Six Lessons I Learned About Being a Great Leader

This blog post was written by Patty Hatter.

A leader serves at the front of the organization and makes a concerted effort to identify the needs of a team. More importantly, leaders foster collaboration to drive a mission forward, efficiently and effectively. They employ keen listening skills, and demonstrate that they understand the best interests of the team members as well as the best interests of the overall organization. At the core, this is my definition of what a leader is and represents. These are a few lessons that I have learned from both ups and downs throughout my leadership journey.

  1. Have a Set of Guiding Principles. I find it helpful to identify clear guiding principles relative to the core culture and values that we want for the organization. You don’t need more than 5-10 core principles, but articulating them helps to give the organization a clear sense of the culture that we’re collectively trying to build.
  1. Develop a Long-Term Vision. There is always so much happening on a day-to-day basis.  I find that without establishing a longer term vision for an organization, along with key strategies for how to achieve them, it is always easy to get caught up in the day to day, and never get to the more strategic efforts that require greater time and effort to achieve.
  1. Be Comfortable with Taking Risks. As a leader, you are always facing risks. One of the biggest organizational risks I’ve taken was to implement sweeping leadership changes within IT. At the time we had six VPs, with an overly complex management model that didn’t work for IT or our business leaders. Even though we had a great staff, we had a lack of leadership. As a result, I led a major organizational transformation that resulted with us transitioning from six to three VPs, with only one being the same. At the time, people felt I was moving too quickly, but I felt this was the only way to unleash the talent that our team possessed.  Moreover, I recognized that this could have impacted not only the company’s success, but also employee morale and growth. All it took was for me to have the guts to make the necessary changes.
  1. Embrace Challenges. Something that I commonly witness among leaders is the attempt to talk themselves out of having to address uncomfortable organizational challenges such as realigning a team or shifting responsibilities. They question whether to move forward with an action, if the action will have a negative impact, or if they should continue with the status quo. My response to these questions is that you can never have one hundred percent certainty, but if you’re questioning the same situation, day after day, week after week, then in your heart of hearts, you know you need to do something about it. Second-guessing yourself only enables procrastination – ultimately affecting the organization more than you.
  1. Know When and How to Find Balance. I believe that you’ll spend time on whatever is placed on your schedule. It is important to get some programmatic governance onto your calendar. You should think about the bigger picture, resources and programs and make sure that tasks are executed.  Be mindful not to get caught up only in the day-to-day issues that happen.  You need to make sure to allocate enough time on the longer term and more strategic initiatives.
  1. Keep Your Fingers on the Pulse. There’s always so much going on. If you ever consider, even for a day, that you’ve accomplished everything and you think you can stop all innovation, that’s a very dangerous thought.  Technology is always changing.  Customers are always changing. We need to continually evolve. The more we can embrace uncertainty with market changes, the less disruptive change feels.

The more engaged I’ve become on social media, it actually makes it easier to see what other companies and leaders are doing, as well as to pinpoint nuggets on how we can apply it to our company. It feels like the pace is moving much faster, but we have more tools at our disposal to help get a handle on what’s going on. The more willing you are to listen to the conversation, the more inclined you may be to embrace change.

What lessons or tips have inspired you to enhance your skills as a leader? Whether it is through your own personal experience or word-of-mouth, share your leadership thoughts with me on Twitter @PattyHatter.

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