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Drink Up: 10 Leadership Lessons From the CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev

October 2, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228690

"You were chosen, not elected. You don't need to please everybody." That's just one piece of advice Anheuser-Busch CEO Carlos Brito shared in his speech to a crowd of business leaders at the World Business Forum in New York on Tuesday.

Brito, who oversaw the 2008 mega merger of Belgian brewing company InBev and American beer giant Anheuser-Busch, knows a thing or two about being a leader, especially during times of change.

Here are his ten ways to build a high-performance ownership culture:

1. Dream big but stay humble.
You should benchmark your business against companies that are doing better than you. “Look up and get inspired and challenged; look down and you’ll get comfortable and lazy.” Brito said. If you look down at the companies that are trailing you, you won't move forward.

2. Good company culture is universal.
Don't dilute your culture if it's working. Brito says that as you expand your business, you are bound to meet “that’s not how things are done here”–type resistance. He says not to listen to it. If you have created a company culture that works in one place, it will work everywhere. Performance is important to culture and culture is important to performance.

3. Don't be selfish.
You need to think of your company as something bigger than yourself. “It's not about me and my ego – it's about the company building something that’s bigger than us, that is going to be here for hundreds of years.” It’s not a matter of being detail-oriented versus strategic, but rather a balance of both. “A leader should know enough about the details to ask good questions,” he says.

4. It's all about people.
People are the only sustainable competitive advantage that any business has. Brito says you should hire people that have the potential to become better than you.

5. Face the brutal facts.
Too many companies only focus on the good news, but you can never grow unless you face up to the negative truth as well. "I like people that can tell me the good and the bad with the same urgency and clarity," he says.

Related: 8 Must-Dos that Make Good Leaders Great

6. Reward results not efforts.
Brito says that while you should acknowledge and appreciate effort, customers don’t buy effort --they buy results. “There is a big difference between means and ends,” he says.

7. Keep the right amount of pressure on employees.
People perform best under the right amount of pressure. When your employees are in their comfort zone they are coasting, he says. If you take people out of their comfort zone, they learn to work harder and produce more.

8. Welcome healthy conflict.
“Consensus is an impossible science,” Brito says. What's more important is that you create an environment where people are encouraged to disagree if it means coming to the best answer.

9. The consumer is the ultimate acid test.
You should make decisions with consumers in mind, always trying to imagine how would they react, Brito says.

10. Turn your employees into "owners."
It's great to have smart and accomplished employees, but if they're only there to build their own careers, that could work against you. You want people to take ownership in your company, not just rent it, says Brito. An engaged group of owners as employees is the key to success rather than a selfish group of professionals. Foster an environment of owners—owners make better decisions.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the location of InBev's headquarters. InBev was based in Belgium.

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