When leadership changes in a seemingly sudden, seemingly seismic way, questions naturally arise about whether that change is a good thing.
Two Bay Area companies, Google and Apple, will soon discover if their business wizardry will continue to thrive with changes in top leadership.
There’s a lot at stake for these companies, and for their customers, investors, suppliers and more.
They’ve been more than market leaders. They’ve been market makers.
They’ve envisioned and brought into being entirely new lines of business. Some of their products and services, once hard to imagine, have become essential and everyday tools for many of their users.
What if Larry and Tim came to you for advice at this time of change?
What would you tell them that might help them lead their large organizations so that they avoid the oft-experienced large company fate, that of becoming a lumbering or market-lagging also-ran?
Here are a few thoughts I would share with them, if they asked:
1. No matter how good a leader is, he or she can usually improve.
The best ones know it, and act on it in positive ways. They seek honest, actionable feedback and use it productively.
2. Leaders who fully engage their followers have the best chance of long-term success.
These leaders make the most of all resources, including the many talented people who choose to work for them.
They attract and engage their employees’ best efforts in many ways. A few of these include the use of a powerful and compelling vision, clear flows of information, decision-making, action and follow-up. They use fair, motivating and effective measures of customer-focused action and outcomes, and clear communication that’s easy to understand and follow.
3. Learn from the experience of great leaders from the past.
Not all leaders who are well-regarded will appeal to you. Choose one or two leaders whom you respect for what they accomplished, and how they did it. Learn from their experience. Apply the best of those lessons to improve your own leadership processes.
4. Listen well.
If you don’t know how to listen well – and not a lot of people don’t – take the time to learn. Then practice and improve. Listening well is an important life skill. It’s even more important in leadership.
5. Observe objectively.
You may have preconceived notions about various things in your leadership realm. These preconceived notions – if you have them – may be based on a variety of things, such as assumptions and prior experience.
Set those preconceived notions aside. You’re working in different circumstances and different times. Keeping your long-term goals in mind, work with what you really have in play, where you are, at any given time.
6. Get good data and information. Then use it.
Some companies gather lots of information and never use it. Pay attention to your intuition, of course, but use the good data and information you have, and can gather.
7. If you’re like many technically-oriented leaders, you’d do well to brush up on your soft skills.
Your customers and constituents know you know your stuff, technically. They’re looking closely now to see if you know your stuff, in a leadership sense, as well. That means they’re looking to see if you have what are usually referred to as the “soft skills.”
Your company’s short- and long-range success relies more than you might guess on your ability to bring out the best in the people around you, and to convert their individual strengths into something far more powerful than simply the sum of those talents.
8. One of your greatest leadership strengths will be the ability to combine confidence with humility.
You have to have the confidence to lead your company and leadership team through thick and thin.
And at the same time, you have to have the humility to know that you don’t have all the answers, yourself, and you never will.
Give the very talented people who were drawn to your company the compelling reasons they need to continue to choose to work there, and not somewhere else. Make full use of their strengths and let them know you appreciate them.
9. Be strong enough to ask for help.
You are not alone in what can be a very lofty, but lonely spot at the top.
10. Take time regularly to review and reflect.
When you do, consider your organization, your leadership, your life. How are things going? What do you need to do more of? What do you need to do less of?
11. Find good ways to step away from the job now and then.
If you’re not careful, the company and job could chew you up and spit you out (yes, even if you started the company, as many entrepreneurs learn). The weighty responsibilities of your new role will go with you everywhere, at all times, if you let it.
Find good ways to regularly regenerate and refresh, in large and small ways.
You will discover, if you haven’t already, that one of the best and most powerful ways to work, and to lead is with the fresh energy and objectivity that comes with “fresh eyes” and the clear, “beginner’s mind” you get when you can step away for a bit.
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