To get ahead in business and life you need to be intentional about how you conduct yourself. That's according to Jim Calandra, CEO of breast imaging technology startup Gamma Medica. Here's his advice on how to stand out as a leader.

1. Display a high moral character at all times.

This involves getting your hands dirty and working hard alongside the team you want to motivate. "It really drives the level of dedication in the team, especially when they see the leader not just generating ideas and direction, but doing their own fair share of heavy lifting to set the pace," he says.

2. Be open-minded and welcome dissenting views.

Surrounding yourself with people who agree with everything you say doesn't give you the opportunity to anticipate what the broader world will see. "It's not something that everyday mangers or entrepreneurs are inclined to do naturally," he says.

3. Remember, in business your goal is always to win.

Regardless of the kind of passion you have for your product or service, ultimately your goal should be to beat your competition. For example, while Gamma Medica's technology -- which uses molecular imaging to detect cancer in dense breast tissue -- garners attention and motivates employees because it saves women's lives, the business exists to make money. "Being passionate about what you do and being commercially successful are not the same thing," he says. "Often it requires a leader to remember and remind [employees] that commercial success is a critical part of realizing your passion and the purpose that drives you."

4. Always have a Plan B and Plan C.

Not being prepared for what might happen puts people into a state of urgency that fatigues and numbs them to the truly important matters that arise within a company. At the same time, it's important for everyone on your team to understand your plans are not turn-by-turn directions for achieving goals, meaning a checklist mentality may not be the best approach because sometimes you'll need to take a different direction than the one you planned. "Having a contingency plan helps you cope with those uncertainties or unanticipated opportunities," he says. "My least favorite experiences have been ones that involved other leaders who fell victim to this boogeyman that I call the tyranny of urgency, which is the constant loop of never being prepared for things that happen."

5. Take risks and prepare to fail.

Calandra likens success in business to learning a difficult skill, such as ice skating. Becoming good at it will undoubtedly involve plenty of falls. In fact, if you're not making mistakes, you're probably not devoting enough effort to the opportunities in front of you. "When I look at the people on my team who take risks and make mistakes or fall down, I reach a hand out and lift them up, because those are the people that I know are pushing the edge of what we can do as a team, of what they can do individually," he says. "Those are the folks that help drive innovation and success. Those are the people I want to be with."

6. Don't make the people you've hired earn your trust.

Does your business have time for this? If you hired someone, you obviously thought he or she was qualified. So, step back and trust your employees to do good work. The opposite tack -- micromanaging -- is stifling and demoralizing, and it will not elicit innovation. "People have to feel trusted, safe, and that they have a mutual benefit from not only their day-to-day efforts but from going that extra little bit," he says. "They have to feel that they can stretch their comfort zone, get to the edge, and take risks."

Published on: Apr 20, 2015