Thursday, May 2, 2013

Leadership Insights for New Leaders

What is leadership? We all know what effective leadership looks like, just as we all know what ineffective leadership looks like. But can we stand back from a business situation and provide a 68,000-foot view explanation as to why leadership succeeded or failed?

According to Wikipedia, leadership is “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. It is also organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.”

Every day on Twitter, a myriad of leadership experts chime in with their leadership insights. With all the Tweet chats about leadership, management, and productivity, we can thank Twitter for becoming the online version of a bookstore from the best and the brightest.

Recently, I asked some of my favorite leadership experts (who I met on Twitter) to provide one piece of advice for new leaders. While these remarks may be targeted to managers who have yet to take on key leadership roles, the truth is, we all set an example by how we conduct ourselves in the workplace. While we may not have “leader,” “VP,” or “Chief” in our titles, we have the potential to inspire those around us. All we need to do is recall the words of John Quincy Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

So without further ado, here are some amazing leadership insights:

@ValaAfshar: In time of crisis, lead from the front. In time of celebration, lead from the back. Great leaders are also great followers.

@JohnBaldoni: Leaders who show vulnerability are leaders who are confident in themselves and their ability to lead others.

@KevinEikenberry: Talk to people – find out their expectations, share yours, and be willing to be real.

@MarkOOakes: Leadership isn’t a role. It’s a ‘calling’ to serve others.

@ScottEblin: Listen more than you talk.

@ChiefExecBear (MaxineClark): Know what you don’t know and always be willing to learn. It is the sign of a truly great leader: someone who wants to always know more.

@LeadToday (Steve Keating): Always be aware of your motives. If you’re doing something for the business, it’s management. If you’re doing something for your people, then it’s leadership. Leadership is about the people who make up an organization – it’s not about systems, policies, and programs.

@DanVForbes: Always be learning. Create a personal development plan that includes reading something every day to help you become a better leader. Leaders are learners, and leaders are readers.

@PamFR (Pam Fox Rollin): Never lose sight of purpose. Keep asking, “What could I do to create more value for the business and the world?”

@strategicsense (Patti Blackstaffe): Change is inevitable, it will happen without you. Choosing to grow and adapt through change is wise – but doing so collaboratively is leadership.

@PeterMello: Always be present. When you have an important meeting or casual encounter, put your cell phone away, turn your computer screen off, and give your full attention to whomever is with you. Make people feel that they are the only ones in the room with you, and it will go a long way to building the trust you need to effectively exercise leadership.

@LeadershipNow (Michael McKinney): The biggest thing leaders must remember is that it is not about you. The implications are many, but it keeps your focus on what it should be focused on.

@jellett (John Ellett): Realize you are a change agent and get aligned with your boss on the magnitude and pace of change expected.

@Lyn_Boyer: Trust yourself but continue to learn. Trust others but continue to observe. Love what you do but continue to change.

@ManagementBrad (Brad Hanson): Adapt your leadership style to the demands of the situation, the requirements of the people involved, and the challenges facing you.

@ShawneTV (Shawne Duperon): Forgive yourself quickly. People make mistakes. Leaders have the courage to self-forgive and move on.

@managemntmoment (Doug Dickerson): True leadership is not about power, position, or popularity; it’s about serving others.

@MarilynSuttle: You cannot make people be successful. However, you can set up an environment that inspires people to succeed.

@lizwebercmc (Liz Weber): Do your job – not the job of others. Let go and teach others to do the jobs they are being paid to do. Develop them.

@jamesstrock: Learn one new thing every day. Every single day.

@RoySaunderson: Make time for your people first and tasks second. Harmonize when difficulty happens. Make regular one-on-one time for two-way feedback and discussion.

@SamSilverstein: My one piece of advice might sound simple, but it’s not. Be accountable.

@ErikaAndersen: Get curious. Curiosity is that deep impulse to explore what will carry you past all your limitations and connect you deeply to those you lead.

@LeadrshpAdvisor (William Powell): Develop others as if it were your career. In reality, that is your career as a leader. Unleash human potential.

@JohnKeyserCoach: Be humble, help others.

@EricJacobsonKC: Don’t act too quickly to make changes. First learn, listen, and earn respect and trust.

@CoachingLeaders (Michelle Braden): Understand the importance of communication and that people communicate differently. Don’t expect everyone to adapt to the leader’s style – learn the preferred communication style of others.

@scedmonds (S. Chris Edmonds): New leaders need to ensure they don’t fall into the trap of paying attention only to performance. Yes, performance is important, but equally important is how leaders treat team members and how team members treat peers and customers. Emphasize civility in every interaction.

@ErinSchreyer: Here are my three ingredients for leadership success: conduct an accurate self-awareness audit, cultivate a passionate desire to improve and grow, and develop humility and a desire to help others.

@NewParadigmer (Mark Herbert): Remember that leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others.

I thank all of the inspirational leaders featured in this post and invite you to revisit this list whenever you need a leadership refresher.

Image Credit: Thanks to Ted Goff for use of his cartoon with this post. Check out Ted's work at

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.


  1. Debbie, thanks for doing this. It's a great list full of great insights. I've got to start following some of these people and be much more diligent about taking their advice too!

  2. Thanks, Mike, appreciate your feedback.


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