Only 18% of companies are satisfied with their leaders and the way they meet their business goals. Does that seem low to you? The bitter truth is that employees leave managers, not companies. If you ask yourself “where do I stand as a leader”, that’s already a good sign. Because you realize something in the way you lead and manage can be changed.
In 2015, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote in one of his emails: “Many companies describe themselves as customer-focused, but few walk the walk. Most big technology companies are competitor focused. They see what others are doing, and then work to quickly follow”. This constant “race” to one-up a competitor only makes companies feel like they’re better than others. Meanwhile, the customer experience fades into the background.
Every year, Amazon managers spend one day working the customer service desk. Jeff Bezos is no exception. They listen to their customers and try to understand what every single client needs. This type of practice has contributed to Amazon becoming one of the wealthiest customer-oriented companies in the world, recently hitting an annual revenue of $12 billion.
Have you ever heard the story of Amazon’s empty chair? During board meetings, Jeff Bezos asks executives to imagine that the empty chair at the table belongs to the most important member of the organization – the customer. This encourages his team to work and make decisions based off the needs of the customer.
In 2005, Mary Bara, CEO of General Motors, was included in the list of 100 leading women in the auto industry. She is humble, collaborative and has strong decision-making skills. But one of the most essential qualities she has, which she developed over the entire span of her career, is being team oriented.
Bara believes, “If we win the hearts and minds of employees, we’re going to have better business success.” She is confident that a leader can only be strong if the team is strong. She describes the process of achieving a business goal as a team sport where everyone plays an essential role. The road to success involves tight collaboration with your employees and understanding that everyone is working towards the same goal.
Every year Marc Benioff speaks at the Dreamforce conference. He is always enthusiastic in front of the audience and affects everyone with the energy he brings to the room. He says, “nothing is going to make you happier than giving.” This principle lies at the heart of the 1-1-1 Philanthropic Model of Salesforce: one percent of work hours, employees and revenue is dedicated to charity.
The 1-1-1 Model in turn contributes to Salesforce’s success and world recognition. It gives meaning to the everyday routines of employees and inspires them to face new challenges that bring real value. Benioff himself is passionate about his company. Forbes notes, “Benioff can still get excited about his own products like a kid who’s found a new toy.”
If you realize that your business doesn’t bring you happiness and energy, change something. Without those feelings and a positive attitude for your product, you won’t be a good leader. How can employees love what they do if their leader doesn’t?
When Jack Dorsey, current CEO of Twitter, launched Square, no one believed it would be successful. But Dorsey didn’t give up and kept moving forward. He prepared a list of 140 reasons why his product could fail and provided it to investors. He then wrote his own rebuttals to every reason on that list. His hard work eventually paid off. The investors agreed to support further development of the product. Square is now “number 1” among mobile payment services.
By creating that list with detailed rebuttals, Dorsey proved that he knew the field, the industry and the potential risks Square faced. This process is one of many facets of his strong leadership ability, showing that weaknesses can be easily turned into strengths. He professes the need to be daring and creative, and he shows how to overcome weaknesses.
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, is famous for setting unbelievable goals and knowing exactly what he needs to achieve them. Musk says, “You have to have a very compelling goal for the company. If you put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s talented at a world level, they have to believe that there’s potential for a great outcome and believe in the leader of the company, that you’re the right guy to work with. That can be a difficult thing, especially if you’re trying to attract people from other companies.”
Elon Musk’s goal is clear. He wants to revolutionize technologies in the industries of space, transportation, solar energy, AI and machine learning. Leaders should always have a clear vision of what they want to create and how they’re going to do it. It’s impossible to reach a destination if you don’t have your path mapped out. Elon’s final destination is Mars, what’s yours?
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