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3 Ways to Be a Popular--and Effective--CEO

As a CEO or leader, it's your job to move your company forward. But you can still balance that with being liked by the people you lead.
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Each year, Glassdoor announces the results of its highest-rated CEOs at companies with more than 1,000 employees. Chief executives at LinkedIn, Ford Motor Co., Northwestern Mutual, Goldman Sachs and Intuit ranked the highest this year, changing up the top five from last year, which were led by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. These CEOs were anonymously rated by their employees.

As I contemplated last year in my Inc. post, Don't Aim to Be Popular, Be Effective, your job as CEO is really about being effective, not popular. However, I've got a hunch that it's indeed possible to be both. As the leader of the pack, everything you do affects the team.

Here's how you can be both a popular and effective leader:

1. Empower your people.

My email marketing company, VerticalResponse, has been around for over 13 years. We've got a team over 100 strong and are growing every day. Back in the early days, I was able to be super involved in all the details and meet with everyone on the team. But now, I've got to trust and believe that we have the right people in the right jobs and that they possess the skills and abilities to get their jobs done. If I and other members of the leadership team started micromanaging their roles or telling them how to get their jobs done (on top of their immediate supervisors), I'm pretty sure we'd have some disgruntled people.

I'm not saying that you need to be completely hands off. Discuss their high-level goals, let them know you're there to help, but leave it up to them to figure out how to accomplish those goals. If you always do the fishing and don't teach or allow your people to fish for themselves, you'll never get out from among the weeds and never be able to be effective where your business needs you to be. I will always be here to help folks remove obstacles or barriers, but I won't do their jobs for them.

2. Work hard, but smart.

I'm a firm believer in hard work and effort. But on the flip side, I love to celebrate my team and all their accomplishments. This is a core part of the culture at our company, and as cliche as it might sound, we work hard and play hard. For real. Whenever we accomplish anything big, we often throw a party with food, drinks and music (and ping pong!) to celebrate a job well done.

But there's more to it than that. By sticking to what's important and filtering out what's not, we try to keep our teams focused on the things that will drive the most value. By eliminating the noise, we allow our teams to have a work/life balance that they treasure.

3. Manage expectations.

A few years ago, we had some leaders that were not upholding our core values and it was taking a great toll on the team. Lines of communication were crumbling, employee satisfaction was low and turnover was at an all-time high. I knew that in addition to making some personnel changes, we needed to launch an all-out effort to communicate in a way like we'd never done before. We needed to be totally transparent about what was happening in order to get everyone vested in making things better.

So I began sending a weekly e-mail to the team with a recap of the business: what was working, what wasn't and how we were dealing with it. I also addressed how individual teams could help. And of course, I acknowledged the efforts of people making things happen big and small. By proactively talking about things, we were able to manage the rumor mill, help people understand what was happening and why, and how they played a part in it. It changed everything. Today we are thriving and just launched the biggest email and social media marketing software release in our company's history.

By being both friendly and focused, you become effective for your team. And by being effective, that makes you popular, too, which is icing on the cake.

What do you think about being effective versus being popular? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, sign up for the free VR Buzz and check out the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Mar 31, 2014




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