Tips from 12 executives on becoming a better leader in 2020

Though it’s undeniably fulfilling to be at the helm of a company, steering a ship into the shining lights of success, leadership also comes with an incredible amount of pressure. Not only are you responsible for meeting key metrics but your team looks up to you for guidance, reassurance, advice, and perspective.

Your career growth and their trajectories are tied together, and often, executives share management is the most difficult part of their job. As we look ahead into the wild, wild west of the 2020s, there’s a decade full of opportunity to improve your soft skills. From listening more to being brave and vulnerable, here, trusted executives share their best advice on leadership:

Ask more questions

“A leader should not present themselves as someone who knows everything all the time. When needed, a good leader is comfortable asking for advice from anyone, regardless of rank or experience. Once you have a good idea of what people recommend, explore what doing the opposite would do to your business. This might mean holding on to your original ideals or approaching a problem creatively.” —Phnam Bagley, co-founder and creative director of Nonfiction Design.

Prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario

“Too often, CEOs are not prepared when a crisis occurs, leading to a lack of appropriate response. The best offense is a good defense, and the best defense is strong core values. Companies that live and breathe their values cultivate a corporate culture that’s less prone to making big headlines for bad reasons. Your values should be evident in everything you do, from how your employees treat one another to the kinds of business relationships you build as you grow.” —Mark Moses, CEO of CEO Coaching International.

Stimulate growth with positive team morale

“When the work schedule is packed, delegate tasks that employees excel in so they can feel productive in checking tasks off their list and not burdened or stressed. When the schedule is a bit lighter, that’s the time to try new initiatives and learn new tools, and further development. It’s a constant ebb and flow that you must monitor. Monitor your workload each week with a weekly team meeting. These staff meetings are extremely important to get everyone on the same page and make sure everyone’s voice is heard. 

Come up with a team morale project to work on throughout the year. When team morale is lacking, prioritize a project that allows your team to see the direct impact of their work.” —Lauren Grech, CEO and co-founder of LLG Events & LLG Agency.

Be aware of the difference between pride and ego. 

“You want people to take pride in their work and accomplishments, but you have to be very careful to manage against ego. Outsized egos can quickly lead to poor decision making and a culture of putting self-interests over team goals.” —Victor Davanzo, founder and CEO of RSP Nutrition.

Focus on the $10,000 Tasks

“There are only so many hours in a day; and since time is money,  you’ve got to make them count. I like to assign a dollar amount to any task I’m about to take on. According to author Perry Marshall, there are $10, $100, $1000, and $10,000 per hour tasks. As a leader, your job is to work on as many $10,000/hr tasks as possible, and delegate the rest to your team. This way you are truly steering the ship, and being productive rather than being busy. It’s incredibly hard to ‘lead from the weeds’, so you’ve got to make sure you’re focusing on the birds eye view, which ultimately drives exponential growth, which in turn excites your team to work harder and score more wins.” —Gwen Jimmere, CEO and founder of Naturalicious.

Plot a course to your North Star — but keep an open mind.

“When you face a decision, ask yourself: ‘Which choice brings me closer to my North Star?’ In the meantime, set one-year and three-year goals that are building blocks on the road to your big goal, but don’t obsess over the nitty-gritty. Life throws curveballs, so giving yourself room to absorb those curveballs will help you maintain the mental and physical stamina required to reach your goals. You also never know when an unexpected opportunity might crop up, so keep an open mind to the possibility of alternative paths to get where you’re going.” —Doris Huang, founder and owner, The Deco Food + Drink.

 Inspire a shared vision without dictating the ‘how.’

“Share where you want your teams to go and then empower them to get there. In order to be fully engaged, focused and inspired, team members need to understand and believe in the vision. They also need to understand how they impact the end result. Once the team understands what needs to be done and where they are going, it is a leader’s job to provide the autonomy needed for them to figure out a solution and accomplish the task in their own way. Carry the load together by building purposeful relationships grounded in cooperation and a shared vision.” —Nicole Ringle, chief talent officer at Lifestyle Communities

Embrace vulnerability

“News flash: you don’t have to have it all figured out as the leader! When you are vulnerable about what you don’t know, and where you’re working on your growth, it allows others to be vulnerable about their opportunities for growth as well. As a leader, you bring strengths that allow you to be a leader, it’s those strengths that you celebrate and lead with, but, just as we all have strengths, we have weaknesses, and owning that is powerful. One way to avoid creating a burnout culture is to encourage people to become problem solvers, to know it’s ok to try out new solutions and it’s ok to not have all the answers, to know that you aren’t striving for perfectionism. If you’re asking your team-members to be vulnerable to try new things and be ok making mistakes, you can support and encourage that, by being open to your own vulnerability as the leader.” —Amber Swenor, brand and business Strategist and founder of the Impact Academy.

 

Help your employees find balance in their lives.

“Many employees are searching for the perfect way to find the balance between home and work — especially if employees have children (or pet children) that require flexibility in schedules and even perhaps having little ones come to the office in certain cases. As long as the work gets done, with the quality needed, on time, it’s a great idea to ensure your employees feel they have the flexibility to truly balance. Employees who are happier and have a job that provides balance tend to be more productive and loyal.” —Jedd Gold, CEO and founder of Artkive.

“Be interested, not interesting”

“After spending a week at an immersive leadership training, one of our instructors was talking to us about re-entry back to work and home. He told us to be interested in what people were doing when we were gone first, rather than sharing all that we just experienced. I find this saying really translates so well into everyday life and helps to be a better leader. Leaders need to be good listeners. Work on getting to know your colleagues better in 2020.” —Amanda Swoverland, chief risk officer of Sunrise Banks.

Focus on being patient

“Not everything happens extremely fast in life. You have to understand that Rome was not built in one day. Big key in life is definitely to be patient and not to lose faith in what you are doing. You have to understand that life is a roller coaster. It goes up and down. So stay positive, be humble and always remember everything can be achieved but you must believe in time and patience.” —Zoriy Birenboym, president and CEO of eAutoLease.

Aim to micromanage less

“Teams that have a strong sense of trust are able to create a dynamic that allows for the entire company or organization to move with confidence towards their goals and mission. A trusted leader and a trusting environment are about as motivating and empowering as it gets. How one embraces trust sets the culture within.” —Tom Arrix, founder and CEO of betr.