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10 Tips for CEOs - Go from Being a Boss to a Leader!

by Hesam Lamei

As you approach 2016, it is important to evaluate the impact you have on your employees. One of the key factors to make a direct impact on your employees is to ensure you are being a leader and not just a boss. From my perspective, CEOs striving to be a true leader can utilize the following 10 methods to be successful.

1. Be a People Person

Being a people person starts with compassion. From there, it really involves interacting with your employees and teams. If you are more of an introvert like me, being a people person can be a difficult pill to swallow. In my experience, setting attainable weekly goals to get out in front of employees and customers is a great way to make frequent interactions less overwhelming. For example, your weekly goals could include personally saying hello to every employee in your office or reaching out to three customers to ask how their businesses are doing and what you could be doing better for them.

2. Be a Guide, Not a Micromanager

Every executive at some point in their career has had the tendency to micromanage. I try to remember the important purposes of a leader are to provide direction, framework and structure, then to empower and support your team. Clearly communicating desired outcomes is important, but make sure you are not telling an employee how to accomplish the task at hand. Another tricky area is to provide feedback to your team when the outcomes are less than desired, and then allow them to solve the issue rather than redoing the work yourself.

3. Delegate and Participate

Placing trust in your direct reports and teams to get the job done is crucial. Delegate a task, then let go, while remaining engaged with occasional follow up to keep everyone on track for your desired results. I place an immense amount of trust in my direct reports to manage their teams and meet department goals. This year was especially challenging at my company with severe changes at our leadership team level which caused me to have more direct involvement with all departments, and through that experience I have learned how to remain engaged at various levels of our business.

4. Be Adaptable

Another important aspect of being a leader is adapting to change and adapting your leadership approach as needed for different individuals or teams. For CEOs in all industries, adaptability to personnel is vital to successful leadership. This can be on the individual or team level as some may require hands-on involvement while others may excel with a hands-off, overseer approach. Additionally, in some industries, such as the information technology industry, change is constant. I continually need to adapt business approaches and internal processes as technology developments change our industry landscape, affecting customers’ needs and budgets.

5. Give Credit and Accept Blame

Give credit when it is due, and accept blame for failures. That seems like a no-brainer, but it can be difficult to remember to acknowledge all successes, even small ones, so that your employees see your acknowledgment that their successes contribute to the company’s success. You can easily give credit during meetings and one-on-one interactions. Public recognition at company gatherings are also important so the entire company is aware of these acknowledgments. Likewise, when you face failures, accepting personal blame allows your employees to see that you are a team player.

6. Be a Motivator

Motivation is a vital ingredient across all levels and departments to experience continual progress. Being a true motivator involves learning what works for each individual employee, and help them see how they contribute to the company’s success. For example, I recommend you map employee goals to business goals and emphasize how your employees are part of the bigger picture. Additionally, remember to be your team’s biggest fan and celebrate small and large successes. Expect greatness from your team, even if they cannot see the greatness within themselves.

7. Know When to Give In and Stand Your Ground

No one stays in business being the nicest CEO, but the same goes with being the most difficult CEO to work with. Some situations require CEOs to look at things from a different perspective and give in to the circumstance at hand, while other situations reveal standing your ground is the best decision for the business. Whether the decisions involve employees or vendors you are in business with, you must weigh the effects of each situation. Take time to understand each situation, and ask yourself how your decision ultimately affects the business as well as others around you.

8. Be Consistent

Wavering decisions and a lack of consistency in verbal and written communication shows a lack of confidence and sound decision-making ability. Striving toward consistency will not only set a good example, but will allow your employees to feel more at ease when presenting you with choices because they will already have good indication of what you will decide. Furthermore, consistent communication in and of itself creates structure with your direct reports, fostering healthier interactions and relationships.

9. Do Not Order to Obey

Be mindful of your communication style. Are you commanding your employees and teams to obey your direction, or are you listening to others’ opinions and having discussions about next steps to accomplish goals? A true leader regards opinions of others as important, and are in a position to advise as well as provide and receive feedback. Reciprocal dialogue strengthens employees and increases their confidence in your leadership.

10. Embrace Work-Life Balance

I saved the best for last, and most difficult in my opinion. Some people say having a work-life balance is impossible, especially as a CEO, but I think it boils down to how you define balance. Embracing balance is especially difficult advice to give fellow entrepreneurs, but anyone who is first to the office and last to leave every day is bound to burnout at some point. In my experience, balance has a way of working itself out once you allow yourself to truly choose your personal priorities. So allow yourself to make room for other priorities, and if you are following the other steps above, you will naturally see an increased sense of balance. Your employees will admire and respect the ability to embrace balance and further improve your business relationships.