5 Essential Rules for Effective Leadership

These are the 5 essential rules for CEO’s to observe as they work to build their company and provide returns to shareholders and staff. I’m sure you could add a few more, however in my experience these 5 rules are THE most important and will provide the kind of foundations that enable growth. If, as CEO, you follow these rules, you will find you’ll lead a far less lonely existence.

Rule 1: You have to show faith in your people.

Leadership is about building the capability of your team. If they aren’t growing in confidence and ability you’ll NEVER achieve your business goals. In reality, providing opportunities for people to take on greater responsibility will occasionally highlight that the person either isn’t wearing the correct jersey number (playing out of position) or simply isn’t a good match to the needs of the business.

Rule 2: Every member of the team has to feel included.

If people know where the company is going and are up-to-date with status, they feel safe. Uncertainty, gossiping and lack of engagement are rooted in insufficient communication. A vacuum is always filled by speculation. At a minimum you want every member of your team feeling safe & excited and talking positively about their company, their role and their CEO.

Rule 3: Emotional resilience is a critical competency for the entire team.

A very important aspect of being the CEO is to help stop the jelly shaking when the pressure inevitably builds. This is when people tend to make rushed, bad decisions. The CEO has to provide strong guidance to pause, understand the issues, the root causes and the response options. However, there are two important consequences of this approach:

a. When organizations face a problem, their instinctive reaction is ‘ we have to change our plan’. Don’t do it; instead, be patient and more creative searching for a solution.

b. Rely on facts and data. You cannot manage secrets, thus honesty and transparency are fundamental. The answer always lies in the data.

Rule 4: Zero tolerance for those who disrupt team morale. (Also known as “The No Assholes Rule”, a term coined by Prof. Bob Sutton) https://hbr.org/2007/03/why-i-wrote-the-no-asshole-rule

There are times when the CEO has to be very decisive when team members become disruptive. Professor Bob Sutton of Stanford University wrote a book on the subject and the title really says it all. You must not tolerate asshole behavior.

Rule 5: Not knowing the answer to a problem is OK.

This is an incredibly powerful rule. We work in ego-driven organizations and environments, where admitting you have no idea can be viewed as a clear lack of competence. This is often embedded in managerial- and decision-making culture: how many times have you heard ‘don’t bring me an issue, bring me a solution’? Empowering people and making them accountable makes sense, but what if someone faces an issue he/she found no answer to, even though he/she tried? In such situations, ‘bring me a solution’ approach encourages people to sweep problems under the carpet. Lesson: it’s OK to have no answer. Team is there to help. This is what teamwork is all about. Well — this is common sense, but uncommon practice. Make it clear that, as CEO, you DON’T expect people to always have an answer, and indeed it’s true for the CEO too. The catchphrase should read, ‘don’t bring me an issue, bring me a solution, unless you are stuck, in which case we can solve it together’.

Greg Twemlow, CEO and Startup Advisor — connect with me on LinkedIn