Warren Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, will turn 91 in August. Remarkably, at an age when most people have regressed to the caretaking of others, Buffett chugs along and continues to capture the world's attention as the greatest investor of this generation.
Buffett has amassed a following of millions who've learned many great investing tips. His sound wisdom doesn't end there. If you're a student or practitioner of good leadership, Buffett believes that long-term success is achieved not merely by your own doing, but by making smart leadership decisions that will yield results for yourself and your business.
Case in point: Buffett has learned that making smart leadership decisions requires modeling the leadership behaviors of the best managers.
Copy from the best
In Buffett's 2015 letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, he summarized how one arrives at leadership greatness in a few words:
Much of what you become in life depends on whom you choose to admire and copy.
The quote was in reference to Tom Murphy -- an exceptional leader who taught Buffett everything he learned about managing a company. Murphy built Capital Cities Communications into a telecommunications empire. In 1995, he sold the company (then Capital Cities/ABC) to Disney for approximately $19 billion.
Murphy, who was Buffett's biggest admirer, gave plenty of lessons on the best management practices that Buffett has adapted for his own companies, including:
1. Give autonomy to your employees
Autonomy, or the ability to control what you do, when you do it, and with whom, is one of the fundamental elements of what intrinsically motivates human beings, which leads to better performance.
Another great leader who believes in this premise is Hubert Joly, former chairman and CEO of Best Buy, whom I recently interviewed on the Love in Action podcast.
"Autonomy leads us to think creatively, which breeds innovation," Joly says. He's dead on, because innovation does not happen without the freedom to try out new ideas.
Autonomy is also motivating because it is more satisfying. But you need to set the right environment. Joly suggests:
- Pushing decision making as far down as possible
- Preferring a participative process
- Adopting agile ways of working
- Adjusting to skill and will
2. Learn to delegate your authority
Another type of mindset required to build your own success passed on from Murphy to Buffett is something that can be a benefit to every busy leader: Learn to delegate better.
Delegating doesn't come easy for perfectionists trying to solve problems on their own. To scale their businesses, leaders have to consciously trust other people's ability and brainpower to create and produce great things.
As one's management responsibilities grow, leaders and founders will eventually realize that they have to learn to delegate their weaknesses to other people's strengths.
The first pillar to successful delegation is to have a great team around you who can handle the task. And two-way trust must be established for anyone to feel comfortable delegating and sharing responsibilities.
3. Hire for integrity
Buffett learned from Murphy the competitive advantage that comes from having integrity guide business decisions. And it starts with whom you hire.
Buffett advises leaders to weigh integrity above all traits when assessing job candidates during the interview process. And for good reason: When it comes to hiring, it's a sure bet that some job candidates will display a lack of integrity in the interview process.
This why Buffett is quoted everywhere with this timeless piece of advice:
We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don't have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you're going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.
Today's hiring managers must dig hard in the interview process to get the answers they need to feel confident someone has the non-negotiable character of integrity. Otherwise, "lazy and dumb" may eventually show up and cost you, big time.