8 Must-Dos that Make Good Leaders Great

3. Culture and values
This responsibility really is my No. 1 even though it's third on the list. All responsibilities herein are of equal importance, except for this one, which is above all else.

Academia will preach that core values are important. I'm here to tell you they're everything, but only if you actually own them. If you don't own them in your heart, don't even bother with them. Leave them out because it'll do more harm than good. I'll do my best to share with you my perspective, but for the proof in the pudding look no further than Zappos.

Your company's culture is a direct result of your company's core values. You cannot demand culture. You can't throw out quotes at company meetings to convey culture. You can't incentivize culture.

Culture is simply a result of the core values you enforce.

The secret lies in how you enforce your core values more so than what your core values are. Do you hire for values? Do you terminate for violating values? Ask yourself this question: if your #1 salesperson violated your core value of honesty, would you terminate him or her? Every action you make, from the large ones to the small ones are seen and felt by everyone in your company. They always speak louder than words on the wall.

Your core values define who you are. It's your DNA. It's what makes you, you.

When core values are real, big decisions become easy, and small decisions compound to provide huge impact. When you know who you are, decisions usually can go only a few ways.

For example, we started our new social enterprise fund BeSmartee, backing three different businesses with the goal of picking one and focusing only on that. When it was time to make a decision and drop two, we had a bit of a dilemma. One had become cash-flow positive within two months, but we weren't having fun. One was a huge emotional attachment because it had everything to do with my mom's cancer, but it wasn't a project we were enjoying. And, the last was the reason we got together as a team in the first place, but there was very little execution.

Ultimately, we looked to our core values of passion and real. We realized that we had to do what we were completely passionate about, and that whatever decision we made, we had to be absolutely real to ourselves. Then, the decision came quickly, and we decided to focus on our first initiative.

4. Strategic direction
Many founders and CEOs I've met are really good at this. They're really good at determining where to go and the overall strategy of how to get there. After all, it's usually the Founder who took the company from nothing more than an idea with a few thousand dollars in cash to where it is today.

Strategic direction is all about the major moves the company needs to make to reach its objectives. You do this by setting and communicating the right company goals first. Next, you define what success looks like. Then, in the words of Stephen Covey, you "begin with the end in mind" and work backwards.

Now, it's important to note that No. 4 on the list is actually a responsibility you share with your team. If you don't, you will be responsible for your own company's stunted growth. You cannot be the only person who figures out how to accomplish major objectives. Lead your team to help figure out the how, and the how of the how, and get out of the way.

And, if you ever want to sell your company (trying to be rhetorical here), you need to learn how to share this responsibility and share it well. Consider Jim Collins's book From Good to Great where he introduces the Level 5 Leader. If you haven't read this book, you should; it is the business book of the last decade.

He talks about a Level 5 Leader as having a shared set of characteristics, such as being humble, and my favorite, being able to set up their successors for success. To me, the results speak for themselves, as Level 5 Leaders create companies that outperform and outlast their competitors, and it all starts with preparing your team and company.

5. Team building
How many founders out there were the people who recruited the team, sold the dream and brought people together for a common goal?

Never stop looking for key talent and never stop developing them.

I've seen so many Founders build a team, get to work, and then forget to do what was one of the most important things they originally did – build the team and develop the team. Again, stunted growth will be a result.

As the director of your own movie, don't forget the lessons that Hollywood knows so very well, that everything starts with the team. Where would Danny Ocean be without Ocean's Eleven? Where would Neo be without Morpheus and the Nebuchadnezzar? Get that team together and never stop building.
 

Tim Nguyen is Co-Founder at Masterplan, a BeSmartee company that helps you see your big picture in life. In his personal life Tim spends his days with family and friends, writing, and playing piano, golf and poker.

This story originally appeared on KISSmetricsKISSmetrics

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