by Brad Smith
I recently wrote about the three things I wish I’d known before becoming a CEO. Today, I want to briefly discuss how I see the model for being a successful leader evolving in today’s fast-changing world.
Once upon a time, the conventional wisdom was that to be a CEO, one needed to be a confident, charismatic individual who never expressed weakness, and seemed to have all the answers. Today, the pace of change and disruptive threats have required the emergence of a new breed of leadership in the Silicon Valley and across the globe. The new model is a leader openly dedicated to self-improvement, working with others to create shared success and where having a high curiosity quotient, or CQ, is more important than a high IQ. Below, are three leadership traits I admire in others, and seek to emulate:
Open to Learning and Change
The best CEOs and leaders recognize that they do not have all the answers. As the adage goes, “Just when I had all of the answers, someone changed all of the questions.” That’s never been more true than in today’s fast-paced environment. Becoming a CEO or a leader at any level is not the end of journey, but the beginning of a challenge to live up to continuous improvement and re-imagination of both yourself and the organization you lead. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a great example of a CEO who, even with all his success, role models that his quest for learning never ends. Each year, he publicly declares what he will be working on – from learning Mandarin to trying to read two books each month. In doing so, he not only improves himself, but also role models the importance of ongoing personal development for his entire company.
Success is a Team Sport
None of us can do it alone, especially CEOs. I always loved the old saying “Show me a CEO who appears to walk on water, and I’ll show you a team of people underneath the surface carrying him orher on their shoulders.” Reid Hoffman, co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn, is the quintessential example of a generous leader who views one person’s success as being connected to the success of others. His 2014 book, “The Alliance,” explains how leaders can attract and retain the best employees through forming mutually beneficial alliances where everyone wins. The new trait he role models for others is that the best path to success, on both a personal and organizational level, is a culture where everyone’s success is linked to the success of each other and the entire team.
In today’s connected world, there are no secrets. How you treat others, both good and bad, creates a personal brand that follows you wherever you go. Successful businesses, such as AirBNB and TaskRabbit, have built business models that showcase how others view you as the key to driving success. The currency that makes systems like Airbnb and TaskRabbit work is trust, influence and reputation capital. If you have a habit of trashing Airbnb rentals, pretty soon you’re going to find it hard to find a host that will accept you. The same is true for CEOs and leaders in general. Employees and contractors have a choice, and even in tough economic areas where limited job opportunities may exist, there is the negative consequence of having an employee who is deeply de-motivated based on a poor work environment. We all know that putting a fully charged battery and a dead battery into a flashlight will drain the new one and the light will no longer work. How you treat people matters. Today’s leaders need to build reputations based on trust and respect, to both inspire teams and to attract and retain top talent.
Today’s leaders are breaking the mold of the CEO as a confident, charismatic individual who never expresses weakness, and seems to have all the answers – and replacing it with a more collaborative, teamwork-oriented approach to leadership. I am personally inspired by these traits, and I believe these are positive changes that offer a leadership model that best fits the times in which we live.