I recently learned that I have been ranked the No. 2 CEO in the United States in the small and medium business category by Glassdoor.
The ranking, which compares voluntary employee feedback from over 770,000 companies found on Glassdoor, is certainly an honor. But the recognition, to my mind, is misleading. I'm not the best CEO; I happen to lead the best team, and that makes my job easy.
The job of CEO is decidedly team- and direction-focused. CEOs need to set the course, ensure consistency and develop and reinforce core values. After that, the job is simply to hire great people and get out of their way. Ultimately, what has made Acceleration Partners (AP) successful is my team.
Of course, it's not really that easy to create and lead a successful team-based company. It helps to focus in on the following four key areas. Advancing in these areas will help you become a better leader, one whose employees will thrive both on the job and off.
1. Values and vision
All CEOs must establish and define what kind of company they want to be leading and why. Think carefully. What are your goals?
Defining your company's vision and core values forms the foundation for what both you and your employees do every day.
Successful teams depend on this common knowledge. They look to the company's values and vision to help them make decisions in times of uncertainty or adversity. That's why you must establish your vision and values early, communicate them clearly and reinforce them often.
Having a deep understanding of who you are and what you want to accomplish will make every other step easier. You will be able to assemble teams of people who share your core values and are excited by your vision, and those people will propel the business forward.
2. Consistency and clarity
More than anything else, CEOs need to be honest, authentic and consistent about the values they set, their behavior and the expectations they have for everyone on their teams.
At AP, the core values that we determined were critical years ago have held firm through a lot of changes. Business strategies may come and go, but I remain committed to the company's core principles. This allows me to be my authentic self; I never have to say or do something that conflicts with my personal values.
Leaders need to be comfortable being unapologetically who they are, because that's the way to set the tone for an honest and authentic company. As Gandhi once said, "Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony."
Employees do their best when they know what to expect. There is nothing that alienates employees faster or creates a toxic culture more quickly than doing one thing and saying another.
3. Holistic focus and capacity-building
Great CEOs focus first and foremost on their people--helping them improve and build their capacity so they can be the best version of themselves.
This isn't just about what happens in the office. I want my employees to improve and grow holistically, across all areas of their lives. I've found this approach helps my employees become happier and healthier, which translates naturally to increased performance.
Too many CEOs focus only on that last piece--performance at work. But caring solely about results instead of people tends to burn people out. Great CEOs seek a greater purpose. They help their people thrive by setting high standards and holding everyone accountable--even themselves.
4. Personal development
It's difficult to lead others if you don't have a clear sense of who you are and where you are going. Leadership programs are designed to help you discover your own best leadership style. They can also help you learn how to design the systems that will work best for you and your particular mission.
If you aren't sure what you want or what your core values are, this is also the place to start--because you won't be able to create company values without being clear about your own values first (see No. 1 above).
Plus, investing in personal development allows you to lead by example. Part of managing productive, happy teams involves consistently raising the proverbial bar--both for employees and for yourself.
Whatever I expect of my employees at AP, I need to expect of myself too. I'm uncompromising in my standards, but I live by those same standards. I'm right there in the trenches, doing the same things and demonstrating a commitment to meet the same goals I set for my team.
In the end, great leadership is about cultivating greatness in others. If you set goals you are passionate about and work toward them authentically, your team will take care of the rest.