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The Best Leadership Advice We Heard in 2021

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What does it mean to be a leader when workforces are increasingly decentralized and traditional business models have been upended by a global pandemic? Do the old axioms apply, and if not, have we gleaned enough from shifts in the marketplace to get behind any new consensus conventional wisdom?

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These remain open-ended questions, but as we near the year’s end, we thought it prudent to share salient points of view on modern leadership from the most trustworthy sources we could think of: our own Entrepreneur contributors.

So as part of a Best Advice series running throughout November, our staff selected several tips directly from Entrepreneur.com features, think pieces and profiles over the past 10-plus months, along with corresponding quotes that epitomized what makes them superlative insights into running a business in 2022 and beyond.

Related: 5 Leadership Cliches and How They Should Be Reimagined for the Modern Leader

Trust the people you hire

“A lot of business owners like to keep a close eye on day-to-day operations and tasks, especially those who start small. But that approach really doesn’t scale. If you bring someone in to manage operations, or accounting or marketing, you should have the confidence in your own decisions to give them the freedom to do the job you’ve hired them to do. In my experience, the right people will reward your confidence in them and help your business grow in ways you might not have expected — and you’ll have a better relationship with your teams too.” — Sean Brown, founder and CEO of GO VC, from “If You Want to Scale, Give the People You Hire Freedom to Succeed”

Have a communication strategy

“Change is hard, and you will find yourself having to repeat communications several times. Plan for this in your communication strategy. Set the expectation that things will get worse before they get better. Mistakes will happen, things will fall through the cracks — and that’s okay. It’s expected and a natural part of the process.” — Katie Murphy, Founder & CEO of Expansion Group, from “How to Pull Off the Most Successful Reorganization Possible”

Offer employees more than money

“A paycheck is not enough for today’s employees — you have to earn people’s energy. I believe as a leader, my job is not just to help people understand the possible, it’s to unleash their potential to realize the impossible.” — Ann Mukherjee, Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard North America, from “100 Women of Impact In 2021”

Do this one thing when interviewing candidates

“During the pandemic, children, pets and partners can be a noisy soundtrack interrupting our Zoom calls. There is no need to apologize for daily interruptions that are now part of our pandemic routine. However, as an interviewer and as an ambassador of your company, here’s the number-one thing you must do when interviewing candidates: Do your best to minimize all distractions within your control.” —Mita Mallick, head of inclusion, equity and impact at Carta, from “Here’s the No. 1 Thing You Must Do When Interviewing Candidates”

Related: 5 Ways to Build Remote Leadership Skills

Stay both present- and future-focused

“[The goal is] get the current business to be the best it can be — efficient, profitable and as big as it should be in the segment. But then in parallel, prepare this new world, that in next year’s time, somebody else will have the opportunity to take over and take to the next level.” — Adrian Hallmark, Global CEO of Bentley Motors, from “CEO and Chairman Adrian Hallmark Wants Bentley Motors to Be the Most Sustainable Luxury Automotive Manufacturer In the World. He’s Well on His Way.”

Clearly define, and stick to, your organization’s values

“What I’ve been focused quite a lot on over the last few months is what I consider to be a really important foundational piece of work, which is to sharpen our values as an organization, to clearly define the company that we strive to be and the behaviors that are required to support that. We’re now in the process of embedding this throughout the organization to ensure that we can hold ourselves and each other accountable.” — Evelyn Webster, CEO of SoulCycle, from “For SoulCycle CEO Evelyn Webster, the Way Forward is Through Accountability, Inclusivity and Purpose”

Hire people you can lose with

“In my sport, I hired people I could lose with — who I’d be comfortable losing with — because they’re who would give me the best support. I mean, they took the losses hard. You want them to take them hard because you want them to be competitive. But if they’re people you’d want to be with when you lose, then I’m sure you’ll be able to celebrate well with them.” — Maria Sharapova, professional tennis player and founder of Sugarpova, from “Maria Sharapova’s Winning Secret: ‘I Hired People I Could Lose With'”

Be willing to not have all the answers

“I always say that you can’t be good at something unless you’re willing to be bad. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten way more comfortable with not having the answers. I think it’s such a great tool of leadership to be able to say, “I don’t know.” The worst leaders I’ve ever worked with or been around are the ones who are steadfast and indignant in their righteousness, and really worried about their image. So I love saying, ‘I don’t know.’”” — Ryan Reynolds, actor and co-founder of Maximum Effort, from “Why Ryan Reynolds Says “You Can’t Be Good At Something Unless You’re Willing To Be Bad”

Avoid analysis paralysis 

“A leader’s focus should be heavily weighted on execution. Shoot first, aim later. Yes, mistakes can be easily made with this approach, but if you learn from the mistakes, you can always course correct. I seek results, and I keep what is working and drop what is not working. People follow leaders that are bold and make swift decisions.”— Ross Franklin, CEO and founder of Pure Green, from “Master These 5 Leadership Skills to Increase Your Results Tenfold”

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