Leadership doesn't come easily to first-timers. I should know: I was one.
When you think about leading a company, a lot of people tend to think about the glamorous parts of the job. They often imagine leaders shaking hands at fancy conference tables, giving passionate keynote speeches, and hanging out with the frontline employees (because they’re so down to earth). While victories and fun times can certainly be part of the deal, leadership also has another side — and that’s where the real leaders shine.
Leaders are responsible for everything that happens under their watch, good and bad. That includes the reputation of their brands, their office cultures, their turnover rates, and more. The best leaders take accountability as often as they can, while questionable leaders look for someone else to blame when things go wrong.
As you guide your company through its ups and downs, remember these three truths about leadership:
1. You are responsible for the well-being of your employees.
Company leaders are responsible for more than financial decisions and business growth: They are also in charge of employee morale, performance, and job security. The stress of that responsibility can feel overwhelming, but leading a team successfully is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
You want to lead the company well because all the people who work there depend on the organization for their livelihood. You aren’t just growing for profit’s sake — you’re working to help keep families housed and bills paid. Plus, you don’t want your workplace to feel like “just a place to work.” Employees deserve to feel like the time they dedicate to your organization is worthwhile, not just because of the money they make but because of the satisfaction they feel.
The people working for you and driving your company forward deserve all the respect you can give them. Great leaders remember that they are not the monarchs of their companies but the principal servants who are there to help everyone as best they can.
2. You must actively build and manage your brand.
In the age of content, personal brands are more important than ever. Company leaders cannot hide quietly and expect to make a trustworthy name for themselves: They must use content to build their thought leadership, establish themselves as industry experts, and lend credibility to the companies they run.
That doesn’t mean CEOs of tech companies need to be the best programmers in the office. I lead a content company, but I’m far from the best writer or editor on the staff. Building a brand simply means that leaders must make their voices public.
Industry trends, new technologies, and public policies shift the directions of companies every day. If business leaders do not participate in those conversations, people will begin to think that their companies might not be as impactful as they claim to be.
Create and share content under your own name, not just your company’s, to help people connect to your brand. It sounds counterintuitive, but the more people can relate to you as a person, the more likely they are to think positively of your organization. That positive sentiment can lead to better recruitment, boosts to marketing and sales, personal speaking opportunities, new partnerships — the list goes on.
3. Your example matters.
Being a leader of a company is kind of like being a celebrity hounded by paparazzi. Your team is always watching, and if you don’t embody the values and mission you set for your employees, people won’t take you seriously.
When you treat others carelessly, employees notice. On the other hand, when you offer “unlimited” vacation days but never take a day off yourself, people neglect to use their benefits for fear of appearing unmotivated. You want your employees to be balanced, productive, happy people — and to help them achieve that, you have to set the example and embody those qualities yourself.
For example, my second daughter was born right around the time my company set a new paternity leave policy. While it was hard for me to take so much time off, I knew that if I didn’t, I’d be sending the wrong message and making it harder for others to feel supported in taking their own paternity leave. As a leader, you have to set the right example for the rest of the team.
Leadership in real life doesn’t look like it does on Instagram. It’s less about the #hustle and #grind than it is about people, respect, and commitment to developing a better brand. Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid some of the mistakes most leaders get to learn from on the job.