8 Leadership Hacks From Some Of The World’s Top CEOs

If becoming a great leader in business were so easy, everybody would be at the top of the pyramid, right? So, what are we missing?

Sure you can go to business school or study a master’s degree in management — there you'd learn the recipe, the processes, the formulae — but there’s no replacement for wisdom gained through experience.

That’s not to say we’d discourage you from studying; not at all! We’re all about learning new things, upskilling, self-developing, and improving. But there’s no doubt that some leaders around the world, some of the best CEOs, have picked up some valuable leadership secrets along their way to the top.

To that end, we’ve spent some considerable time reading, watching and gauging the thoughts of some of the world’s top CEOs on leadership and management. Here’s the best of what we found:

1. “Always have THREE mentors you can trust.”
Sarah Friar from Nextdoor

No one person is an island. You can’t have all the answers all of the time, and it’s okay to have doubts — even if you’re leading a huge team and the very top of the business world.

It’s always wise to have someone you can fall back on for help and advice. So why does Sarah Friar insist on having not one, not two, but THREE mentors? Well, each has their own time, place and purpose. Ideally, you’ll have a current colleague who you can consult with about the job at hand. Then, a past colleague, someone you no longer work with but have had close experience with earlier in your career? Briar reasons that someone you no longer work with will be able to give you more honest, objective and, if necessary, harsher advice than a current colleague could.

Finally, a close friend outside of work who knows you well (even if they don’t know your business well). This is the friend that always wants the best for you, and perhaps knows your best qualities even better than you do!

2. “Turn Your Employees into Owners”
Carlos Brito, Anheuser-Busch

This (hopefully obviously) doesn’t mean your employees should own shares in the company, but ideally you’d want them to have some kind of stake in the company’s success. If the company succeeds, they succeed. If they succeed, the company succeeds…

It’s all well and good hiring capable staff who get the job done well (that’s great in fact), but if they don’t care about the bigger picture, will they stick around?

But here’s the tricky part: We see in job descriptions all the time that the hiring company wants someone who’s passionate, committed and all those lovely buzzwords. But it’s on you, the leader, to give them a reason to feel a sense of real belonging.

3. “Don’t Try to do everything yourself”
David Karp, Tumblr

We’ll say again what we said above: No person is an island. Being a great leader is not just about being the best at everything, it’s about allowing those you lead to be their best. Try to do everything yourself, and you’ll eventually run out of steam. You’ll probably even fail in the end.

That said, put your faith and your trust in your team. Even if they don’t get it right the first time, they’ll learn, and you’ll thank them for it (and thank yourself for saving you).

4. “Be a servant leader. Work towards ensuring the success of your employees”
Dan Springer, Docusign

Servitude and leadership might not seem to go hand in hand, but trust us, they do. Think of it this way; a national president is a leader of the people, but they’re also there to serve!

Apply this same logic to your job. If you can work towards making your employees as good as they can be, as successful as they can be, as effective as they can be, they’ll reward you for it.

If your employees can see that you genuinely want the best for them in work and life, and that you’ll work as hard as you can to get them where they want to go, they’ll take an equal (and hugely loyal) stake in your own goals and ambitions.

5. “Hire the best for your team”
Steve Jobs, Apple

It wouldn’t be an article on leadership from the best CEOs without some input from the late Steve Jobs! For all of Apple’s incredible success during Jobs’ tenure, he always insisted that it was his team that deserves the credit. In his mind, the key to being a truly impactful leader was to surround himself with better minds.

It’s okay not to be the best at every aspect of your business. What does matter though, is that you can facilitate greatness at every level.

6. “Listen to your employees and get feedback”
Keith Barr, Intercontinental Hotels

Keith Barr isn’t just talking about your colleagues and those a level below you on the management chain, but employees at all levels! One of the dangers of being a leader is that you run the risk of growing out of touch with things on the front line.

It’s important that you check in personally with staff at all levels to see how they feel, what they need, what they’re experiencing. This kind of insight won’t just make you more popular, it’ll paint a better picture of the health if your company and its culture.

7. “Treat people how you want to be treated”
Peter Simpson, Anglian Water

The golden rule of life and of leadership. It’s crucial that no matter who you deal with, to give them the kind of respect and courtesy you would expect to receive yourself. It’s a sad but common fact that company leaders can become egotistical, and perhaps impatient with their colleagues and those in lower positions. This is a mistake. Show people empathy, compassion, or at the very least, common courtesy.

This might not necessarily help you get more things done, but it keeps you human. And you can’t lead without being a decent human.

8. “Be self aware.”

Carrie Birkhofer, Bay Federal Credit Union

We’ve saved this “leadership hack” for last because it’s our favourite. According to Birkhofer (and no doubt plenty of her ilk), knowing yourself and striving to discover more is the pillar of good leadership. You want to take care of the interior before taking care of the exterior! Becoming more self aware about your leadership skills might come from gaining honest feedback (see above), or it could come from practicing mindfulness, or focusing on self improvement and discovery. No matter what way you practice better self awareness, it’s only going to allow you to better analyse and improve your own performance as a leader.

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