PRINCIPLES – L: Learning to lead

I would imagine that many of you are familiar with Simon Sinek. Simon is a renowned author, speaker, and expert in business relationships and human behavior. In 2019, Simon joined me on stage at Microsoft Inspire. It was a great opportunity to bring his thoughts on leadership and collaboration to Microsoft’s global partner conference!

Simon often talks about the qualities of successful leadership. This quote from our conversation continues to resonate with me:

“Leadership isn’t about being in charge. It’s about taking care of people in your charge. People always ask me, ‘How do I get the most out of my people?’ I tell them, ‘First of all, people aren’t towels. We don’t wring them out. The correct question is, How do we create an environment where people can work at their natural best?’ And that is the responsibility of leadership. We have to act in the way we expect our people to act. We have to be the leaders we wish we had…at all times.”

Taking good care of people in your charge is not always easy to do. But it’s imperative for ensuring success as a team. Creating a culture that enables people to do their best is what Microsoft’s three Leadership Principles are all about.

Microsoft’s leadership principles lay the ground for some great leadership principles

Creating clarity

If people aren’t clear about what the goal is, they’ll never reach it. Likewise, if people aren’t clear about what their role is in reaching the goal, they feel confined. Satya once called-out that Microsoft is great at creating clarity on Horizon 2—where we’re headed and what the technology landscape will look like five years from now. But we can improve our illustration of Horizon 1—the path we lay out to get to the North Star.

A great leader paints a clear picture of where they want their organization to go and every person’s role to get there. They lay out the roadmap and milestones—especially in the face of ambiguity—so the whole team is clear on what success looks like. A great leader then continues to communicate and clarify this vision to keep everyone on the right path.

Generating energy

My take on this leadership principle is all about matching people to their passion. I’ve worked on teams where I see people who really excel at something, but not the specific job they’re doing. On my teams, when I spot this, I try to correct it.

Some leaders prefer to build an organizational structure and then put people in the roles. I think that’s kind of backwards. You could be looking forever to find the “perfect” person for a specific role! My approach is to look at the people on your team—and the experience and perspective they bring—then build jobs around their strengths. Capitalizing on the unique abilities of your team members will position them for greater success. This approach inspires creativity, optimism, and growth, and generates energy and enthusiasm around your organization’s goals and mission.

Delivering success

This is critical: results matter. And the results should be visible. How are you providing value to your team, your manager, and the business? People need to be aligned and know the success you’re aiming to deliver.

The unfortunate truth is, we live and work in a what-have-you-done-for-me-today kind of world. Everything you’ve done has helped you get to this point, but what matters most is delivering success today. Ongoing success builds your credibility, your brand, and your network.

As a leader, you deliver success in many ways. You do it by helping others succeed—ensuring your team members are able to work productively toward a goal. You do it by innovating constantly and coming up with new and better ideas. And you do it by relentlessly pursuing solutions to seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Learning the art of leadership is a lifelong journey. Each one of us has a role to play in creating a culture where people can thrive and be their “natural best.” How are you creating that culture on your team?

Have a great week everyone!

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