We recently had the privilege of hosting seniors from Oklahoma Bible Academy to discuss what makes a great leader. As I talked through our firm’s history, the mentors and opportunities placed in my life, and the lessons learned through trial and error, I uncovered five key things that helped me grow as a leader. It was a good reminder to be intentional about teaching these traits to my kids and modeling them for my colleagues, friends and partners.
Good leaders ARE CONFIDENT. They see opportunities before challenges. They believe in their unique abilities and clearly understand their purpose. The definition of leadership is assuming responsibility before authority has been given, and doing that takes guts. Take the initiative to go the extra mile and do more than what’s asked of you. Have the confidence to introduce yourself to people you admire, explore new ideas, and never let being told ‘no’ stop you. In many ways, being young is an asset in this arena. When I was in my 20s and leading the addition of investment services to our firm, I didn’t stop to consider whether what I was doing was hard – or if I was qualified or experienced enough. I simply knew I felt called to do it. So to any young people reading this: your age is not an obstacle. It means you have more time to recover from mistakes and more time to make an impact.
Good leaders voraciously CONSUME KNOWLEDGE. I love the quote that, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” It’s so true. Every effective leader I know believes they have something to learn from everything they read, everyone they meet and every life experience. To be a leader is to be a lifelong student and consume knowledge wherever you can – books, articles, podcasts, clubs, associations, etc. With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever. I’m a huge fan of Craig Groeschel’s leadership podcast, and I subscribe to Blinkist – an app that condenses great nonfiction books into quick, 15-minute reads. So even if you think you don’t have time to read, there are still plenty of ways to learn. Surround yourself with other leaders and ask good questions. As they say, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”
Good leaders WELCOME COLLABORATION. Good ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. Leaders seek input from others and recognize that what we can accomplish together is always better than what we can accomplish alone. Every role in a company is important, and leaders encourage others to use their unique abilities and actively participate. They solicit and accept feedback with gratitude and humility, recognizing there is always room for improvement.
Good leaders RESPECT CONFIDENTIALITY. It is a privilege to be included at the boardroom table – to listen, to give input. Those who need to be aware of the conversation are likely seated beside you, and if someone is not in the room, there’s often a reason why. If you’ve earned an invitation to important discussions, respect your seat in the boardroom by not talking about what happens within those walls. There’s an assumption of trust extended to everyone at the table, and those who break it don’t get invited back.
Good leaders recognize that ATTITUDE IS CONTAGIOUS and that they play a critical role in setting the tone at the office. It takes effort to train your mind to focus on the positive and to live in a state of gratitude. That’s why we start our meetings at Wymer Brownlee with something called “Positive Focus.” Everyone is the room shares one thing they’re thankful for and commits to being present and engaged for the remainder of the meeting. We also work to be mindful of “The Gap” – an exercise I learned from the Strategic Coach program that encourages you to compare your personal progress to past versions of yourself rather than a perfect, unachievable ideal. The Gap exercise cultivates gratitude for where you are rather than discouragement for not yet being where you want. One final note about attitude: no matter where you are in your career – be it intern or CEO – you should always be willing to do what it takes to get the job done. No job is below you. True leaders serve others and are always willing to outwork everyone else.
My love of studying leadership began at Oklahoma Bible Academy but has continued to this day. I look forward to seeing how the young men and women we chatted with grow in their leadership skills and do great things in our world.
Blog by Kyle Brownlee, Chief Executive Officer.