Becoming a leader requires a lot of learning – about your field, your company, competitors, your staff, your skills, strengths, and of course your weaknesses.
It’s also requires you to be self-aware and to truly earn the respect and the trust of others so that you can bring together people and knowledge to deliver success, whatever that may look like for your business.
All of this takes time and involves both successes and missteps. Here are four lessons I’ve learned about how to be a strong leader, whether working in small or big business.
1. Have a clear vision that inspires others
At Intuit we have a strong vision that we rally behind every day – we aim to change our customers’ financial lives so profoundly they could never imagine going back.
This focuses our team and ensures we’re all working towards the same long-term goals.
A vision statement helps create an identity for the company and engages employees, so make it personal but also consider how it relates to your market, customers and challenges. Use strong and creative words and ideals that are authentic to inspire and motivate your team.
2. Listen, actively
A previous mentor noticed early in my career that I could, at times, have a pretty short attention span. Although I was keen to learn, I often wanted to talk rather than truly, deeply listen.
Listening actively means being present, asking questions, internalising what is being said and being open and interested in another person’s point of view.
For me, it all comes back to remembering one of my favourite phrases: “we are born with two ears and one mouth, use them in that ratio!”
3. Make curiosity a habit
My father taught me not to wait to be told how something works but to find out about it for yourself. Essentially this is about being curious and exploring possibilities.
Curiosity is closely linked to innovation at Intuit, which is part of our company DNA. Our approach is to engage with our customers in a number of ways, including observing and studying the way they work – exploring how they solve problems, use our software and the like. This provides great insights and ultimately leads to better and better solutions for customers.
Just like a child would, keep asking “why?” because only then will you discover the actual truth and not just what you think it is. The aim is to remove “I think” and replace it with “customers or the team showed us” to gain deeper insights.
4. Empower your team and step out the way
Provided you have a great team, a clear vision that inspires, you listen to your staff and know your customer, let the people at the front line who are talking to customers daily, make decisions.
You don’t need to micromanage every step of the way and be involved in every decision. Instead create a culture where failure means learning fast. Sometimes being a maverick leads to delighting customers and teams.
Brad Paterson is the VP & Managing Director, Intuit APAC.