It’s the gospel truth that the best CEO leadership styles always strive to include their people in the process. It’s evident in the high-level interviews we’ve conducted for the Built On Purpose Podcast. Below, you’ll find a handful of wisdom from leaders at companies like Southwest Airlines, Netflix and HubSpot. You can also listen to their full podcast interview under each nugget of leadership gold.
Best CEO Leadership Styles
Patty McCord – Netflix
I think for CEOs, the deep driving traits you want in dedicated leaders is judgment. Judgment is the number one skill — the ability to make the right call.
You have to make a decision. Then, the other part of leadership is going back to tell the team about the data you had going into the decision, and “here’s what I was wrong about.” The context behind it. And that’s what creates good judgment — admitting that you’re wrong. The important part of the judgment is communicating that a mistake was made, and they’re OK with that.
Ann Rhoades – Southwest & JetBlue
There are leaders who believe, “these are my values; therefore everyone will follow these values.” Most of the time when leaders throw values on the wall, they haven’t made sure their people throughout the organization were part of that process. Which helps validate it, in my opinion.
It’s really important that when you have a values-based organization, you don’t just put the words on the wall and think that becomes the culture.
You have to work at it 24/7. You have to work at it on a continuing basis. Whether you’re a year old, six months old, or 25 years old. You have to continue working at it if you think it’s going to stay alive and well. It does have to become a part of the DNA.
Eric Severson – GAP, Inc.
As an employer, if you can figure out a systemic way to enable people to increase the amount of flexibility they have to achieve the other goals and purpose they have in their life, while making their salary with you, you will achieve competitive advantage in their minds.
Encourage people to come and join you, even if you can’t pay them more than a competitor. There are many times where we had competitors willing to pay more. Part of our strategy was to say, regardless of when economic conditions are tough, and we don’t have the money to pay more, this is an advantage that is immune to the effects of a down economy that we can maintain.
Katie Burke – HubSpot
The biggest question I get about Glassdoor is often from CEOs—and it’s often, “How can I avoid it?” There’s been a fundamental change in the balance of power. Your candidates as well as employees have a huge voice in what your employment brand looks like. I think a lot of CEOs and executives want to hold on to the olden days, when you could hand someone a brochure that said exactly what you loved about the company, and put a shining portrait of a super happy, highly promoted employee that basically said, “Any questions? Please sign on the dotted line.”
The world has radically changed. My first piece of advice for people is that this is like trying to avoid the internet. You might as well ride the wave — so embrace online reviews early.
Your employees will thank you, your candidates will thank you, and frankly, long-term, your employment brand will thank you. For companies that don’t have a culture team, all you want (and what candidates want to hear) is ownership. Authenticity of a response. We’re very lucky to have high reviews, but we have some on there that aren’t super flattering. We have to resist the temptation to go, “That’s not true. I don’t know who you are, but this is inaccurate.” We own everything that’s on there—good, bad and ugly. I don’t think you have to respond to every single review, but I also think if I spend 20 minutes a day to respond, it’s a great use of my time.
Matt Likens – Ulthera
Ego and narcissism at the top of the house can really spoil the broth completely. The CEO of any organization has to value every person in the organization—doesn’t matter the role. Everyone’s important. That’s what makes it one of the best CEO leadership styles out there.
I guess the best advice, and we were able to establish an operating environment here—that we didn’t just talk about it. We behaved in a certain way and it was also consistent throughout the organization. So often, you have the CEO saying one thing, but then when he’s not here, or not in the office, it’s… let’s just call it disappointing, or inconsistent. And at that point, the management team overall has lost any chance of having a group that’s really all pulling in the same direction. So I think if it’s one thing, it’s authenticity.
So why should you think differently if you’re in the corner office, as they called it at Baxter, versus if you’re in the cube? We are all in this together. Let’s act that way, and bring everybody along for this ride, versus a hierarchical thinking and not sharing information and so on.
Amelia Newbury – Authentic Leadership Institute
Something to start thinking about regarding purpose: If you left your job and the position you hold tomorrow, and another person with an equal level of skills stepped into your role, what would the people on your team miss?
Steve Hall – driversselect
Not all acorns become oak trees. For an acorn to become an oak tree, it needs the proper amount of sunshine, soil, and good fortune to avoid trampling. A lot of that is what culture does. You can have that great acorn — that great idea, great process, great opportunity. But unless you create the culture that lets it get the sunshine, soil and protective environment it needs to come alive, that great idea won’t amount to a whole lot. That’s why promoting your culture, and living it, is one of the best CEO leadership styles.
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