From my early experiences working for Textron in Washington D.C., and along my path to leadership in the years that have followed, I’ve learned a few things … some more meaningful than others, and some through trial and error and hindsight. As I reflect upon these lessons, I’m struck by how difficult some of them were to learn.
First, and perhaps most importantly, LEADERS MUST EMBRACE CHANGE. In my career—and life, for that matter—one thing has remained constant: That one thing is change. Whether we like it or not, the ability to embrace change—to truly accept change—is probably the single most critical attribute for success. I’ve been fortunate to know some exceptional individuals and some great leaders. When I think about the difference between what makes a business or a leader thrive, it so often comes down to an ability to be nimble and to face change head-on.
“If you don’t change, you can become extinct.” That’s one of my favorite quotes. It’s from Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese, which is a very fitting metaphor for embracing change. When you think about it, change really is the engine that propels growth.
LEADERS MUST PLAY TO THEIR STRENGTHS, and to the strengths of their teams. Everyone has a unique combination of professional and personal strengths. Blending these strengths is the challenge, but when done right—when done artfully—the results will come. The growth will happen. Don’t waste too much time force-fitting yourself or your people into roles that don’t make sense or offer an opportunity to unleash potential. Believe me, this is a common leadership mistake that is easy to correct.
LEADERS MUST LISTEN. This isn’t necessarily the business climate I entered into—or grew up in—but, like you, it’s the world I’m growing in. There’s a saying at Textron that “dialogue is the oxygen of change.” Indeed, listening is essential in order to realize the change necessary to learn and to thrive. Listening sounds easy, but you would be surprised at how easy it is to NOT listen. At Textron, listening is an actual competency that our leaders are held accountable to build.
As aspiring leaders, you have a challenging road in front of you. Be the change you want to see and enjoy the road ahead. Best of luck on your journey.