There are several ways that CEOs can assess the likely trajectory of their direct and indirect reports.
• Certainly, there are 360-degree reviews that HR teams share to understand performance across departments and teams.
• There are myriad executive coaches and management consultants who have their own formula for judging how we encourage our employees to reach their full potential.
As I have risen through the ranks, one of the best yardsticks I have used over the years to gauge leadership potential in others is through getting to know them as a whole person and understanding their personal DNA and what makes them tick.
I attribute a meaningful share of my professional success in finance to a string of strong leaders early in my career who combined strategic focus, high emotional intelligence, and a willingness to invest their time in me—and that’s how I pay it forward to the next generation of leaders. As a CEO, it’s easy to say, “Our people are our difference…” but it only carries water if leaders truly invest time and energy into understanding what drives someone and how to help them see and reach their true potential.
I invest my time using “3Ls of professional development”—Learning, Listening, and Leadership. They are the guidepost for how I not only shape the culture of my organization, but also how I cultivate the leaders within my company.
Three Letters, One Guiding Principle.
Those three simple words categorize my leadership style—and you can do the same for your business. Here’s how.
Learning. Humans are creatures of habit, but effective leaders need to have the wherewithal to learn new habits in order to be successful. I clipped a 2017 article from Harvard Business Review that cited leaders who are in a learning mode develop stronger leadership skills than their peers. What’s more, when my team and I learn, together, we work collaboratively to address challenges and solve problems as a collective unit.
Listening. Many consultants contend that listening affords CEOs with a roster of new ideas and solutions. I believe that…and more. CEOs who listen well also ask smart questions of their people. Sir Winston Churchill once stated the difficulty of looking up to leaders who keep their ears to the ground; that carries a lot of weight with how I grow people. Listening to them is as important as them listening to me. After all, I already know what I think. I want to know what they think.
Leadership. The smartest chief executives I know realize the imperative of fostering communications with people who want to work with you, not for you. We all have different definitions of leadership, and this publication offers many of them. One that resonates with me comes from Lao Tzu: “A leader is best when people know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” The only way to know that, collectively, leaders make a difference is if they garner other’s inputs and ideas, as we are truly only one piece to a much larger puzzle.
As importantly, the 3L philosophy brings a level of trust, transparency, and stability to my team—and it becomes a competitive advantage when recruiting new people because they listen to successes of those who have benefited from it. Following these Three Ls will help leaders of today create more effective leaders of tomorrow.