Leadership. It’s a small word with a huge impact. It’s also the most necessary part of any venture involving more than one person, whether that venture is setting up a monthly book club meeting or starting a business. Of course, leadership is a little more important in the workplace than most places, and a leader’s behavior can be the difference between the success or failure of a business. And while there are a myriad of qualities that many leaders have, three of the most important are:

  • Setting clear goals
  • Facilitating good communication, including from the bottom to the top
  • Finding the right people for the right jobs and letting them do it

Clarity of Purpose

People follow someone who, at the very least, looks like they know where they’re going. Such was the case with the man who was once the richest man in the world, Bill Gates. As he said in multiple interviews, and in one in 2008 as he stepped down from his position as head of Microsoft, the goal for Microsoft was “…a computer on every desk and in every home.” It was an ambitious goal, particularly when the idea of a computer on every desk wasn’t even fathomable, but it was a goal that was easily defined and envisioned by Gates, his co-founder Paul Allen, and the employees that followed them and established Microsoft as one of the most dominant software companies of all time.

Talk and Listen…to Everybody

Effective leaders in the workplace are not dictators. There are lots of stories about how certain company heads threw tantrums, yelled at underlings, and were generally just unpleasant people. But none of that is being a good leader. In fact, the number of failed companies with those types of leaders is hard to number because there are so many. And when it comes to the ones that succeed, they’re few. In her article on successful leadership, Dionne Mahaffey, a business psychologist, puts effective communication as the first cornerstone. John Boiler, founder of 72andSunny (an ad agency that counts Google and Adidas among its clients), places credit for his company’s success on listening to others. In his words, “If you don’t welcome input from all your people, you narrow your creative product.”. This included listening to his secretary, Evin Shutt, who is now a partner and COO of the company.

Give It To The Specialists

People often look for a single person or figurehead to laud for achieving something. Steve Jobs with Apple, Bill Gates with Microsoft, and Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook. But none of these individuals were solely responsible for their company’s success. Larry Page, one of the co-founders of Google, wrote down his rules for management, and one of them was, “Don’t get in the way if you’re not adding value. Let the people actually doing the work talk to each other while you go do something else.”. In other words, let the people who know what they’re doing do it. It’s a leadership behavior espoused by other successful leaders as well, including Michael Dubin, founder and CEO of Dollar Shave Club, who puts it more succinctly in his interview in the July/August issue of “Inc.” magazine: “[teams] need the right layers above and below to execute in specific areas.”

If You Lead, Others Will Follow

Good leadership isn’t a mystical gift bestowed on just a few people. It’s a skill that can be learned and cultivated. People who aren’t leaders can become leaders. People who are leaders can be better leaders. And it’s not something limited to where you are in a company. Interns and secretaries have risen to become CEO of their own company just as often as the “visionary” who has an idea that will set the world on fire. If you start learning how to use the qualities of a good leader, you will become one.


by: Mikki Mills