Whatever type of company you are running, the basics of good leadership remain the same.
Two CEOs from different backgrounds and companies turned out to have a lot more in common than you might think. Eric J McNulty, director of research at the National Preparedness Initiative, interviewed Sophi Tranchell, CEO of UK-based social enterprise Divine Chocolate, and Bill Sandbrook, CEO of US based producer of mixed concrete and aggregates, US Concrete, for two unrelated projects. Writing for Strategy+Business, he says: “Their insights make a great playbook for the leadership basics from which everyone can learn.”
1) Aim to hire people who can find meaning through your business.
Tranchelle isn’t looking for people who love chocolate, but for “people who are ‘passionate and curious’ and want to change the world for the better”. It’s about ethos, rather than product.
Sandbrook looks for people who can “grow to love the industry and the company”. The appeal of concrete might be less obvious than chocolate, but Sandbrook asserts that “in an increasingly digital world, working with a tangible, durable product has appeal”.
2) Provide clear, compelling goals.
For Tranchelle, this means learning to tell good stories about her business “so everyone knows where we are and where we are going”. It’s important that her staff understand the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’, and Tranchelle regularly sends employees to Ghana to see the impact of their work.
Sandbrook encourages his employees to focus on key goals: “If you can get your team excited about achieving a goal, what the business is isn’t actually that important.”
3) Give people a path for growth and impact.
Social enterprises like Divine Chocolate offer young people struggling to pay off student loans the opportunity to earn a wage while working in a field that has meaningful social impact.
At US Concrete, every employee is rewarded for strategic thinking. Through their own innovation and creativity, they can make a tangible difference to how the company does business.
4) Foster a positive, supportive culture.
Divine Chocolate is still small enough to get everybody together each month to “celebrate success and solve problems”. The emphasis is on being fair and inclusive.
Sandbrook fosters collaboration and respect and insists that “egos are checked at the door”. To encourage engagement, the company tolerates low consequence mistakes as a natural part of the learning process.
5) Lead with a higher purpose.
For Tranchell, the higher purpose is addressing social injustice. Her driving belief is that collective action can have an impact. For her, leadership is about being able to make a difference in the real world.
Team building is its own reward for Sandbrook, who thrives when he can motivate his staff to a higher level where they accomplish things they might not have thought possible. “It’s the intangible rewards, not the tangible.”
These are only the foundations of effective leadership, not the whole building, but if you’re aiming to build a solid structure, it would be wise to first get these basics firmly in place.