November 17, 2015

Tek This Out! What Makes a Great Leader?

Original image from Biography.

By Megan G.

Businesses, both big and small, achieve success through cooperation, but rarely can even a single team act cohesively without the influence of a strong leader.  What exactly does it take to be a great leader in today’s business world?

According to the Huffington Post, authentic leaders, or leaders that emphasize building legitimacy through honesty and ethics, exhibit five core qualities. 

  1. Understand their purpose.
  2. Practice solid values.
  3. Lead with their heart.
  4. Establish true relationships.
  5. Demonstrate self-discipline.   

This is certainly a more modern approach to leadership, which goes right along with the trend of businesses practicing more transparency.  Consumers and employees today respond better to honest business practices rather than a “good” result product achieved through either questionable or totally unclear means. 

Today on Tek Shouts!, we’re going to study exactly what makes a great leader using tips and tricks from some of the best people in leadership positions.  Each of them demonstrates a few, if not all of the traits that authentic leaders should have.

Jon Taffer, Bar Science is Business Science

Jon Taffer is the dynamic host of Bar Rescue, a reality TV show in which he attempts to save local bars from closing down for good.  He investigates the bar for problems ranging from cleanliness to organization, brings in expert bartenders and chefs for advice and training, and whips the bar staff’s attitudes and aptitudes into shape!  

Jon Taffer laying down the law. 
 Image from That’s Normal.

Taffer gets his ideas through to the bar’s staff and owner in a famously loud, brash, and hilarious way—which certainly makes for great television.  However, Bar Rescue offers much more than temper tantrums from an engaging TV personality.  At its core, this show is all about good business practices.  

Any idea about what the usual, underlying problem is that keeps these bars from succeeding?  

You got it:  terrible—or worse, apathetic—leadership.  Part of Taffer’s job is to inspire bar owners to become stronger, more caring, and more responsible leaders in their workplace.  In an interview with Forbes writer David J. Parnell, Taffer explains the most common reason bar owners—and business owners in general—fail at what they do. 

“I know what the common denominator of failure is… it is excuses.  As long as failure is somebody else’s fault, there’s no reason to change.” 

Good leaders do not attribute their failure of their teams, organizations, or businesses to anyone else.  In claiming ownership of their business, leaders must also take ownership of their failure.  That’s the only way a leader has a chance to grow.  Practice the solid values of hard work and credibility, and your team will respect you.  This will inspire your team, whether it’s a bar staff or a corporate department, to follow your example and help the business run smoothly. 

Great leaders demonstrate self-discipline by keeping focused on the success of your bar instead of your own sorrows or pleasure.   

Many of the bar owners Taffer helps tend to drink on the job, which only illustrates how far they have fallen as role models.  Often the owners choose to drink because they either ignore or are unaware of possible jobs they could take on to help their bar staff along.  Some bar owners wouldn’t even do something as simple as get ice for their bartenders!  

That face is not too keen on laziness. 
Understanding one’s purpose in their business is a crucial part of success.  

Taffer illuminates the areas where a bar could improve, highlights the bar owner’s strengths, and puts them to work just like the rest of their team. 

Whether they greet customers, make drinks, or cook food, the bar owners come to understand their role within their own business. 

Walt Disney Got By With A Little Help from His Friends

Despite being the most famous name on this list, Walt Disney is surprisingly not the best leader on paper—at least not in terms of business practices.  According to The New York Times, Disney was “an atrocious businessman” and if not for the efforts Roy O. Disney, Walt’s more business savvy brother, the company may not have survived the financial lows caused by Walt Disney himself.  

From left to right:  Walt, Oscar, the Mouse, and Roy. 
 Image from Animation Magazine.
While Roy handled the business side of things, Walt brought many important leadership qualities to the table.  First and foremost, Walt Disney led with his heart, not caring “one whit about money.”  His unyielding enthusiasm and imagination fueled the company forward in hard times that would push most businessmen to the edge of their sanity. 

 He put huge bets on unfathomable projects, like the $2 million, full-length animated film Snow White, but always managed huge returns.  Furthermore, Walt Disney made well-established connections, surrounding himself with people adept in skills he lacked, like his brother Roy and a team of dedicated, imaginative artists like himself.  

Disney knew his purpose within the company, which was to remain the constant source of inspiration for everyone around him—even if that meant spending every last dollar he made to move onto his next amazing project.

Sundar Pichai:  Small Presence, Big Ideas 

Sundar Pichai.  Image from dealsunplug.
It wouldn’t be a Tek Shouts! article without some Googleyness thrown in!  Google CEO Sundar Pichai is still relatively new to the pressures of CEO-dom, but he is certainly no greenhorn in terms of leadership. 

Establishing connections is certainly Pichai’s strong suit.  “He avoids confrontation, instead emphasizing cooperation.  He waits out conflicts rather than confronting opponents,” says Minnie Ingersoll, former Google product manager.  Rather than making enemies, Pichai works to foster friendships. 

In avoiding fights, this shows Pichai’s self-discipline in not letting things like the need to be right or assert his authority get in the way.  The Google CEO practices the solid values of remaining straightforward and understanding of his underlings.

As Christopher Sacca, former head of special initiatives at Google, says, “Everyone knows where they stand with Sundar and they aren’t worried about watching behind their backs.”  In this less aggressive approach (lookin’ at you, Taffer), Pichai becomes a likable and respected leader.  It just goes to show you that productivity can be inspired in many different ways!  

However, despite his more subdued presence, Sundar Pichai does not think small.  “He likes… huge scale,” says Sacca.  “I was in the room when Sundar convinced Eric Schmidt that it would be possible to unseat Internet Explorer as the world’s most popular browser.”  

Pichai’s most notable, current project is “chasing the next billion,” which means bringing the Internet to the next billion people on the planet without it via Google products.  With his unshakeable, authentic leadership strategy, it’s no question that someday Sundar will succeed. 

What do you think makes a good leader?  What has been your experience leading or being led in the workplace?  Let the Tek Team know in the comments!

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