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Top Leadership Lessons From Silicon Valley to South Africa Leadership skills can make or break a business. The good news is that you don't need to be born a great leader to become one.

By Jolawn Victor

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Good leadership skills are vital to the success of a business, and essential for those that either own the business or are in management roles within the company. Oftentimes, however, people don't naturally possess these skills. The good news is that they can be taught.

Scott Cook, one of the founders of Intuit, along with former Intuit CEO and chairman of the board, Bill "The Coach' Campbell, have served as role models and mentors for many leaders, both at Intuit and all over the world.

Here are some timeless leadership lessons from the best in the business to bolster your skills.

Communication is key

Scott Cook said: "These days, the mark of a great leader has to do with your ability to retain your most valuable employees. There's almost a constant employment demand for the people who can really make a difference, so that means as a leader, not only are you trying to win the loyalty of your customers, you're trying to win the loyalty of your employees – and constantly re-win it and earn their dedication and their enthusiasm.

Related: Lessons in Leadership From Tata Africa Holdings' Turnaround

"Winning over your employees' loyalty won't just keep them at your company, it will also inspire them to be massively more creative and inventive. The alternative, is losing your best people."

One of the ways Scott would do this was by scheduling meetings over lunch with employees and letting them set the agenda.

His only request was that attendees write at least one serious question or issue in advance on an unsigned index card.

Until doing this, people rarely opened up about what was bothering them. It is vital for leaders to make their employees feel valued by giving them the opportunity to be heard and have their concerns addressed.

Empower employees

Employee happiness was close to The Coach's heart. He mentored the likes of Apple's Steve Jobs, Google's Eric Schmidt and Amazon's Jeff Bezos and encouraged them to "create an environment where employees can do the best work of their lives".

Related: The Leadership Lessons That Have Helped Bevan Ducasse Build a R100-Million Business

He once said: "Your title makes you a manager. Your people make you a leader." He was passionate about empowering employees to succeed.

"Great people flourish in an environment that liberates and amplifies their energy. Leaders must support, respect, and trust. Support means giving people the information, training and coaching they need to succeed. Respect means understanding people's unique career goals and being sensitive to their life choices. Trust means believing in people to do their jobs and to make decisions."

Coach Campbell's wisdom could be implemented by equipping employees with the training they need, sending them to industry events and sharing relevant video tutorials with them.

It is also about looking at employees as capable individuals and getting to know them, their hopes and dreams, and seeing how best to align these with their current skill sets, as well as determining what training they require to get there.

Change and grow

One of my favourite pieces of advice from Scott is: "The most important skill you need is the ability to learn how to change and grow." He fully embraces this and even calls his breed of leadership, "leadership by experiment'.

Related: How to Become an Authentic Leader

Being a leader requires being open-minded and embracing change because it can lead to new directions for growth, so instead of being scared, change should be viewed as something exciting.

People and businesses only grow when things change; if we don't change, we stagnate. With this in mind, leaders should actively be encouraging change within their businesses.

For instance, with the fourth industrial revolution dramatically changing the world, practice owners need to be educating themselves, their employees and their clients about the opportunities these changes pose and begin implementing the relevant technologies in their businesses.

This will give all involved a better idea of the value that the firm can offer going forward.

Remember that, as Scott put it, a company grows to reflect its leader. When you change and grow, so too will your business.

Related: It's a Connected Economy – Are You An Empowered Leader?

Jolawn Victor

Head of Emerging Markets at Intuit

Jolawn Victor is an entrepreneurial strategist obsessed with leading teams that build experiences customers love. She is the Head of Emerging Markets at Intuit, makers of one of the world’s leading online accounting software solutions, QuickBooks.


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