More Leadership Lessons They Don’t Teach in School

Posted May 10, 2011 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights, Leadership

Every Spring we bring a group of executives to our PowerRoundtable podium and ask them to spill the beans on what they’ve learned about leadership that can’t be taught in a classroom.  I feel like I should have had Michael Ignatieff on the podium for this particular session, but given that we held it the day after the election, his schedule was a little jammed.  Instead we had Anne-Marie Renaud (VP Operations for Pepsico Foods Canada); Simon Jennings (President, Olive Media) and Jerome Dwight (President & CEO of BNY Trust Company of Canada, a subsidiary of BNY Mellon).  Here are some of their top tips combined with my observations (and you can see if they get repetitive with last year’s panelists).

It’s all about the people… it takes an enormous amount of people skills to empower the people around you… and that can be a bit of an “a-ha” moment for leaders who are deeply entrenched in their “technical” expertise.

An early dose of feedback really helps… getting 360 feedback on what your strengths and liabilities are as a leader early on in your career can be incredibly important to help you understand what you’re doing (positively and negatively) to affect the morale of your troops.

It’s not all fun and games… being at the top of heap may seem like a great reward for all you career climbers, but at the end of the day, it’s still a job.  Know where you get your “juice” from and don’t step into leadership unless you enjoy working with people.

Letters are only part of the answer… sure an MBA may open doors and get you at the table, but it’s a mistake to think that you can then just “sit back” and not continue to develop yourself.  Always keep learning and growing.

The real skills that get you promoted?… it’s all about strategy, baby. You need to step back and see what’s going on from the 1000 foot level  and, at the same time, be able to dig deep to see what’s going on at your level.  Plus, show up with a can-do attitude, an ability to focus yourself and your team on the right priorities and you’d better be able to build talent.

Failure, schmailure… taking risk is part of the senior leadership “gig” and you have to build a resilience to career trip-ups.  (Interestingly, I find lots of senior people refuse to label things as “failures” but rather “learning opportunities”.  There’s  a lesson in there too – be confident!).

Surround yourself with the best… we’ve all heard the adage “hire good people and then get out of the way.”  The trick seems to be to really get out of the way.

Be good at what you’re being paid to do… Instead of focusing on the title you’re working towards, put your energy into being excellent at what you’ve been hired to do.  The promotion will follow.

I could go on and on.  From my perspective, this panel was a great window on the different approaches successful leaders take to get results and it reminded me – yet again – on the importance of culture and knowing where you – as a leader – can operate at your best.  There’s no one right way to do it, and it’s always situational.  Thank you to our three panelists and our enthusiastic group of members who came out to contribute to the conversation!  We’ll be back again in the fall.  In the meantime, be sure to join us to hear another amazing line up of speakers at the Art of Leadership conference on June 6th.  Use our special subscriber code ERT and save up to $100 off your registration.

Happy leading!


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