First up, it’s important to define what a leader is. A leader, especially in a post-Covid world, is someone who has a clear vision and is able to rally her or his community to achieve that goal. The greatest job of a leader, whether that leader is a parent, a CEO, or a counselor–is to find a way to build self esteem without crossing into delusion. That means, in a business setting, it’s important to remember that you work for your employees, they don’t work for you. Your job is to build your team, provide value, and give them space to grow while holding them accountable.
With that out of the way, there are so many leaders and managers who want to be better. Sure, they want to accomplish their own desires but they want to accomplish them in a way that helps them sleep at night. No one is trying to run a dictatorship (I actually fled one, so I’m especially mindful of the feelings and needs of my employees) but so many leaders are confused. They don’t know how to build a business and meet their goals without being a real obstacle to their employees and team members. Some leaders may have great relationships with their employees, but they want to be better about meeting goals and finding the balance between empathy and ambition. If either of those sound like you, or you fall somewhere on the spectrum of those two leadership types, this article is for you. Below are three, tactical methods to become a better leader.
1. Remember: you work for your team.
I know I said this in the intro, but the number one thing you have to remember is that if you’re a leader, you work for your team–they don’t work for you. As a CEO, it’s ludicrous to expect your employees to work as much as you do. It’s your business; of course, your employees don’t “love it” as much. So much of life is a “them” game and entrepreneurship is no different. If you want to be an effective leader you have to give, give, and then ask.
The biggest mistake people make, and why they can’t build scalable businesses, is that they have selfish expectations of their employees. You may be a hard worker, you may have fought to get to where you are–but that’s it, it’s your business, not theirs. They have no reason to be as invested as you are, even if you think you’ve given them a reason to be. You can’t ask an employee to work as hard as you because you believe you compensate them well. That’s like asking someone to love your child as much as you do; it’s not natural.
You’re going to have much more successful interactions if you set expectations and give your team the means to reach them.
Now, what does that look like in practice? A lot of leaders have arbitrary expectations about how new hires should perform and act. This affects their growth in a big way. Here are two tips to keep in mind when hiring new employees:
a. Give trust easily.
I give trust a lot easier than most CEOs. To me, it’s just faster. I blindly trust all my employees. If they prove themselves to be incapable, I’ll put restrictions around them. I genuinely believe that the phrase: “Trust is not given, it’s earned” is slow and egotistical.
B. Don’t compare your hires to yourself
This is where a lot of leaders get caught. They measure candidates against themselves, and then inflate their egos by finding ways candidates don’t match up. For this reason, I don’t hold employees to the same standard that I hold myself. On the contrary, for me it’s all about offense. I don’t care if my hires don’t perform as well as I would because they’re freeing up my time. Even if they’re not performing at “100”, that’s okay because they’re allowing me to go on the offense in other ways.
Keeping these two things in mind will help you become a better leader because it’ll train you to really internalize that you work for your employees (not the other way around), and then things start to change. Ultimately, they’re reminders to be grateful.
2. Stop micromanaging and teach your team how to swim.
If you have trouble structuring your business, if you go through rounds of hiring and firing–listen to this. If you have trouble finding the “right” team members…the problem may be you. This may be tough to accept but I know good leaders can handle the truth. I’m not trying to be impractical, but as I said before, good leaders don’t caste judgement on their employees.
Good leaders don’t yell and scream, or try to watch their employees’ every move. Good leaders are supportive and ask how they can help. Instead of being upset that their employees are drowning, they teach them how to swim.
3. You must build a strong company culture.
After you’ve internalized that you work for them, it’s time to establish what sort of legacy you want to leave behind. What does it mean for someone to say they’ve worked at your company? What do you want it to say on your tombstone? For this reason, among others, I call Vayner X my “honey empire”.
The way to build great culture is not in words that are written on the wall, but in your actions. You have to make every one of your employees and team members understand that you care about them more than you want them to care about you. I know that sounds impossible, but you can’t be crippled by the task. It’s tough. But, if you do it, you will build a great culture. If you do not, every day that you work will take you further and further away from that culture.
You have to practice this everyday. It means not being afraid to fire your top salesperson because they’re also not a nice person…it means knowing who your employees are, what drives them, and if their needs have changed. It also means promoting and compensating people based on how hard they work, not on how well you know them. A great work culture is one that “works” for everyone. It should work when things are easy and it should work when, God forbid, tragedy occurs.
The second you slack on your culture is the second you lose. Meritocracy is important, empathy is more important, and knowing the culture that fits you and your employees is the most important thing of all.
Remember, my words mean nothing if you don’t listen to them and internalize them, so they’re a part of your everyday life. So, what do you do now? Share it with a leader you admire or someone you know that is actively trying to become a better leader. While you’re at it, tweet me your biggest takeaways. Oh, and of course, practice, practice, practice doing these things yourself.