. The best mentorships are more like the relationship between a parent and adult child than between a boss and employee. They’re characterized by mutual respect, trust, shared values, and good communication, and they find their apotheosis in the mentee’s transition to mentor. We’ve also seen that dysfunctional mentorships share common characteristics across disciplines — the dark side of mentoring, which we’ll get into later.

Given how important mentoring is, there’s surprisingly limited guidance about how to become a good mentor. This is perhaps even more the case in the world of management outside of academic medicine — whether it is finance, consulting, or technology — as the path from professional to senior executive requires more than individual success. We offer here an informal set of guidelines for good mentorship — a playbook, if you will, for a game that is very much a team sport. While we draw many of our examples from academic medicine, the lessons are pertinent across disciplines.

Choose Mentees Carefully   

Effective mentorship takes time. Mentors trade away hours they could use to pursue their own career goals and spend them on someone else’s. Although the prospect of having an energetic, personable junior partner for a multitude of projects is appealing, having the wrong mentee can be painful.

Beware the diffident candidate who expects the mentor to keep the relationship going, or the candidate who insists on doing things their way. A mentee should be curious, organized, efficient, responsible, and engaged. One way to look for these traits is to test prospective mentees. For instance, we often ask mentees to read a book and return within a month to discuss it. Similarly, we sometimes give a candidate a few weeks to write a review of an article in a relevant area. In a business setting, you might ask a prospective mentee to prepare a presentation in their area of expertise, or join you on a sales call or at a strategy offsite and write up their observations. This gives you a good sense of their thinking process, communication skill, and level of interest. If they don’t come back or complete the assignment, you should breathe a sigh of relief — you have avoided taking on a mentee who lacked commitment.

Consider the case of a partner in a major consulting firm who told us of how he struggled with his first mentoring relationship. A young gun (let’s call him Sam) wanted to join the partner’s team, which was helping a client with a difficult human resources problem. Sam appeared keen, ambitious, and enthusiastic. He emailed constantly, asking about the position and reiterating how much he wanted to join this team. “He reminded me of a younger version of myself, and I thought I could groom him to be a superstar,” the partner recalled. Unfortunately, Sam proved to be a disaster. He showed up late to meetings, never turned in reports on time, and didn’t get along well with the offsite team. When the client finally complained, the partner had no choice but to take Sam off the project. Rather than being apologetic, Sam criticized the manager for cutting him loose. “I realized I had made a huge mistake, but only too late,” the partner told us. Sam could certainly talk the talk, but he didn’t have the commitment, organization, or motivation necessary to succeed.

Establish a Mentorship Team  

The exclusive, one-on-one relationship of mentor and mentee, long the norm, was ideal for a time when both parties stayed put in one institution or devoted to a single mission. That time has passed. Professionals in business and academia are highly itinerant, moving from one project or institution to another. Moreover, faculty and managers alike are under constant and growing time pressure. As a result, most mentors today share responsibility with others for the growth of a mentee. It makes sense: Few senior-level people have the time or range of expertise to serve as a solo mentor. Having a handful of co-mentors also gives mentees a fallback position if the relationship with their primary mentor fizzles.

Mentees should work with mentors to create a mentorship team, with members selected for their various areas of knowledge, such as subject matter expertise or career advice. The individuals chosen need to work well together and with the mentee. The primary mentor should function as the go-to person, providing mentees with moral, career, and institutional support, ranging from choosing a project focus, to helping build a network, to strategizing for success.

The concept of mentorship teams has slowly started to spread through management. A recent HBR article (“Your Career Needs Many Mentors, Not Just One,”) advanced the concept of mastermind groups, or a personal board of directors, a clear allusion to mentorship teams. Inherent in each of these brain trusts is the notion that the myriad skills and knowledge needed in business are difficult to acquire from a single individual. Indeed, firms such as Credit Suisse now employ a multiperson mentorship strategy when assigning new analysts to projects. An analyst needs much more support than a single staffer can provide, and will only grow more fluent in a firm’s culture and language through guidance from key figures across the organization. A young analyst we spoke with, who is soon to become an associate, described their experience in this way: “What I learned in onboarding was only 40% of what I needed to be successful. By having several key people, from staffers to VPs, assigned to me early in my career, I was able to gain the other 60% quickly.”

Run a Tight Ship  

The mentor role needn’t take an excessive amount of time. Establishing firm and clear ground rules with mentees can improve efficiency.

To begin, clarify what your mentee expects from the relationship, match it against your expectations, and reach consensus. You may have misapprehension as to the mentee’s long-term goals, while the mentee may have an exaggerated notion as to what services you will provide. Such misunderstandings are costly, in terms of time and tranquility. These differences should be resolved explicitly and early in every mentoring relationship. In our experience, the most successful relationships are ones where the mentee fully understands and shares their mentor’s vision for success.

Establish a cadence for communication. Most mentors want to keep up with major developments in their mentees’ work, but dislike unscheduled phone calls or a flood of emails for minor issues. We avoid this by telling mentees we will meet in person monthly to discuss issues in depth. If an unexpected or time-sensitive issue arises outside of this meeting, we expect an email or call that is on-point, with questions framed to facilitate “yes” or “no” answers. For this to work, the mentor and mentee have to be disciplined about keeping their scheduled meetings. For example, we know of a junior associate in an international banking firm who described communicating with his VP every two weeks, regardless of where in the world they were. “I remember once being in Geneva while he was in China. We were both working on different projects,” the associate told us. “But because we had that time slotted on our calendars, I made it a point to reach out to him to see if he still wanted to speak. I shouldn’t have worried. As I was writing my email, an invitation from him popped up for a phone call.”


Finally, make it clear that accountability isn’t optional. Effective mentors educate mentees about the standards of the profession — and ensure they live up to them. If a mentee produces second-rate or tardy work, both the mentee’s and mentor’s reputations suffer. Deadlines must be honored, commitments to projects kept, and appointment times adhered to. Mentees must respect mentors’ time. Essential mentee behaviors include setting up an agenda ahead of meetings and assuring that mentors have adequate time in advance to review any related materials. (In academia, that would include giving mentors a week or two to look at a draft of a manuscript or grant proposal.)

Part of assuring accountability involves making sure that mentees understand that they are, in effect, your student. They should expect and welcome constructive criticism. Mentees must also understand that repeating the same mistakes is unacceptable and that a single egregious error, such as data fabrication or plagiarizing, may end the relationship — or worse.

Head Off Riftsor Resolve Them 

It’s not uncommon for mentors and mentees to have a falling out. What seemed like a perfect pairing on the surface may wind up being a total mismatch. Sometimes this becomes obvious suddenly. For example, an associate in a consulting firm told us of their decision to not take an overseas assignment because of family issues. Rather than receiving support from their mentor (who was also their boss), they got an angry call the next day. As the mentee told us, “He thought my giving up this opportunity was a huge mistake — that this was how he got his break, and that I was being dumb for putting family first. I certainly did not see it that way, and was shocked that he felt so strongly about it.”

At other times, either the mentor or the mentee may be completely unaware that there is a rift. For example, we know of a mentee who was having academic difficulties and told their mentor they were thinking about quitting. The mentor responded with advice on how to get a leave of absence. The mentee was despondent, but hid it: They had actually hoped for additional resources to ease their workload, but was uncomfortable about directly asking for it.

In some cases, there’s nothing to be done. Usually, though, it’s possible to avoid or repair problems. Mentors must recognize that disagreements and misunderstandings are almost inevitable in these relationships and that the mentor, not the mentee, is responsible for avoiding or repairing rifts. Smart mentors do not allow sores to fester or spats to escalate. They intervene early to keep the relationship on track. For instance, in the second example above, the mentor could have created an open, cards-on-the-table relationship that would have encouraged the mentee to be more honest about their needs, or at least inquired about the underlying issues behind the mentee’s challenges before suggesting a leave of absence.

Don’t Commit Mentorship Malpractice  

Because mentors are in the dominant position in the relationship, it’s easy for them to wield their power inappropriately – even if they’re not fully aware of it. Such “mentorship malpractice,” as we called it, has negative career consequences for both parties. Next time you look in the mirror, professionally speaking, ask yourself whether you’re guilty of any of these behaviors – and if you are, stop them immediately:

  • Taking credit for your mentees’ ideas or usurping lead position on their projects
  • Insisting that your mentees advance your projects rather than allowing them to develop their own work
  • Handcuffing your mentee to your timeline, slowing their own progress when you are slow to get back to them
  • Discouraging your mentees from seeking other mentors, which may stoke your ego but isolate them from broader learning and recognition
  • Allowing mentees to repeat common self-destructive mistakes — what we call “mentee missteps” — without reining in such behavior

Prepare for the Transition

A mentor’s accumulated wisdom and expertise must be passed on to the next generation. Good mentors make this process conscious, discussing challenges and satisfactions of mentorship with mentees. While the actual moment of transition from mentee to mentor varies according to circumstances, the mentor must feel that the mentee has achieved real expertise and has a coping, generous personality to make this leap. Often, some event within the mentor’s area — a retirement, a new grant, or a major project — creates the need for a new mentor to join the ranks.

Here’s how a colleague described her experience:

“When we took on another fellow, my mentor was swamped. He asked me if I was ready to be the new fellow’s primary mentor. I knew how my mentor went about mentoring me, felt ready, and agreed to do it.” As it turned out, her mentor had her back. “I shouldn’t have worried. He immediately suggested to serve as a co-mentor, ensuring I was comfortable in the role while guiding and grooming our fellow. As co-mentor, he gave me feedback about how best to run meetings with my mentor, provide advice on work-life balance, ensure discipline, and identify growth opportunities. He showed me just how much joy mentoring can bring.” This, perhaps, is the most valuable lesson of them all.

Vineet Chopra, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Research Scientist, The Patient Safety Enhancement Program and Center for Clinical Management Research Ann Arbor VA Medical Center and the University of Michigan Health System. Follow him on Twitter @vineet_chopra.

Sanjay Saint, MD, is the George Dock Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan, the Director of the VA/University of Michigan Patient Safety Enhancement Program and the Chief of Medicine at the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center. Follow him on Twitter @sanjaysaint.

6 Things Every Mentor Should Do


The Explainer: Emotional Intelligence – The five components of emotional intelligence and how to improve each.

Being a Strategic Leader Is About Asking the Right Questions

Being a Strategic Leader Is About Asking the Right Questions

If you asked the world’s most successful business leaders what it means to “be strategic,” how many different answers do you think you’d get? Consider this number: 115,800,000. It’s the number of unique links returned when I searched online for “strategic leadership.”

There’s a good reason for all of those links: Strategy is complex. Thought leaders from all over the world have created sophisticated frameworks designed to help leaders grapple with their own strategies at an abstract level. But the reality is that strategy succeeds or fails based on how well leaders at every level of an organization integrate strategic thinking into day-to-day operations. This is less about complexity and more about practical focus.

How can you personally be more strategic as a leader? Consider asking yourself and your team the five questions below to drive clarity, alignment, and strategic insight. The questions build on one another, leading to a well-aligned, strategic perspective. If you make these five questions part of your ongoing dialog, you will inevitably become more strategic and more successful as a team.

1. What are we doing today?

Leaders are often surprised at just how much they don’t know about what team members are working on. Here’s why: Over time, organizations add more and more to the plates of various teams and employees. While leaders and team members talk at length about new initiatives and assignments, they focus less on legacy work that’s still being done. At some point leaders lose sight of just how much time people are investing in legacy priorities. Asking this question almost always brings to light significant work that managers aren’t aware is being done or that’s taking much more time than it should. You can’t move your team forward strategically without knowing the answer to this question with total clarity.

2. Why are you doing the work you’re doing? Why now?

Once you’ve taken stock of all the work being done by your team, the next logical step is to examine the importance of the work being done. This serves two strategic purposes. First, you gain clarity on what’s important and why it’s important from your team’s perspective. You’ll likely uncover situations where you and your team are uncertain or in disagreement. This drives important conversations with your team about choices, resources, and trade-offs. Second, you have the opportunity to attach value and meaning to the work being done by your team. Everyone wants to believe that the work they do matters. It’s your job to understand and articulate that with your own team and across the organization. The only way you get there is with scrutiny.

3. How does what we’re doing today align with the bigger picture?

Never underestimate the power of gaining total clarity about your own area of responsibility and then examining how well your work aligns with the broader goals of the organization. This is a discussion about gaps and outliers. If your team is working on something that doesn’t align with the broader purpose or goals of the organization, you have a responsibility to challenge the value of doing that work. This is true even if your team believes the work is important or meaningful. Does it bring value to your customers? Does it contribute to the highest priorities of the business? Work that benefits both your customers and your business should be the top priority. If you identify gaps not currently being addressed, more strategic discussion is needed. Are you doing exactly, and only, what most benefits your organization?

4. What does success look like for our team?

Chances are that you have a handful of measures that others use to evaluate your success. Do they tell the story of what success really looks like for your team? If you asked your team what success looks like for them individually and for the team overall, could they articulate an answer? The best strategic thinkers invest time here — not in trying to pacify their boss with a few measures that can readily be achieved, but in trying to understand what really drives success in terms of activities, behaviors, relationships, and strategic outcomes. The better you are able to align your team around a strong vision of success, the more likely you are to achieve it.

5. What else could we do to achieve more, better, faster?

Most leaders want to demonstrate their ability to “be strategic” by jumping directly to this question. If you haven’t done the work to answer the preceding questions, it almost doesn’t matter what you come up with here, because you may or may not be able to act on it. But if you do the work to answer the preceding questions, you are well positioned to be strategic in answering this one. You may identify new and better ways to serve the broader goals of your company. You may choose to redirect resources from current work that matters less in relative importance when compared to other new possibilities. This question is the most important of the five; every great leader needs to challenge their team to do more, better, or faster over time. It is, however, inextricably linked to the previous questions if you want to generate the best strategic insights.

The bottom line: Being a strategic leader is about asking the right questions and driving the right dialog with your team. In doing so, you raise the team’s collective ability to be strategic. The more competent you become in asking these questions, the better positioned you are to drive progress for your team and your organization.

Lisa Lai serves as an adviser, consultant, and coach for some of the world’s most successful leaders and companies. She is also a moderator of global leadership development programs for Harvard Business School Publishing. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, her Blog, or her website at www.laiventures.com.

Being a Strategic Leader Is About Asking the Right Questions

Hiring an Entrepreneurial Leader


Hiring an Entrepreneurial Leader

How to identify and hire entrepreneurial leader

Entrepreneurs have become the new heroes of the business world. In the same way that Robert McNamara and his fellow Ford Motor Company “Whiz Kids” elevated general managers to star status, figures like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have made entrepreneurs the latest business icons. At Harvard Business School, where I advise the career development program, even students who plan to join blue chip firms and have no intention of ever launching start-ups would be insulted if someone told them they weren’t “entrepreneurial.” I understand why: Entrepreneurialism is highly valued in today’s labor market. Companies of all shapes and sizes aspire to be seen as highly innovative, nimble, and agile—all qualities traditionally ascribed to entrepreneurs.

Yet in their recruiting efforts, companies do not have a scientific way of separating true entrepreneurs from other talented candidates. Instead, they fall back on broad stereotypes.

In my research I’ve explored how firms can address that problem. In an effort to understand what makes entrepreneurs special, I’ve compared the psychological-testing results of more than 4,000 successful entrepreneurs from multiple countries against those of some 1,800 business leaders who described themselves as general managers but not as entrepreneurs. Unsurprisingly, the two groups had much in common. On 28 of 41 dimensions of leadership, there was little or no difference between their skills. Yet when I looked more closely, combining their skill assessments with data on their life interests and personality traits, I discovered that entrepreneurs had three distinguishing characteristics: the ability to thrive in uncertainty, a passionate desire to author and own projects, and unique skill at persuasion. I also found that many of the traits commonly associated with entrepreneurial leaders didn’t truly apply.

For instance, entrepreneurs aren’t always exceptionally creative. But they are more curious and restless. They aren’t risk seekers—but they find uncertainty and novelty motivating. In this article I’ll tackle some of the myths about entrepreneurs and explain the more nuanced reality. I’ll also offer evidence-based, practical advice on interview questions and résumé screening that hiring managers can use to distinguish entrepreneurial candidates from other high-potential talent.

Know Your Requirements

Before looking to hire entrepreneurial leaders, managers must answer an important question: Does the company really need one? Not all organizational challenges call for an entrepreneurial approach. In my research successful founders as a group scored extremely high on a scale that measures the desire for power and control—and notably higher than the nonentrepreneurial leaders. This quality can cause conflict in situations where the sharing of information and power is vital to organizational performance. What’s more, it will often not play well in organizations that have established matrix structures, need porous boundaries between working groups, or require high levels of collaboration.

Hiring managers should carefully consider the particular leadership challenge they’re recruiting for. If it’s a greenfield situation, a turnaround, or any other circumstance that demands intensive initiative on a contained project, then an entrepreneurial style is likely to add value. But if the situation involves a highly interdependent matrix of working units, you might well do better looking for a different leadership profile.

If you do conclude that an entrepreneurial leader is what your organization needs, then it’s important to understand the entrepreneurial character in a nuanced, sophisticated way. Let’s take a look now at the popular perceptions about entrepreneurship and at what the research indicates really drives the people who are good at it.


The Stereotype: Entrepreneurs are unusually creative.

The Subtler Truth: Entrepreneurs are curious seekers of adventure, learning, and opportunity.

One popular notion is that entrepreneurs and people who enjoy constantly changing, innovative environments are more creative than others. But there are many types of creativity in business. Some managers, for instance, are highly creative at fixing things that are broken and enjoy the challenge of returning a system to a previous state of optimal functioning. While it’s certainly true that entrepreneurs excel at original thinking, so do many nonentrepreneurs. In reality, what sets entrepreneurial individuals apart is something slightly different—something both broader and deeper than what is typically evoked by the word “creativity.” It’s the ability to thrive in uncertainty.

A critical aspect to this dimension is openness to new experiences. In my research, I’ve found that it is the single trait that most distinguishes leaders who are entrepreneurial from their more conventional peers.

Openness to new experiences is about having a restless need to explore and learn. It entails not just a willingness to proceed in unpredictable environments but a heightened state of motivation that occurs at the edge of the unknown and the untried. For individuals who score high on this dimension, the unknown is a source of excitement rather than anxiety.

Consider Charlotte Yates, who brought her entrepreneurial leadership style to Sprint and IBM before eventually leaving to help found the telecommunications firm Telwares. When she was in a larger corporate setting, she saw herself as taking an approach that differed from the one used by the majority of her fellow leaders. “I didn’t follow IBM’s design process and their normal chain of command, because my task would have never gotten done,” she says. “I didn’t see myself as having a tightly defined box; I didn’t see the boundaries. I was looking at a blank piece of paper and saying to myself, ‘Now, what do I want to create here?’”

Entrepreneurs enjoy the “dreaming it up” process. Like Yates, they are less bound by convention than their corporate counterparts, and they’re more likely to assume things can be done better. For this reason, they thrive in environments where there is a market opportunity but no product or service, or where there is a product but the go-to-market strategy is not clear. They relish the early stages of projects and tend to become less engaged as projects become more routinized and steady state.


The Stereotype: Entrepreneurs enjoy and seek risk.

The Subtler Truth: Entrepreneurs are more comfortable with risk.

Another prevailing view is that entrepreneurial people love risk—that they enjoy the thrill of taking chances. This is not true; entrepreneurs are not the skydivers of the business world. Like every good businessperson, they seek to minimize risk at every opportunity. However, many studies have shown that entrepreneurs have higher comfort with risk than conventional managers. In other words, when accepting risk is necessary to reach a desired goal, entrepreneurs are better at living with it and managing the anxiety that might be disabling to others. My research likewise showed that the colleagues of entrepreneurial leaders rated them significantly higher than more-traditional executives on comfort with risk.

Entrepreneurial leaders aren’t necessarily tougher and more stress-hardy than their corporate peers—in ratings of their resiliency, taken from 360 reviews, I found no significant difference between the two groups. Rather, the point that emerged was that highly unpredictable and ambiguous environments are, for entrepreneurial leaders, a source of motivation. This is a second reason they thrive in uncertainty.

Assessing the Ability to Thrive in Uncertainty

Openness to new experiences and comfort with risk are the main components of the ability to perform well in unpredictable environments, although many people misperceive the essentials to be tough-mindedness, hardiness, or resilience. Those are highly desirable qualities in a leader (and your organization’s situation may demand them), but they’re beside the point if your hunt is for an entrepreneurial leader.

Here’s what to examine instead: Has the candidate made choices that clearly favor adventure and learning over convention and minimization of risk? Examples might include choosing a less recognized college to pursue a particular passion; spending a year abroad in an unusual setting as a growth experience; opting to work for a highly innovative small company rather than a big brand-name company; vacation destinations that involve hardship but unusual experiences; living in a diverse and interesting part of a city rather than the usual professional enclaves; taking genuine risks in previous organizational roles; and taking on projects for which resources are scarce and outcomes uncertain.

When interviewed, entrepreneurial managers will ask bold questions, take the initiative in the conversation, exhibit little anxiety about fitting in or providing the desired responses, and exude sheer, almost impatient, enthusiasm. Do candidates’ answers feel safe or “rule-bound”? Don’t miss any opportunity that allows candidates to demonstrate their willingness and capacity to explore the unknown.

The following questions will help you identify candidates who will thrive in uncertainty. But don’t look for the best answers; look for the extent to which the candidate champions the value of exploration, learning, new approaches, and willingness to take on risk to achieve an important outcome.

Some interview questions to consider:

Which do you fear most: anxiety or frustration?

Are you willing to get into trouble in order to make something important happen?

Which is more valuable: instinct or wisdom? Why?

Which is more valuable: imagination or analysis? Why?

A space explorer is looking for people to colonize Mars. Have a conversation between the part of you that would say yes to this mission and the part that would say no.

We (or a competitor) decided to launch this product in this way. How could we have done it differently?

Rapidly, choose one option from each of the following word pairs. (Do not try to score these responses, but look for a general pattern.)

Consistency or Flexibility  |  Proven or Potential  |  Careful or Bold  |  Explore or Settle  |  Predictable or Possible  |  Bonus or Salary  |  Safety or Opportunity  |  Medal or Joy  |  Puzzle or Blank Canvas  |  Nimble or Steady  |  Change or Constant  |  Known or Unknown  |  Patience or Excitement  |  Frontier or Home  |  Set or Open  |  Wild or Tame  |  Variety orCertainty  |  Inherit or Create


The Stereotype: Entrepreneurs are more personally ambitious than other leaders.

The Subtler Truth: Entrepreneurs are driven by a need to own products, projects, and initiatives.

As mentioned earlier, entrepreneurial leaders, as a group, score exceptionally high on the need for power and control, and notably higher than conventional general managers (though that group scores quite high too). Intrigued by this, I interviewed entrepreneurs to learn more. I began to discern an interesting variation on the need for power often associated with entrepreneurial leaders: For them, it’s less about dominance and more about ownership. It’s not about having supremacy over subordinates or commanding respect or authority; it’s about having control over the finished product. In this way, entrepreneurs have more in common with authors and artists than with dictators.

Entrepreneurial managers are hands-on. They want to be in the middle of the buzz and hustle as a new venture, day by day, comes into the world and starts to walk, then run. They are not ones to sit in tastefully appointed corner offices moving chess pieces for a game being played out floors below them. They want to be the artisans with their hands on the wet clay. They want to take a finished piece from the kiln and say, “This is mine”—not in an egotistical or acquisitive sense but in the sense of “I shape materials that become valuable and useful things.” Long after Apple had become one of the largest companies in history, Steve Jobs still had to be part of every critical design discussion, hold prototypes in his hand, and assess every detail from gleam to heft. Power, for the entrepreneurial spirit, is about being the owner of and driving force behind an initiative.

One entrepreneurial leader I interviewed, Andrea Kimmel, CEO of Sweet Kiddles, a child-care start-up, put it this way: “I want people to see me as the person who can make ideas happen. For me, part of being the boss means that people in the organization will come to me to try to make things happen, to bring change.”

This expression of power is different from positional power (which is based on your rank), charismatic power (influencing people through your personality), or expert power (when others defer to your knowledge). Entrepreneurial leaders do not see themselves as exerting power from above. They see their role as being at the center of a circle rather than the top of a pyramid. An entrepreneur may or may not be charismatic, but his method is not to inspire the masses at the annual convention and then step off the stage and retreat to the corner office. He wants to have a hand in the immediate game.

That is not to say that entrepreneurial leaders do not display aspects of authority, expertise, or charisma—many do. But the aspect that unites them is not the desire to be a decision maker. For such leaders, a venture is an expression to the world of who they are.

Assessing Passion for Ownership

To find out who has a hunger for hands-on involvement in projects, from start to finish, try to tease out the following: Has the candidate been a founder rather than a joiner? Instead of running for class office, for instance, did she start a new club, campus initiative, or business? (Points should be awarded for a pattern of seeking out leadership of any kind, however.) Did she make early career choices that would give her creative control? Has her path been atypical or opportunistic rather than one of lockstep promotions? Has she been “in charge of her life” from an early age? Has she been an entrepreneur, successful or not, at any stage?

Then watch for these signs: Does the candidate “own” the interview by starting to sketch out a vision for how the demands of the position could be met? Does she (ideally without arrogance) participate almost right away as a mutual “owner” of any problem at hand? Does she probe for assurances that she will have the requisite autonomy to lead the new venture?

Some interview questions to consider:

Which business leaders do you admire? Why?

What do you take pride in?

What causes new ventures to fail more often: a lack of leadership or a lack of collaboration?

Which is a better attitude for a business leader: passion or professionalism?

Psychologically, do you take work home with you?

How much of who you are is what you do at work?

Rapidly, choose one option from each of the following word pairs. (Again, do not try to score these responses, but look for a general pattern.)

Own or Manage  |  Suggest or Direct  |  Lead or Participate  |  Shape or Control  |  Captain or Navigator  |  Ownership or Title  |  Grace or Power  |  Complete or Reflect  |  Aspire or Accomplish  |  Membership or Possession  |  Knowledge or Power  |  President or Minister  |  Profit or Equity


The Stereotype: Entrepreneurs are natural salespeople.

The Truth: This one is correct.

My research corroborated many earlier studies that highlighted the importance of confidence and persuasiveness among entrepreneurial leaders. When it’s crucial to get somewhere or make something happen, but it’s not clear how to do so, you must, first, believe that you can reach your goal and, second, convince all the people whose help you need that you can, too—and very often, with little or no evidence to back you up.

Entrepreneurs must be able to sell their vision to prospective team members before they have anything else to offer. Many have to sell their ideas to initial investors and later to venture capitalists and joint-venture partners. And all entrepreneurs must be able to sell to the customer.

The same applies to people spearheading new ventures within larger corporate entities. The renowned U.S. automobile executive Lee Iacocca was an entrepreneurial leader who spent his entire career in large corporate settings. Though he’d been trained as an engineer, he switched to a sales track early on, and it was his sales ability that made him exceptional. His persuasive skill helped him at every turn. Two of his sales feats assumed mythic status: Convincing Ford’s leadership that the firm should make a large investment in the development of a lower-priced sports car (which led to the phenomenal Mustang success story) and getting Congress to pass an unprecedented act bailing out Chrysler.

Assessing Persuasiveness

Evaluating persuasiveness is different from evaluating the ability to thrive in uncertainty and the passion for ownership. Most of the evidence will come directly from interactions with candidates. Leaders high on this dimension will exude confidence and genuinely convince you that they can get the job done. Their confidence won’t feel like bluster or hype but will seem well-founded. They’ll probe the relevant issues and potential courses of action in a steady and intelligent way. They will be honest about the unknowns of the situation but, at the same time, not waver about their ability to overcome contingencies.

Here are some interview questions about past behavior that may be helpful, although the answers should be weighted less than a candidate’s actual behavior and attitudes during the selection process. Essentially, you should assess this entrepreneurial leadership dimension as if you were hiring for an executive sales position.

Some interview questions to consider:

What experience have you had with sales?

Could you tell me about a particularly challenging sales experience you’ve had?

Could you describe a life situation when it was extremely important that you change the opinion of others?

How does persuading a group of executive peers differ from selling to a customer?


Exceptional leaders have much in common, and most can adapt to the demands of whatever organizational challenges they face. Leaders who are truly entrepreneurial, however, excel when a situation demands complete ownership of a venture or problem, become more motivated as uncertainty increases, and have a remarkable ability to persuade others to follow their course of action. This profile can be problematic in complex organizations where established business units need to work intensely together, across boundaries, and leaders need to share both information and power on a daily basis. But if your organization needs someone to turn innovative ideas into full-blown, standalone enterprises—or invent and bring to life completely new models—it may be time to hire an entrepreneurial leader. And by following the advice in this article, you can make sure you actually find what you’re looking for.

Hiring an Entrepreneurial Leader

A version of this article appeared in the March–April 2017 issue (pp.84–93) of Harvard Business Review.

Timothy Butler is a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and senior adviser to its Career and Professional Development program. He is the author of Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Discovering Your Next Career Path (Harvard Business School Press, 2010).

7 Best Year-End Rituals for Leaders

7 Best Year-End Rituals for Leaders

These rituals will tune up your psychology and set you up for success in 2017.

As a leader you’re probably already neck-deep in end-of-the-year planning, forecasting growth, nailing down budgets, and setting targets. All of which is necessary to set yourself up for a great 2017.

But it’s not sufficient.

If you really want to soar in the coming year, end-of-the-year planning isn’t just about getting your strategy straight and your financial house in order. You also need to get your head right, and that means tuning up your psychology, renewing your mental resources, and recommitting to your deepest values.

In short, you don’t just need to review and reflect on business matters. You also need to review and reflect on your life. And the way to do that is with rituals.

“‘Rituals’ sounds a little hippie dippie to me,” you might say.”I’m not really the chimes and chanting type.” But whether you’re a self-help devotee or consider yourself the hardest-nosed realist out there, here’s the truth: Rituals work. Science proves that taking concrete actions to mark a new state of mind really does affect our feelings and behavior, even if that’s totally irrational. (Do I really need to convince you that humans aren’t entirely rational creatures?)

So what end-of-year rituals are best for leaders? The internet is littered with suggestions, though the best bet might just be whatever feels most natural and effective for you. Here are a few suggestions to get you thinking.

1. Give thanks, in writing.

Gratitude is one of the best studied and most powerful happiness boosters out there. Counting your blessings strengthens your positivity muscles, putting you on a more optimistic footing for the year ahead. My Inc.com colleague John Boitnott has suggestedone powerful way leaders (or anyone really) could put that insight to use this time of year: Take some time to send your customers or team hand-written thank-you notes.

2. Declutter your space, and your brain.

Changing your physical environment can have a surprisingly profound effect on your mentality, so one way to convince your brain it’s time to turn a new page and leave the burdens of the past behind is to physically chuck some stuff. You could opt for this comprehensive holiday clean-out plan or simply designate an area of your home, office, or life to ruthlessly declutter.

3. Counteract any lingering suckage.

For many folks, 2016 was a pretty rough year. If you’re among those struggling to regain your mental balance after taking a beating in the past 12 months, entrepreneur and financial coach Denise Duffield-Thomas suggests this straightforward ritual to combat the suckage and reclaims your positivity.

Grab a partner, she instructs, and then sit down with a piece of paper and start completing this sentence: “This year, I’m proud of … ” If you run out of steam, your partner can gently prod you with “What else?” Keep going until you have thought of 30 to 50 brags, big or small, business or personal.

Suddenly, 2016 won’t seem so uniformly awful after all, and you’ll be reminded that even in bad times, you managed to salvage some good. Now imagine what you can do in 2017.

4. Remind yourself how much you’ve learned.

Just like you probably accomplished more this year than you remember, you also probably learned more than you realize. But the key to getting the most out of that new knowledge is actually putting it to use. This ritual from coach Christi Heisted can help.

“Cull your notes from the conferences, classes, and webinars you’ve attended throughout the year, as well as the books you’ve read. Summarize your key learnings and set your top 3-5 action steps. Knowledge is great, but knowledge plus implementation makes you unstoppable,” she writes.

5. Make peace with your failures (and your enemies).

While counting your blessings in various ways is a powerful way to end the year, it also helps to put to bed any conflicts and regrets you’ve racked up too. Thought Catalog offers several good suggestions on how to do this.

For instance, try forgiving an enemy. “Forgiveness doesn’t mean welcoming someone back into your life. It doesn’t even necessarily mean contacting them again. It just means making the conscious decision to let go of any anger, resentment and blame that you’ve been holding onto. It means accepting that we’re all fallible people, and allowing ourselves to head into the new year with peace in relation to that fact,” explains the blog. Science suggests this will do wonders for your own mental health.

Another idea from Thought Catalog is to face your own failures from the previous year head on. “It’s tough to make it through the year without a single failure. But rather than dragging that beaten horse into the New Year alongside you, have the strength and the audacity before this year ends to let it go. To accept that you have failed. To let disappointment sink in, but also to revel in the freedom it allows you,” the post suggests.

6. Learn to expect the unexpected.

It’s easy after something happens to feel that it was inevitable, but it’s only hindsight that’s 20/20. Remind yourself of that fact and make space in your life for surprises with one more cool ritual from Thought Catalog. “Make a concrete list of all the places life has taken you in the past year that you didn’t expect — and let it serve as a reminder that the coming year will likely be full of surprises, too,” the site advises.

7. Light a (literal) fire.

In many parts of the country, a New Year’s fire is a good idea simply to keep away the cold, but you could also use that cozy fireplace for ritualistic purposes. Why not write down your fears and burn them to cinders before the clock strikes midnight?

You can even make it a family affair (with proper safety supervision), suggests Mindbodygreen. “You can buy fly wish paper. Have your kids write down on one piece of paper what they want to let go of, and on another piece of paper what they want to manifest (for themselves, for others, and for the planet). Burn the paper and watch it fly into the universe,” notes the post. A fireplace works perfectly well too, it adds.

7 Best Year-End Rituals for Leaders

3 Ways See Yourself Bigger–And Help Others See It, Too

3 Ways See Yourself Bigger–And Help Others See It, Too

By being proactive in these ways, not only will you be seen as “bigger,” you’ll actually become the next-level leader you want to be.

You’ve accomplished a lot in your career, you’re eager to move to the next level – but how do you get your colleagues and superiors to see you in your new role as a leader when they still see you in your old role?

For example, you want to be seen as strategic and visionary, but others see you as someone they can rely on to “get things done.” Or, you want to be involved early in important conversations, but others pull you in on an “as needed basis.”

So how do you get other people to shift their perspective of you, to see you as the leader you want to be?

Many leaders struggle to change others’ perceptions of them simply because they don’t realize they can influence the way they are seen. Here are three ways you can get others to see you as the leader you are:

See yourself bigger. Don’t let your own self-doubt hold you back. If your self-perception needs a boost, spend time with your strengths. Remember what it is you do especially well and what you want to do more of.

Step into bigger shoes. In several companies where I coach and speak, the way to get promoted is to act the part of a position for six months before you get the title. If you can prove yourself to be an effective leader at that next level by doing the things next-level-leaders do, then and only then will you be eligible for the actual post. Hold yourself to this standard and play the part of the role you want, whether that means contributing in new ways, speaking up with more courage and conviction, or sharing innovative ideas.

Tell others how you want them to view you. It sounds like this: “I’ve been a salesperson in this organization for a long time, but I’d like to take on more of a leadership role.” Follow it up with requests to get involved in higher-level activities, or share your ambitions so others can help pave the way.

By being proactive in these ways, not only will you be seen as “bigger,” you’ll actually become the next-level leader you want to be. Take a moment to imagine if your colleagues and superiors viewed you in your new role. You would be able to elevate yourself into the kind of position and reputation you want to have, as someone essential to the leadership team who can help drive the direction of the company or lead a project to a successful outcome. You would be having fun, contributing and engaging with others – instead of striving and driving so hard every day to just get yourself noticed.

3 Ways See Yourself Bigger–And Help Others See It, Too

3 Ways to Get High Performance From the Entire Organization

3 Ways to Get High Performance From the Entire Organization

3 Ways to Get High Performance From the Entire Organization

Start by focusing on the positive

Studies have shown that humans process negative and positive experiences differently. Negative experiences tend to stick in the brain while positive ones bounce out. Is it human nature to focus on the negative in all aspects of our lives? What keeps leaders up at night?

Things like figuring out how to tweak a business model, how to focus on “pain points”, and how to fix the things that are broken in the organization seem to preoccupy our thinking.

Whether explicit or implicit, every business is founded with the goal of being the best. After all, no one invests his or her time and money with the stated intent of being mediocre, right?

With the intent of producing the best product or service, leaders spend much of their time analyzing results to fix the issues that cause their business distress.

But why are we always so focused on what’s NOT right? It’s partly human nature, partly habit, and we are just drawn to solve the biggest breakdowns in the business.

We seek out the rush of solving the issues. The problem is that when we do this, we neglect to focus on what actually is working. And that’s where the real opportunity lies.

What would happen if you stopped looking for the things that aren’t working and started looking for the things going well?

What if you spent time discovering and replicating the strong areas of the business on broader scale? Before long you’d wind up with an organization full of “what’s working” examples and a lot less of “what’s not.”

You know where these high performing spots are, but what are you doing to leverage them? Leaders often assume the best performers have natural talent and skills and that best practices are being shared.

Yet, this isn’t necessarily the case. Usually, the best performers do not even realize they’re doing anything great or different from the rest. So the odds of any best-practice sharing are slim to none.

Why isn’t anyone digging deeper to find out exactly what these high performers are doing? Why is the business not set up to scale the new approaches uncovered by high performers?

Simplify and Implement

While it’s easy to identify who your high performers are, finding out what makes them successful might take a bit more sleuthing. Your high performers think they’re just doing their jobs, unaware that they have practices, habits, knowledge, and skills that should be replicated by others.

An even greater secret is that high performers often figure out what to stop doing or not do at all to achieve extraordinary results.

So, how do you decode the mystery of high performers?

  1. Find your sparks. Define the high-performance areas that really matter to you. Is it customer satisfaction? Sales growth? Productivity? Then, take a look at that specific area of your business. Is there a group of people doing similar activities? Can you rank or chart their performance? This is how you can see trends that will reveal those areas that can give the rest of the business its spark.
  2. Change your mindset – the greatest growth can come from within. We tend to believe that the bigger wins will come from the newer or bigger ideas. What we forget is that the cost and time to come up with a new market, business model, product, or service is usually significant, while the cost and risk to replicate something that has already been proven is little to none. Rather than encouraging your people to “reinvent the wheel” or create a new way of doing things, consider rewarding your people who replicate the best results that are already in practice. After all, if something is working well, you know that if scaled it should continue to yield the same, only greater, outcomes.
  3. Use your high performers as the teachers. Enlist your high performers as partners in scaling their “secret sauce” among their peers. It’s much more effective to have successful people act as mentors than it is for you to just tell employees what needs to happen.

When you feel compelled to spend all of your time fixing the problems, remember these simple tips:

· Focus on the high performers.

· Uncover the drivers of high performance.

· Simplify for mass rollout so that it’s applicable to everyone.

· Scale the secret sauce throughout the organization.

Leaders, this is your call to action. Highlight the best stuff and the people who make it happen. Then, help them bring their knowledge and practices to everyone in the organization. The returns of replicating what works are far more astounding than simply fixing what’s broken.

3 Ways to Get High Performance From the Entire Organization

6 Secrets Smart Leaders Employ to Achieve Work-Life Balance

6 Secrets Smart Leaders Employ to Achieve Work-Life Balance

6 Secrets Smart Leaders Employ to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Maintaining peak performance at work is often stressful and demanding. Responsibilities and deadlines can easily bleed over into a team member’s personal life. And the result can be anything from health problems, to burnout, to job dissatisfaction.

Related: The Truth About Work-Life Balance

It’s in a leader’s best interest, then, to ensure the team is healthy, energetic and engaged in order to surpass company goals and maintain top productivity.

This starts with establishing a strong work ethic without infringing on too much personal time. Savvy leaders employ the following six secrets to help both their teams and themselves reach a delicate but successful work-life balance.

1. Lead by example.

Seeing their manager working 80 hours a week establishes the impression among employees that they should, too. Leaders, as much as any individual team member, need time off to recharge and enjoy personal time.

While it is often tempting for busy managers to work around the clock, through holidays and vacation times, they must remember that their actions set the tone for their employees.

2. Don’t reward workaholics.

Positively affirming team members who constantly stay late, take work home and work through the weekends is not a smart move for leaders trying to encourage a good work-life balance. If management is seen as viewing these actions in a positive light, eventually that will become the norm.

The result will be that the work-life balance will suffer for everyone involved. While special projects requiring extra work are bound to come up periodically, weekend work and after-hours assignments should not be the norm and should not be rewarded.

3. Encourage vacation time.

It pays for employees to enjoy ample time away from their jobs in order to relax, pursue outside interests and connect with family and friends. A manager who proudly boasts, “Bob hasn’t taken a vacation day since 2013” probably doesn’t realize that Bob’s performance has slowly deteriorated.

This unfortunate philosophy is rampant. Business writer and travel enthusiast Lea Lane, for example, has pointed to research saying that 429 million vacation days expire every year in the United States. And that’s a waste: Companies offer paid time off so employees can de-stress and take advantage of personal time. And good leaders encourage and enforce this.

At Amerisleep, for example, we offer all salaried employees unlimited PTO since we trust they will take the time they need to fully rest and recharge before returning to the office.

In addition, managers should respect employees on vacation and avoid contacting them except in the most dire of emergencies. Being completely disconnected allows team members to totally unwind and return to work engaged and invigorated.

Related: Adopt These 12 Habits for a Better Work-Life Balance

4. Formulate work-life integration.

Successful business leaders will understand there is a gray area within the work-life balance paradigm. According to a poll by Time, 42 percent of full-time U.S. employees positively view the use of technology to connect to work after hours.

Millennials, especially, do not mind answering an email at night or shooting out a work text over the weekend. What’s key here is to review performance as a whole, and seek to understand what energizes your employees and what burns them out. If workers are happy answering email when they should otherwise unplug, reward them with benefits they may be more excited about.

5. Adopt time-saving technology.

While technology — computers, tablets and smartphones — has increased each employee’s connection to work, it also holds valuable solutions for managing work-life balance. Company directors can help their teams be more productive, while still respecting employees’ personal time: They can do this by researching and implementing applications and software solutions that help workers more efficiently complete projects.

Getting the most out of employees during work hours minimizes the need to ask them to grind after-hours or on the weekends. In short, technology is invaluable in helping staff balance personal life with work life.

6. Offer workplace flexibility

As mentioned, about work-life integration, many employees thrive when workplace flexibility is available to them. The 2015 Workplace Flexibility Study found that 87 percent of human resources leaders surveyed said they believed that workplace flexibility programs lead to employee satisfaction.

Team members are less likely to feel burdened and burned out by working an occasional night or a few hours over the weekend if they know they can take off early on Friday for a doctor’s appointment or a child’s recital. Telecommuting is another key area for flexibility that leaders can utilize to help their employees with work-life balance.

Clever leaders recognize they will reap much greater productivity out of happy, engaged employees. Achieving healthy work-life balance is a crucial part of creating a work atmosphere that is positive and productive.

Related: Why We All Need to Give Up on Work-Life Balance Once and for All

By embracing these six strategies for achieving work-life balance, managers can forge a stronger relationship with their team, build and retain more A-players and reach and surpass both short- and long-range goals.

6 Secrets Smart Leaders Employ to Achieve Work-Life Balance

10 Things the Most Successful CEOs Say to Themselves Every Morning

10 Things the Most Successful CEOs Say to Themselves Every Morning

10 Things the Most Successful CEOs Say to Themselves Every Morning

The best part of waking up…

How you start your day determines how much success you’ll find in your future. Here are some positive and inspiring messages to start your mornings with.

Personal growth
  • Personal growth: If you improve yourself today, you’ll be able to accomplish a great deal of good in the future. It’s important to constantly search for ways to do better.
Be as effective as possible
  • Be as effective as possible: If you’re faced with a workload that exceeds your availability, focus on managing priorities. Decide what’s most important, and cultivate the discipline to commit to it through a forest of competing tasks.
Make yourself accessible
  • Make yourself accessible: Maintaining and building relationships takes time and patience. It may not feel efficient to spend time in a personal discussion with a colleague, but it may end up being the best investment you make all day.
Find the silver lining
  • Find the silver lining: If your workplace is infected with negativity, it falls to the leader to reverse that trend and create a culture of positivity. Be clear that you expect others to do the same, and the result is excellence.
Never accept mediocrity
  • Never accept mediocrity:No one reaches success by staying within the bounds of what feels safe. Keep making new, audacious goals to keep your passion ignited. Push through barriers, and avoid words like “can’t” or “impossible.”
Embrace your mistakes
  • Embrace your mistakes: The most successful leaders are engaged in a constant process of learning, growth, and improvement. Always treat failure as a teacher, rather than an endpoint.
Influence is power
  • Influence is power: Successful leaders know how much help it took them to get there, and they understand how interdependent we all are. When possible, remember to offer support and guidance to others around you.
I will appreciate people
  • Give your thanks: Even children understand the importance of saying “thank you.” People feel empowered when they feel they’re being noticed and appreciated.
Character is at the core of any success worth having
  • Character is at the core of any success worth having: We all have three versions of character: one we exhibit, one that reflects how we think of ourselves, and the one that’s real. The more closely aligned these are, the more authentic our leadership becomes.
Don't get jaded
  • Don’t get jaded: People at the top have cultivated a genuine appreciation for their success–an attitude that keeps them humble and open. It also adds depth to everything they achieve.

10 Things the Most Successful CEOs Say to Themselves Every Morning

18 Women Influencing a New Generation of Entrepreneurs

18 Women Influencing a New Generation of Entrepreneurs

18 Women Influencing a New Generation of Entrepreneurs

These powerful, intelligent and inspiring women are having a major impact.

It might still be a man’s world in so many ways but with women already running Germany, Britain and perhaps soon the United States for the first time, the world is increasingly looking fairer… and more feminine.

And the same thing is happening on the Internet. While the people who write code are still overwhelmingly male, many of those using technology to share ideas and generate influence are women. In no particular order, here are eighteen accomplished female influencers who are leading the way across a wide range of markets.

1. Jana Francis

Jana Francis started her career in advertising and marketing in the start-up capital of Silicon Valley. Returning to work from maternity leave, her move into entrepreneurism was driven by a desire to find baby product bargains. With a partner, she set upSteals.com and has led the way in helping others to build businesses in e-commerce.

2. Jessica Northey

Not all influencers are aimed at business-builders. Jessica Northey grew up with country music and now uses social media to introduce country stars and their songs to audiences around the world. For Jessica, holding influence means telling the truth, making it matter and never being boring. She follows that precept to influence the tastes of music-lovers.

3. Dr. Shawne Duperon

Shawne Duperon is a six-time Emmy-award winner who describes herself as a “good gossip researcher.” She’s spent a decade studying gossip, recently earning her Doctorate in the subject. She examines what causes people to share ideas and solutions. Her Project: Forgive is a non-profit leadership foundation that focuses on forgiveness.

4. Jennifer Walsh

Jennifer Walsh is the founder of the Beauty Bar. Launched in 1998, the channel soon became a series of stores and a weekly TV show launching hundreds of beauty brands. Since selling the company in 2010, Jennifer has been speaking and consulting with small businesses about growth strategies and implementation programs. While a number of women entrepreneurs have built their businesses in beauty and fashion, Jennifer’s influence applies to every business owner in every sector.

5. Tamara McCleary

Tamara McCleary’s RelationShift marketing method is a set of twelve sessions designed to help entrepreneurs transform their businesses and their lives. Her lessons are drawn from twenty years of business-building during which she learned as much from her struggles as from her successes. Tamara’s charismatic delivery amplifies her ability to help brands, explaining how to build relationships to enhance business.

6. Shama Hyder

While many influencers had to feel their way into influencing and adapt themselves to the new communication tools, Shama Hyder is a millennial who grew up with them. She’s the CEO of online marketing and digital PR company The Marketing Zen Group, and has written and spoken about “the zen of social media marketing.” For other millennials looking to build a digital marketing platform, she’s the model to emulate.

7. Sue B. Zimmerman

Sue Zimmerman says that she helps business owners to find success on Instagram but she actually does a lot more than that. As a successful entrepreneur prior to the dawn of Instagram, she helps companies create a complete social media strategy and she leverages her entrepreneurial experience to turn Instagram into a marketing channel.

8. Jen Groover

Jen Groover‘s breakout success was the Butler Bag, a compartmentalized solution to the chaos that defined most women’s handbags. Jen turned that success into a lifestyle brand, and through a PBS special, a book and her Leader Girlz brand, taught young girls how to empower themselves through play. She’s a brand consultant, a partner in a new sports management company, and she continues to speak and share her ideas of productivity, leadership and empowerment.

9. Shirley Husar

Shirley Husar has a background in real estate and in technology. She’s a Republican party activist and was appointed by former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be a board member for the state’s geologists and geophysicists. But it’s her work as the CEO of Urban Game Changers that allows her to amplify her influence. She encourages people to make a difference in their communities through blogging, videos, social media and more.

10. Ann Handley

Ann Handley’s background is in business journalism and editing but as the Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, she is one of the Internet’s leading experts on content marketing. She knows how to create and manage digital content that builds relationships for organizations and for individuals. Ann was also a co-founder of ClickZ.com, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news.

11. Amy Schmittauer

Amy Schmittauer describes herself as a “vlogger-in-chief.” As the host of Savvy Sexy Social, she’s setting the standard for YouTube consultants. Her channel has generated nearly 3 million views and her entire portfolio of work on YouTube has created 10 million views for the companies for which she has consulted.

12. Virginia Salas Kastilio

Watch Virginia Salas Kastilio’s videos and you might think that she’s offering a combination of happiness and performance art… neither of which seems to have much to do with business-building. But as GiniCanBreathe, Kastilio has spearheaded the use of video content and Snapchat for brands. She consults for firms and she works as both an influencer and creator. Hard-headed business-building and artistic freedom can work together.

13. Rachel Martin

This mother of seven has found purpose, and a large audience, in sharing the raw ups and downs of motherhood. As the owner of FindingJoy.net, Rachel Martin’s writing inspire moms by pulling off the mask and validating with great transparency and authenticity that motherhood is indeed the world’s most challenging, and rewarding, role. Rachel also is partner in Blogging Concentrated, an organization that helps business owners via their podcast and live training events.

14. Lori Ruff

Originally leading the way to helping others leverage LinkedIn, Lori Ruff is now the Chief Brand Officer at ALPFA.org, an organization dedicated to empowering and developing Latino leaders. Her work as an author, speaker and social media evangelist is helping members of this group find their passions and build their own paths to success.

15. Chelsea Krost

Chelsea Krost created her first radio show, Teen Talk Live, when she was just sixteen. The show spread, CBS covered her mission trip to Africa, and she now runs her own television show, The Chelsea Krost Show. Its diet of trends and issues focus on millennials, a group she also addresses in her weekly Twitter chat #MillennialTalk. Even more influential than the topics of discussion though are the opportunities that Chelsea has shown are available through today’s broadcasting channels.

16. Ayelet Noff

Anyone who has ever tried to make content go viral can only admire people who have set themselves that goal and made it happen. Especially when the content is an app that does… nothing. That’s what Ayelet Noff achieved with the app Yo. As the founder and joint-CEO of PR firm Blonde 2.0, she’s now showing the world how today’s public relations work.

17. Olga Kay

Olga Kay’s first career was as a circus juggler. She moved to the U.S. from Russia to work for Ringling Brothers but found that YouTube offered more opportunities and bigger audiences than she could find in a big tent. Her first videos showed off her juggling skills but soon she was branching into the comedy and sketches that turned her into a YouTube celebrity. From there, it was only a short step to her own branded clothing line, Mooshwalks, and a leader in communicating opportunities available to young, female entrepreneurs and content creators.

18. Kim Coles

Kim Coles is an actress who has appeared in shows as varied as Living Single, Frasier and Six Feet Under. She also presents a talk show celebrating African-American women and she’s using comedy to deliver inspiration through a program called Open the G.I.F.T.S. Her talks, events and products help others to find their talents and feel gratitude for their abilities.

18 Women Influencing a New Generation of Entrepreneurs

Real Leaders Create Other Leaders

Real Leaders Create Other Leaders

Real Leaders Create Other Leaders

According to Gerard Adams, the more that you empower others, the more opportunity manifests.

If you’re under the age of 30, it’s highly likely that Elite Daily articles populate your social media feeds on a weekly basis. The online news platform was created by millennials for millennials and around 2014, became known as “The Voice of Generation Y.” Two short years after its inception, it was sold to the Daily Mail for $50 million dollars – making its initial investor and co-founder, Gerard Adams, entrepreneurial royalty.

Recently, I decided to pay Gerard a visit to see what he was up to – and let’s just say, the address he gave me was not in the swankiest part of town.

When I got to the area, I immediately spotted his building – looking somewhat out of place with its sleek glass exterior, which revealed a bustling, futuristic inside. This is Fownders – his new tech incubator that cultivates cutting-edge entrepreneurs in under-served communities in a convivial atmosphere.

“The Elite Daily journey was absolutely amazing for me – as an entrepreneur, it was a dream come true,” says Gerard. “But no one sees the 13 years it took me – the ups and downs as an entrepreneur it took me to get that – they just know about the success. And I really want to share this knowledge with young entrepreneurs out there.”

Fownders is a non-profit organization whose mission is to grow the local startup ecosystem – with the ultimate goal of establishing Newark, New Jersey as a hub for innovation. Adams modeled the business after major Silicon Valley incubators and brought together a team of trailblazers and branding professionals to support the projects of the entrepreneurs who use the space. Each entrepreneur is offered a free workspace, mentorship, and (from what I heard from every one of them I talked to) a network that has significantly moves their projects forward.

Adams vehemently believes that real leaders create and inspire other leaders, which is why he’s especially passionate about Fownders. And Adams has attracted to Fownders a number of allies to supports its cause, with appearances from New Jersey government officials who support the expansion of innovation in the area as well as entrepreneurs Ryan Blair of network-marketing giant Visalus, bestselling author Ryan Holiday and Jordan French of 3D pizza printing media darling, BeeHex.

“Our generation has so many opportunities – we can literally make history. It starts with us leading the way and not being selfish,” Adams says. “The more that you empower others and you embrace team, I guarantee you will manifest more opportunity.”

But how do you begin to foster a leader?

Gerard says – it’s all about really getting to know them first.  “It starts with connection,” he explains. “A lot of entrepreneurs come in here and they immediately want to pitch me their idea, but I think the best thing to do is to really get to know the person. What have you done? What have you been through? I want to know about that. And then where you’re going – what’s your why? What drives you? Because that’s really important to your idea and how you’re going to execute it.”

Fownders has ten companies being incubated including Shock and Awe, carbon.vc, Slingshot VR, Avawrist and edtech company, Seed. “I’m building an ecosystem with social media, rapid prototyping and services that help launch these new businesses,” says Adams. “We start off with the basics in our program: Emotional quotient, mindset, leadership skills and collaboration and then we get into growth hacking, digital marketing and sales. Last we coach around structure, SWOT analysis and how to test, deploy and optimize.” As its inspiration, Fownders is deploying Tony Robbins’s strategies to launch a generation of able entrepreneurs. It is further confirmation that we’re all more powerful working on a great team of leaders – and it behooves us to foster them.

Here’s our full interview on business leadership on The Unicorn in the Room.

Real Leaders Create Other Leaders

How You Can Be a Great Leader and Not Just a Boss

How You Can Be a Great Leader and Not Just a Boss

This story first appeared on The Muse, a Web destination with exciting job opportunities and expert career advice.

Are you playing at being a boss, or are you being a leader–as in throwing your whole self into helping bring out the best in the people around you? People who play the role are dime a dozen, and even the best of them eventually wear out the people around them. But leaders know they have a chance to positively impact the lives of others.

Every healthy manager-direct report relationship’s guided by a set of two contracts. The paper contract is the job description. It explains the expectations of a role and what the person needs to do to do in order to succeed in the role. (It’s important, but it’s boring and it over-simplifies the situation.)

The unwritten contract’s based on mutual trust and respect–characteristics that are too often overlooked by bosses. Psychologist and pioneer in workplace culture Harry Levinson called this agreement the “Psychological Contract” and it’s what separates the great leaders from those who are just climbing the ladder with no regard for the people below them.

It consists of the following:

1. The Relationship’s a True Partnership

The best managers view their relationship with their employees as partnerships. They expect people to do their job, while respectfully treating them like the unique individuals they are. In exchange, they work to help the employee grow into their strengths and natural talents, even if that means eventually losing the employee because he or she is promoted or decides to leave the company altogether.

2. The Relationship Is Honest

The employee then rewards his or her manager’s support and respect by doing his or her best and telling the truth, even when talking about the truth feels uncomfortable. That means, even if you disagree with your boss, you speak up.

3. The Relationship Involves Acknowledging Both Parties Are Human Beings

Someone who’s “just a boss” only cares that the work gets done and has no interest in what it took to get there, the struggles that went on, or any tools that would’ve made it easier. Whereas, the best managers care about the role and the person who’s doing it-;and it’s their attention to each person that shows their commitment to being a leader. They don’t just want results, they want to help facilitate the process.

How to Make the Leap

New or overwhelmed managers might wonder: “But how can I treat every person as a unique individual when I am overwhelmed with tasks from my own boss, who most definitely doesn’t care about what kind of relationship I have with my employees? She just wants me to get the job done.” And it’s true-;it’s not easy, especially if you supervise a lot of people. But there are a few things you can do:

Get to Know Your Team

Learn about your people and what is important to them. For example, some will appreciate it when you ask how their weekend or time off was-;others find those sorts of questions too personal. Take it upon yourself to find one thing (and one way) to communicate with each person about something that’s not related to the work at hand.

Focus on the “Growing Edge”

The “growing edge” is that elusive skill or talent that your direct reports haven’t yet mastered but are working toward. Noticing people’s progress on something they care about actually helps them make even more progress. So when you see a milestone passed, no matter how small, say something, out loud.

Share Their Impact

Show people how their work makes a positive difference-;especially those who work behind the scenes. Employees who spend a lot of time in low visibility roles can easily feel anonymous. Remind them how what they are doing helps not only the organization, but other people.

As Moe Carrick writes in the article, Why Truly Effective Leaders Love to Lead, those who are best suited to for leadership roles do three things: “1. They see their jobs as connectors and enablers of the success of others. 2. They consciously create space for people to be themselves. 3. They openly participate with their whole hearts,” meaning they lead with their heads and their hearts.

Leaders and bosses have only one thing in common: Eventually their employees’ leave. The difference is those who work for leaders are likely to get promoted while the people who work for bosses eventually get fed up and quit (or, worse, stay and hate their jobs). If you want to see your team succeed and thrive, take the time to see them for the unique individuals they are, the payoffs will benefit everyone.

How You Can Be a Great Leader and Not Just a Boss

6 Must-Read Books Recommended by Top Leaders

6 Must-Read Books Recommended by Top Leaders

6 Must-Read Books Recommended by Top Leaders

Reading is the process wherein someone else’s experiences, lessons learned, and ideas transfer themselves into your mind.

The benefits of reading–even just six minutes of it–have been statistically proven repeatedly over the last century alone. Reading increases the likelihood of a stronger brain as you age, helps build empathyimproves social relationships in work and personal life, leads to overall health benefits for both body and mind, and much more.

Whatever problems, struggles, or circumstances you find yourself in, odds are somebody, somewhere, has written about it–or something close to it. So whether you’re struggling to motivate yourself or your team, trying to find ways to turn your passions into a profession, or wondering what it takes to make your ideas a reality, picking up the right book could be just what you need.

To do what those who have come before you have done–to accomplish what Elon Musk, Bill Gates, or Meg Whitman have done–read what they read.

How Not to Be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg

Bill Gates has recommended a lot of books over the years as part of his blog–including his self-proclaimed favorite book, The Catcher in the Rye. Yet one book that stands out among his collections is Ellenberg’s How Not to Be Wrong. In the book, Eilenberg delves into the world around us from behind the lens of mathematics. If that sounds daunting, consider the book’s description on Amazon:

The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us how terribly limiting this view is: Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do–the whole world is shot through with it.

Twelve Against the Gods, by William Bolitho

Elon Musk famously caused a mass rush to find this 1929 book when he told reporters it was his current reading focus. If you can find a copy of the now out-of-print book (Amazon currently lists it at nearly $600), Twelve Against the Godscovers the lives of 12 individuals from history who developed a remarkable amount of success in their lifetimes: from Napoleon, Casanova, and Woodrow Wilson to Charles XII and Isadora Duncan. “It’s really quite good,” Musk declared.

The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton M. Christensen

Steve Jobs was a voracious reader, and one book he kept on his shelf was The Innovator’s Dilemma, which helped Jobs understand the importance of innovation within an organization. Too many companies–and individuals–rely on whatever first brings them success. Thanks to Christensen’s book, Jobs knew that the success of the iPod would have to be leapfrogged if Apple was to truly succeed; Jobs knew it was merely a stepping stone. Which, as we now know, led to the success of the iPhone and iPad.

Playing to Win, by A.G. Lafley

When HP CEO Meg Whitman encouraged all 300,000 or so employees of the company to read Lafley’s Playing to Win, she did so for good reason. The book covers what tradeoffs must be considered in order to “play to win” in a connected and highly competitive world. In an earnings call, Whitman explained why the book was so valuable to her and her teams:

There are many ways to deploy strategy in companies. This is one I found to be particularly helpful because organizations have a lot of trouble making decisions, particularly at our scale…. This notion of where to play, what countries, what market segments, what products, and where not to play because we can’t do it profitably, has been a very good discipline.

The Beginning of Infinity, by David Deutsch

In 2015, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a goal to read a new book every other week. For the last book in his experiment, Zuckerberg chose Deutsch’s The Beginning of Infinity, a book which, according to Amazon’s description, “argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe–and that improving them is the basic regulating principle of all successful human endeavor.”

Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg

Cisco executive chairman and former CEO John Chambers was so inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In that he gave a copy of the book to each member of his senior leadership team. In a company email, Chambers explained:

After reading Lean In and listening to Sheryl, I realize that, while I believe I am relatively enlightened, I have not consistently walked the talk. I think each of you, on reflection, will identify opportunities to operate at a new level with your women employees, leaders, customers, partners, and peers.

6 Must-Read Books Recommended by Top Leaders

13 Negotiating Techniques That Never Fail

13 Negotiating Techniques That Never Fail

13 Negotiating Techniques That Never Fail

You’re sitting in a conference staring at the face of the other party. You want one thing. They want something entirely different. And as you’re both on the verge of flipping over the table, it occurs to you that neither party is going to get what they want.

Here’s the thing. Negotiating isn’t about getting what you want OR giving in to what the other party wants. It’s not an “either/or situation.” It’s about having both parties walk away satisfied. Over the years in both business and life I’ve had to learn this hard lesson.

To allow for this progress to happen, here are 13 negotiation techniques that have helped me get the majority of what I want. Best part, they will never fail.

1. Do your homework.

Never come to the table unprepared. Research your counterpart in advance so that you can identify exactly what you want and have the data to back-it-up. For example, when appealing for a new programming gig, research the industry and the company that you’re interviewing with so that you know the average salary. After that, you can begin negotiating on your ideal salary.

2. Label your feelings.

By giving your feelings a name you’re identifying how you feel. Michael McMains and Wayman C. Mullins write in Crisis Negotiations, Fourth Edition: Managing Critical Incidents and Hostage Situations in Law Enforcement and Corrections:

A good use of emotional labeling would be “You sound pretty hurt about being left. It doesn’t seem fair,” because it recognizes the feelings without judging them. It is a good Additive Empathetic response because it identifies the hurt that underlies the anger the woman feels and adds the idea of justice to the actor’s message, an idea that can lead to other ways of getting justice.

A poor response would be “You don’t need to feel that way. If he was messing around on you, he was not worth the energy.” It is judgmental. It tells the subject how not to feel. It minimizes the subject’s feelings, which are a major part of who she is. It is Subtractive Empathy.

3. Implement a number scale.

Want to know how strongly you or your counterpart wants something? Put a number on it. A number 1, for example is neutral, and 10 would be something you can’t live without. Hopefully this will lead to both parties eventually comprising or coming up with an alternative. This has allowed me in the past to be very direct with the other party in letting them know what I’m not willing to leave on the table.

4. Don’t focus just on “winning.”

“Negotiation is not a competition,” says Stuart Diamond, a Harvard Law School graduate who teaches negotiation tactics and strategies to students and Fortune 500 executives at The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, “it’s a collaboration.”

“If you think of it as ‘winning,’ you will think about beating them,” he adds. “And if you do that, you will not collaborate as much.”

Ultimately, you have to define your goals and then take the proper actions and reactions to reach those goals.

5. Ask open-ended questions.

You don’t want to receive simple “yes” or “no” responses. You want the other party to open-up. I typically do this by starting off negotiations with open questions like;

  • why are you specifically looking to work with us?
  • what does a perfect deal look like to you?
  • how do you see this deal being finalized?

These are open questions that gain trust and don’t make the other party feel like you’re trying to pressure them into quick answers. Gain their trust and you’ll get quicker to a deal.

6. Be prepared to give something up.

You’re not going to get everything that you want. Make sure that you identify the areas where you’re willing to be flexible and where you’re not. For example, if dealing with a vendor, you may be willing to pay them a higher rate for their goods because they offer the best payment terms for your business.

7. Share information.

“We often approach negotiation by being very guarded and wary of showing our cards.” writes Kristi Hedges in ForbesHowever, studies have found revealing at least a little information can help increase the outcome.

Hedges adds, “Simply putting something of yourself out there – your hobbies, personal concerns, or hopes – can set a positive tone that’s conducive to gaining agreement.”

8. Go for a walk.

No. This doesn’t mean that you walk out of the room and call off the meeting. It means that sometimes we need to take a breather and change the scenery when we’re at a stalemate. Besides, walking gives us a chance to gain a different perspective, gets the creative juices flowing, and elevates your mood. I like to do this daily to keep my mind active!

9. Make the first move.

When you make the first move you’re giving yourself home field advantage. Think about this when purchasing a new home. If you make the first offer that is below the asking price the realtor has to rebuttal with a price that’s more in your favor.

Its the same in the negotiation, I’ve always found the person that makes the first move has the most power. What have you got to lose?

10. Clarify any misconceptions.

During the negotiation process it’s common for misconceptions to occur since both parties assume what the other person is saying or thinking. This can lead to conflicts or disagreements.

Anytime there is a disagreement or you see a confused look on the other parties face, ask them to repeat the deal how they see it. This will allow you to see it from their perspective. Almost every time I’ve done this I can figure out how something didn’t come across from my side the way I wanted.

11. Pause.

A pause can be your secret weapon since it encourages the other party to speak-up or cool down when things get heated. Gary Noesner, author of Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiatorwrites;

Eventually, even the most emotionally overwrought subjects will find it difficult to sustain a one-sided argument, and they again will return to meaningful dialogue with negotiators. Thus, by remaining silent at the right times, negotiators actually can move the overall negotiation process forward.

12. Use your emotional intelligence.

Having emotional intelligence allows you to manage your emotions, show empathy, and prevent you from getting distracted. It also helps you solve problems and be a more likable person.

13. Keep your statements brief.

Keeping your statement brief is a part of actively listening and illustrates that you’re not only paying attention, but also giving them the floor. Noesner adds,

Even relatively simple phrases, such as “yes,” “O.K.,” or “I see,” effectively convey that a negotiator is paying attention to the subject. These responses will encourage the subject to continue talking and gradually relinquish more control of the situation to the negotiator.

Final Tip Though we always want to be right and make a deal, I’ve found that if I’m willing to walk from a deal, I have the power. This has lead me to several multi-million dollar sales, business and life deals.

Here’s to becoming a much better negotiator and closing every deal.

13 Negotiating Techniques That Never Fail

3 Story Structures Every CEO Needs to Master

3 Story Structures Every CEO Needs to Master

3 Story Structures Every CEO Needs to Master

CEOs tell stories all the time. Great CEOs are consistent in the stories they tell, framing their companies’ core narratives to connect authentically with different audiences.

The first step to becoming a powerful storytelling CEO is to understand and master three key stories about your company: the number’s story, the vision story and the bridge story.

1. The number’s story contextualizes data.

Data is ubiquitous, but, by itself, it’s meaningless.

People often glaze over when you start talking about numbers. And when you’re deep into Excel and PowerPoint, they glaze over even faster. CEOs need to extract key data points and trends to make their number’s story visible.

A number’s story contextualizes data. It gives meaning to the numbers by identifying trends and showing what the predicted outcomes are for the company.

Related: The 5 Elements of Storytelling

Stepping into the shoes of the greatest storyteller in history, Apple CEO Tim Cook confidently asserts his authority by bringing company data to life through storytelling.

Cook’s most recent keynote reflected over 40 years of the company through visuals that made sense of milestones and what they meant for consumers and the company. Though packed with numbers, Cook’s hour-long speech followed a classic narrative framework – the Freytag Pyramid — and even looked ahead into the future.

2. The vision story describes the future.

This is perhaps the most important story that every leader needs to tell.

It’s the palpable story of what the future looks like. The leader takes people to the future by making it true in the present. The vision story is bigger than goal setting and much more compelling than projecting business outcomes. The vision story is the story you tell employees, investors, advisors, and yourself to generate creativity and belief in the present.

Related: Marketing 101: The Art of Storytelling

Recently, I listened to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta. That speech has thunder and lightning because it is so specific about what the vision looks like, sounds like and feels like for all Americans. This vision story will resonate until that day we make the dream a reality.

3. The bridge story shares proof of your success.

The bridge story is similar to the vision story in many ways.

It makes the vision story real for your audience by citing past successes as proof that the vision is attainable. This is where the key work of business-building and storytelling come together. It’s where you connect what the business has done in the past and where you will take it in the future.

The bridge story shows that people can count on you and your company by sharing specific moments of proof.

Take a look at Kathryn Minshew’s recent bridge story about raising a $16 million series B round for The Muse.

Minshew explains that the company didn’t need the funding, which is a great way to say “I’ve got this under control, but when an investor of strong caliber and aligned values showed interest, it made sense to join forces.”

In just a few sentences, Minshew creates a bridge to the future, explaining that the new funding will be used to expand to more cities, and build out a new line of services, such as Coach Connect.

Related: From Bedtime to Boardroom: Why Storytelling Matters in Business

CEOs, who are master storytellers, interweave these three key types of stories with slightly different versions for each audience – customers, team, investors and advisors — while looking to both the past and the future.

Look again at Cook’s Apple keynote. It’s as if the world is asking: “Tim, can Apple keep innovating without Steve Jobs?”

Using a past portfolio of innovations from Apple, and a nod forward to the new building, where Apple will host its annual meeting next year, Cook deftly paints a picture of a promising future. One that is forward-leaning and within Apple’s reach.

Through storytelling, Cook calmly asserts, “Yes, you can count on Apple (and me) to keep it up. I’ve mastered it all, even the master’s delight in storytelling.”

3 Story Structures Every CEO Needs to Master

The 4 Leadership Styles, and How to Identify Yours

The 4 Leadership Styles, and How to Identify Yours

The 4 Leadership Styles, and How to Identify Yours

We all want to be part of a great success story. To run, start, or play a senior role in a company that wins big or changes the course of its industry. To launch a brand that dazzles customers and dominates its markets. To be the kind of executive or entrepreneur who creates jobs, generates wealth, and builds an organization bursting with energy and creativity.

Which means that all of us, no matter where we are in our career, have to wrestle with the big questions of leadership: What is our personal definition of success? What does it mean to make a difference and have an impact? What is the best way to rally colleagues to our cause, to handle problems and obstacles that inevitably arise, to revise plans in the face of setbacks or to stand pat no matter the odds? How much do we rely on our own ideas and experiences, and how widely do we seek the advice and support of those around us? If we hope to succeed, we need to understand how we lead.

Over the last three decades — first as a young editor at Harvard Business Review, then as cofounder of Fast Company magazine, now as a book author — I’ve spent time with truly remarkable leaders in a vast range of fields. All of them have achieved tremendous success and impact, and none of them has done it in precisely the same way. But I’ve been able to identify four styles that capture their different approaches to the whys and hows of leadership, and I’ve come up with a set of 16 questions to help you figure out which style suits you best. There are no right answers to these questions, of course, no one way to lead. But each of us has to figure out which style of leadership fits who we are and what we are trying to achieve.

What are those four styles of leadership?

The Classic Entrepreneur. As legendary investor John Doerr likes to say, classic entrepreneurs do “more than anyone thinks possible with less than anyone thinks possible.” Leadership is about the thrill of competition and the quest for success. No-nonsense variables, such as costs, quality, profit margins, and savvy deals, are the metrics that matter. Sure, these leaders care about the values their company stands for, but it’s the dollars-and-cents value proposition that matters most. They love to build killer products and butt-kicking companies. They are, in Doerr’s words, and he doesn’t mean this critically, “opportunistic” — they revel in “the pitch” and “the deal.” When faced with decisions about launching a new product, or dealing with a disgruntled customer, or selling the company to an eager suitor, they focus on tough-minded calculations and no-nonsense financial returns.

The Modern Missionary. These leaders aim for more than mere business success; they aspire to success and significance. Winning is less about beating the competition than it is about building something original and meaningful. Success is less about making money than it is about making a difference and having an impact. Sure, economic value is important, but human values are what drive their passion to succeed. So these leaders may take risks that classic entrepreneurs won’t, even if the short-term returns aren’t obvious, or they may turn down deals that others might accept, because the financial payoffs aren’t as important as the broader impact they hope to make. These leaders don’t just want to run companies; they aim to turn their companies into a cause.

The Problem Solver. They worry less about dramatic impact than about concrete results. They believe in the power of expertise and the value of experience. Disruptive technologies and blank-sheet-of-paper business models may be reshaping markets and industries, but past success is a good predictor of future impact. So as they rise through the ranks or lead organizations they’ve built, problem solvers are the first to confront difficulties and identify new opportunities.  Yes, they rely on the advice of colleagues, but ultimately they fall back on everything they’ve learned and seen to guide the organization into the future. These top-down, take-charge, the-buck-stops-here executives may be the most recognizable sorts of leaders, in terms of the image we carry around of what it takes to get things done.

The Solution Finder. This style is about incremental results and concrete solutions, but these leaders believe that the most powerful contributions often come from the most unexpected places — the hidden genius of their colleagues, the collective genius that surrounds their organization. They are committed to making sure that what they know doesn’t limit what they can imagine. They’re ultimately responsible for business results, but they believe that achieving those results is everybody’s business. These modest, humble, self-effacing leaders don’t make headlines, but that doesn’t mean they’re not ambitious. They believe that humility in the service of ambition is the right mindset to do big things in a world of huge unknowns.

Why is it important to gain clarity about the leadership style that fits each of us best? Because the more we understand about ourselves — what we truly care about, how we make decisions, why we do what we do — the more effective we will be at marshaling the support of others for what we hope to achieve. In a time of wrenching disruptions and exhilarating advances, of unrelenting turmoil and unlimited promise, there have never been more roads to success — or more opportunities to fail.

The 4 Leadership Styles, and How to Identify Yours