In my opinion, nothing is more unappealing than ego-driven anything. When arrogance and bravado are the core principles of a leadership team, the result is often one of three things, if not all of them:
1. Your employees will despise you.
2. The press will generate negative stories about your company.
3. Your customers will vote with their feet.
The antics of particular CEOs (who will remain unnamed) notwithstanding, this type of behavior is generally bad for business on a variety of levels, not to mention out of vogue. How a leader operates both in and out of the boardroom defines the company culture, setting the tone for inter-employee communication and the expectations for the group as a whole.
The most successful leaders I’ve encountered are armed with empathy, patience, and intelligence while emphasizing trust and strong team bonds. To prove my point, I tapped a few CEOs whom I respect to provide insight on how they lead without raised voices or harsh words, and why it’s a much better approach to leave inflated egos at the door.
#1–Trust is an “inside job” that will lead to “outside success”
Reprimanding and bullying employees for poor performance can often lead to crushed morale for both the person and the people around them; it may scare up immediate results, but it doesn’t create long-term inspiration. Instead, slowing down and talking things through can often be much more effective.
“As a leader, I make a conscious choice to let bothersome things process and settle before bringing them up,” says Dippak Khurana, Co-founder and CEO of Vserv. “When they surface, I try to make it part of a thoughtful discussion in a face-to-face or small group situation. I’ll state my case, listen to the response, and try to see all perspectives, particularly when it involves big decisions. I’ve found that it builds the most important thing any successful CEO needs: trust.”
Not only can you fix a problem at the root cause, employees will feel safe to express their thoughts and ideas. That environment can propel the whole company forward.
#2–Compassion builds employee and customer loyalty
Compassion isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather the source of ultimate strength and purpose. Just ask Deidre Paknad, who is now CEO and Co-founder of Workboard after selling her last company to IBM in late 2010. She defines compassion as “a genuine interest and awareness in the experience and perspective of others that pervades your own actions and course of conduct.”
In business, the “others” are your customers and your employees. As she aptly points out: “It’s hard to build truly great relationships and great products–especially business products–without compassion for your customer. Understanding their work and their world and being fully vested in improving their experience is the best premise for innovation and relationships.”
You can’t help people without compassion, and customers don’t want to be sold, they want to be helped. Employees, as the conduits for your business success, also need to feel the direct effects of compassion; which is discernible and tangible when it’s there, and glaring in its absence.
#3–Group-fueled passion drives results “Some leaders mistake having passion as their own ego-driven view of the world,” says Renee La Londe, CEO of iTalent, who has been leading her company to successful results for nearly two decades. “This is truly a recipe for hardship and, most likely, failure.”
According to La Londe: “An effective leader knows that they need to have a lot of incredibly smart people with them on the journey to succeed, and they openly give credit to the people they have around them. One person cannot ‘go big’ alone and no one is an expert at everything.”
In other words, leader = dictator is definitely out.
“Being around passionate people who think differently allows a leader to expand her or his ‘universe’ and ultimately helps illuminate ideas and drive innovation. All of those things together lead to optimal success.”
Leadership for the long haul
Often times, particularly in the tech industry, leaders are focused on speed, money, and results at whatever cost. Khurana laments: “For CEOs, particularly in the high-risk/high-reward startup environment, it can be easy to give in and simply bark out orders while offering big proclamations in hopes of pushing to the finish line as soon as possible.” However, this approach can create a very negative impact on a company (and even industries) over the long haul.
“It’s easy to lose sight of that when investors and media are constantly pointing at expectations. But by turning the volume down while integrating empathy, while taking the time to build trust and understanding, I’ve found that it’s absolutely possible to generate the same immediate results.”
I’m fairly sure he’s right. If more CEOs took this approach, we would likely see an increase in employee satisfaction, customer loyalty, and ultimately more companies that inspired industry growth and innovation. Let’s test the theory, shall we?