As leaders, exposure to other leaders helps accelerate innovation and more focused ideation. I recently attended Blavity's Afrotech conference in Oakland, California, a gathering of black founders, entrepreneurs and engineers. What I love about conferences such as Afrotech is the idea sharing and thought leadership exchange.

These tech leaders shared perspective on their triumphs and failures but most importantly on what it takes to be a great executives and leaders.

Below are the seven key takeaways from the week that I found to be immensely helpful when thinking about what it takes to lead and succeed on one's leadership evolution.

1. Set Out to Be the Best

You have to visualize who you want to be and that comes down to outlook. Aim to become the best executive, best leader, best manager or best individual contributor -- no matter the role, set out to be the best. Because if you set your sights too low, you'll never achieve your goals.

2. There is Greatness Inside You

To lead requires a certain belief in oneself and that you have something to contribute. That idea that you have brewing inside needs to get out and be heard. That means if you have an innovative idea, speak up, get the great ideas out there and share it. Otherwise, you'll be living with regret about an idea you didn't share or an initiative you didn't pursue.

What's worse, there is always someone in the world with a similar idea who may get to market first because you didn't move on your idea.

3. Surround Yourself with Good People

Look at your circle of friends, advisors and ask yourself, who's in my circle and do they keep me grounded and give me honest feedback. This is so important. If we surround ourselves with negative and pessimistic people, it can create an echo chamber of negativity and can put us on a less than productive spiral that limits effectiveness.

4. Acknowledge Good Ideas

There is no monopoly on great ideas. The anatomy of fantastic ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. As leaders, it's important to be receptive to new ideas from all sources. It's practicing "intellectual humility," which is basically the willingness to admit when you're wrong and adjust one's thinking based on new information.

5. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

The best leaders know how to ask people for help and leverage the strengths of others to achieve a goal. It's not only smart but it bring others along and helps cultivating more talent. Sometimes we have to get out of our own way and empower others to contribute. No one person can do it all and there are many who want to lend themselves to an effort --so let them.

6. Mistakes Happen

Nobody is perfect and mistakes happen in the course of business, but it comes down to how you come back. It's about "grace and grit" -- the ability to have grace in success or failure and the grit to keep going when adversity strikes. You can't fear failure because if you do, it will inevitably you stop you from achieving your dreams.

7. The Growth Mindset

There will undoubtedly be setbacks, challenges and failures as a leader but what defines the leader is how they recover and come back stronger. It's important to lead with a growth mindset, the belief that trials and tribulations make you better and you're only limited by the limitations you place on yourself. Talent is important but it's the will to keep going, grinding, and growing when adversity strikes that is the enduring leadership quality.

Published on: Nov 18, 2019
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