In the 100th episode of In The Marketplace, Priest talks to Jason Mayden about a variety of his topics. He talks about the challenges of coming up in Chicago and particularly the issues he faced in his own community. He talks about some of the work he did and connections he made at Nike. He talks his love of what we called at one point, “Geek culture” with Skateboarding, Comic Books, etc which all are mainstream and popular today. Tying all that together he talks about his own dream creating his own shoe business to help encourage kids to play and uses that comic book aesthetic to really speak to kids. Using comic books to reach out to kids is becoming a popular method of communication, even using comic books to really get kids interested in becoming a start up entrepreneur. With so many topics I was certain this post game post could go all over the place. However, one lengthy answer to a question about leadership really opened up a solid topic of choice.
In the conversation, Jason discusses the importance of being a good leader and that we as a society lack solid leadership in a lot of roles. That can go up and down the chain with workplaces, political figures, the media… you could probably look at a ton of spots and view it as a cultural failing. The biggest problem is that the answer isn’t exactly cut and dried. Every person needs different types of leadership because every person has their own personality types. Some people need a hard edged Vince Lombardi style leader that rides you and pushes you – for those people fear is a motivator. For others they want the unvarnished truth but they need it in a benefit or compliment sandwich. Don’t just give them the bad news, wrap it in positives so they can at least understand that you are paying attention to their successes as well. Some people are extremely worried and fearful so you need to soft peddle information to them.
The thing is a great leader can wear many types of leadership hats. The need to be consistent with one single message to all of your team members is outdated. Everybody receives messages differently. Everybody has different needs. A boss will bark orders and not take the time to develop that rapport. They think as the boss, the team needs to conform to them. A true leader will take the time to learn the personality types on their team and learn the best way to communicate to them individually. Even in team settings a leader this conscientious will take extra time to develop a broader message that keeps everyone on track. Fortune had a pretty good article that described some successful leadership traits. I agree with them but I want to expand on a couple of things I personally believe makes a great leader.
True leaders have skills beyond just being able to squeeze numbers out of their team. They are selfless and have a great amount of empathy and understanding. They can set goals and deliver concrete standards the team needs to meet by delivering an honest assessment of the why behind it. They will also stand up for their team when their own leaders challenge production levels or quality using an understanding of the facts they developed by being engaged in what their team is doing. If there’s a major crunch at work where the team needs to complete more work than normal, they’re not in the back cracking the whip, they’re finding out what needs to be done and determining if there’s a way to pull in other resources, changing the process in a way that makes the work more efficient or even stepping up to work on the project themselves alongside their team.
Leadership isn’t just going to a million meetings with other leaders that doesn’t always accomplish much and it isn’t just about flying off to another conference here or there. Sure some of that is vital but real leaders are okay being one foot in the mud with their team so that at any given moment when required they can help drive the team to success. They’re part of the team, not some exterior force pushing random crew around.
I thought this was fitting because I wanted to share this story considering who is the host of this podcast. Priest is a super giving person and he has always given me some sage advice. We were peers on the same team but Priest was for all intents and purposes the leader of our team. I want to share a few of these nuggets of info with you because I think ultimately they will help you in your career as well.
- Never stop listening to what is out there. You might be exceptionally happy in your role right now and feel very loyal to the company you’re at. That’s great! But always keep your resume up to date, do job searches somewhat regularly and listen to what people have to offer if someone comes calling. Your career and your success is something you need to always take control of. In a time when businesses outsource, offshore and downsize frequently it’s important to know that you could always be a heartbeat away from a profit-motive driven decision that puts shareholders above the employees that drove that company to success or aka you’re out of a job without seeing it coming. Alternately it’s important for you to know your own worth. Even if you just want to stay at your job, make sure you know what people will pay you and have that discussion at review time with your company.
- No matter what you work on, share that information with everyone you can on your team. The whole thought behind this ties into the first point – what if I leave tomorrow, will the team still be able to pick up the slack and not miss a beat? What about if I need help on a major project? With a deadline it’s pretty hard to stop what I am doing to teach people anything overly intensive. We have a natural inclination to hold our work and specifically our skills to our vest, thinking sharing that information makes us expendable. If a company was thinking that way, you were already expendable even if you didn’t realize it. Rather you have the chance to strengthen the entire team in a way that showcases your leadership skills. One of the true signs of a leader is the ability to delegate. If you’re always hoarding your work to the point where everything relies on you, it’s hard to explain exactly how you are a qualified leader when such a position comes up. In this case sharing that work and teaching those skills just made you MORE marketable at a higher position level in the company. Never worry about sharing your work. Build the team up around you and help develop them at the same time. A stronger team is a more successful team and if you visibly had a role in that success, you just helped raise your own profile.
Just a couple of the probably endless amount of tips Priest has provided me over the years. It’s that selfless, look at the bigger picture viewpoint that has always made him someone I personally considered a mentor. So when he talks with Jason about leadership I know the guy can speak with authority.