• Avy-Loren Cohen

Skills Great Business Leaders Possess Part 2

Updated: Nov 28, 2018

11. Respect & Cherish Your Customers

As a big fan of Sir. Richard Branson, I recall him mentioning his strategy I business that we would probably refer to “customer centricity”. I believe he said that focusing on the customer experience, solving a problem and providing real value — one that is memorable is what it built his companies. I do believe he also said that focusing on the dollar is not the way for long term success, and by focusing on the client — money will come along with loyalty and long terms overall success (paraphrasing to the best of my memory).

I have always preached to executive that executives and leaders who lead from an ivory tower lose their connection with the customer and fail to really understand the customer experience — a valuable ingredient to market and grow a company successfully in the long run. You can see this in many excellent restaurants where the owner(s) are present every day and night, greeting each customer as their own friends or family, checking the food before it goes out to the client in the dining room (front of house), and constantly listening and watching the heartbeat of the business through the day. Any leader who fails to play high regard and attention to the customer is bound to fail.


12. You Pay For What You Get, Most of The Time

So here is the thing, it is wise to pay for performance and consistency — right? Right? Ok, the problem is that sometimes companies do not always select the best person for the (leadership) role. Smart companies typically look at historical performance as a predictor (to some degree) of what the future will be like if said person would be hired for a leadership role. As the old saying goes, “you pay for what you get”. Now, this does not always mean that a newbie or an individual with failures in their past will not be a good leader, it simply means that the odds are more in favour of individuals with a longer track record of success. So, if you want to be a smart company — the moral is pay top dollar for your leaders as people make or break a company at the end of the day. On the other hand, if you are (for what ever the reason may be) going with someone unproven or with a less than stellar track record — factor this into your expectations and consider having a business coach work with this individual — especially within the first year.


13. Thoughtful (Big Picture) Leadership & Accountability

You hear an awful lot about KPI’s, measurement and accountability in the workplace — heck, even at home with your children or spouse! I have found that leaders with high levels of integrity often are very accountable for their team as well as for their own actions — similar as a parent over their children for theirs. At the end of the day, parents are like leaders — to their children and as it happens in the home, so too does it happen in the workplace. When leaders do not lead thoughtfully and are not mindful of their decision and actions; they end up not leading effectively. Effective leaders understand that it is not just corporate objectives that they are responsible for, but for the people who work for the company to execute the corporate strategy and tactics to build its vision as well.

If employees are not trained properly, communicated to effectively or poorly motivated etc., it is no wonder that there will be errors and/or problems as a result of this poor leadership. Great leaders always profoundly understand that it is the ultimate responsibility of the leader for all his/her team and resources that support them. And when there is a win, the leader sets aside his/her need for recognition and lauds the work of his/her staff. And when there is failure — is it the leader who stands up to be accountable for those errors and responsible for fixing them as well as preventing them from happening again in the future by actively learning from his/her errors as a leader.


14. It All Starts Off With The Right Hiring Philosophy/Practice

Being a great leader has a lot to do with leading — the right individuals. It is one thing to step into a company where the corporate culture is not favourable, it is another story when you are starting in a young company and can pretty much build a team from scratch. The challenges are a little different and the amount of time may vary, but one thing, one strategy in common is the selection process of said individuals selected to be a part of your team.

I always suggest to my clients that they should create a corporate philosophy document that deals with how they will interact with clients as well as with their own employees and how they are to be treated. With this in mind, I then suggest that the executive team come up with a corporate cultural philosophy that they really and truly believe in and will protect at all costs. Some great examples are commonly seen in tech companies such as Google, Facebook and others. Their hiring practice is well thought out and well adhered to — the people have to match the corporate culture, not the opposite. By doing this, leaders set themselves up for a greater chance of success overall.


15. Inspiration

Great leaders tend to be self motivated, driven and inspire others with their can do and motivated mind set. It is said too often, but there is truth in repetition — passion is contagious. Leaders will allow the team to almost stand on his/her shoulder to also achieve greatness, and great leaders are always there to help and inspire them so they may reach these moments of greatness.


16. Passion

Again, this is mentioned all too often in the professional and personal worlds. Be it in career or in academic counselling, you will commonly hear people ask, “what are you passionate about”…. In my years working with startup companies, I can tell you first hand that many times an investor may not be 100% with the technology, the business model etc., but the investor will actually come out and tell a founder that they absolutely love the passion in him/her — and that is why they feel confident that the business will succeed.


17. Positivity & Tenacity

This is especially relevant in early stage and startup companies. It is so important for leaders to temper reality with possibility, as we never want to appear as wonky. It is super important that a leader tempers the negative experiences with the positive as this will certainly happen in any business and especially in the rollercoaster of a ride for a startup. Employees need to see leaders acting in a positive way, consistently, regardless of the period the company is going through at that moment in time. It is this positivity that also fuels the behaviour of tenacity, by constantly staying focused on achieving ones objectives or corporate goals etc. This type of behaviour is also often contagious — a good thing to have in a startup.


18. Insight

I believe that having good insight is not something easily taught, but something that is inherent in an individual’s character. I have found that entrepreneurs and leaders alike, the great ones, tend to have tremendous insight — and also know how to explain their reasoning. Having insight can make a big difference in the long-term success of a company. A great example of this was when in 1990, Lee Iacocca, CEO of Chrysler, decided to move forward with the introduction of the Dodge Viper — at a time when fuel was expensive and people were really interested in economy cars and that the Viper was a radical new direction for Chrysler. The Viper has been credited by many as a turning point in turning around the Chrysler company.


In summation

Do what is right, be courageous, have conviction and passion and firmly believe in what and why you are doing what you are doing. My philosophy in business as well as marketing has always been to be different from all the rest and to be a leader, not a follower. I use this same philosophy with my children. Leaders do the best for the people and the company and have the courage to go against those who are afraid of change, seek to just maintain the status quo, wish to push ahead regardless of the loss and just can not allow (temporary) defeat — even thought it is actually a minor set back. I always liked to phrase “leader full of piss and vinegar”, tempered with logic and reasoning of course. So lead with purpose, lead with passion and lead with your team along side of you and conquer the world together.

The moral of this story is leaders need to be honest, have a demonstrated track record of success, be excellent communicators, place an emphasis on serving those they lead, be fluid in approach, have laser focus, and a bias toward action. If your current leadership team, or your emerging leaders do not possess these traits, you will likely be in for a rocky road (not the ice cream) ahead.


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