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9 Super-Successful People Share Their Biggest Leadership Secrets

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9 Super-Successful People Share Their Biggest Leadership Secrets

Every leader’s abilities are put to the test at some point in their career. How well they handle the ups and downs, the excitement and turmoil, proves whether they’re truly a great leader, or just another wannabe.

For its most recent Influencers editorial package, titled “How I Lead,” LinkedIn asked some of the world’s most successful executives, entrepreneurs, and industry experts to share their best leadership secrets and “surefire management methods” for getting through the good times, and bad.

Over 50 thought leaders shared original posts revealing how they lead in times of turbulence or growth.

Richard Branson: Decisiveness is key.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.

The Virgin Group founder writes: “One of the most important skills any leader can learn is when to be decisive, and when to take a step back and look at the wider picture before making the big calls.”

In times of turmoil, growth, or crisis, he says, there will be more decisions to be made and less time to make them. “There will also be an almost irresistible temptation to make these decisions as quickly as possible. A leader must be calm, confident in his choices, visible to his team and their customers, and in control of the situation.”

Branson says a good leader never rushes in and jumps to rash conclusions before knowing all the facts — they delay judgment and first try to see the whole picture clearly. Then, he writes, they contemplate quietly.

“After looking at all the stats, speaking to all the experts and analysing all of the angles, then take some time to yourself to think things through clearly. Take a walk, find a shady spot, or simply sit and think for a while. Don’t delay unnecessarily — but don’t rush either. Get that balance right, and you are far more likely to make the right call.”

Mary Barra: Good ideas don’t have a hierarchy.

Barra may be CEO of General Motors, but she’s acutely aware that some of the best ideas don’t come from the corner office. “No matter your industry, ideas can come from anywhere — from the line, the retail floor, or at your engineering center,” she writes.

Because people have different roles within the company, they have different perspectives, Barra explains — and those alternate viewpoints can be invaluable. By getting the entire team’s input, she’s able to ensure that “solutions are evaluated from every angle.”

Max Levchin: Your number one job is to get the best out of your team.

PayPal cofounder and CEO of Affirm, Inc. Max Levchin.

Levchin, cofounder of PayPal and current CEO of Affirm, Inc., says in the early days of PayPal, he “avoided managing a team for as long as possible.” He was a coder; he wanted to code. In the years since then, though, he’s learned a number of lessons about management.

Principle among them: Above all else, your job is getting people to do their absolute best. “A great leader knows how to identify and navigate around the team members’ weaknesses and capitalize on their strengths,” he explains. And part of nurturing a stellar team means standing by them “through the best and worst of times.” The best leaders, Levchin says, push their teams, cheer on their teams, and look out for their teams — in times of upheaval and in times of growth.

Sallie Krawcheck: You need to gain your team’s confidence.

Ellevate Network chair Sallie Krawcheck.

The Ellevate Network chair and former top Wall Street exec has led businesses in turmoil.

Just after she was named Director of Research at Bernstein, Krawcheck’s mentor — a top analyst at the firm — quit.

“Bernstein wasn’t a big firm to start with, so any loss was felt,” she writes. “But this one really stung. And, insult to injury, this was during the pre-Spitzer-research-scandal bubble of the late 1990s, so analysts were receiving eye-popping offers from other firms. A new Director of Research, more money elsewhere, and a public vote of no-confidence. Our attrition rate soared.”

How did she get through it?

She lists five ways: by realizing that pretending things were 100% A-OK was a losing strategy (“Candor went a long way with the team,” she writes); by “identifying a path out of our issues” (which, in her case, was to hire “as many outstanding new analysts as we could find to replenish the pipeline”); by communicating the new strategy and communicating confidence in it — repeatedly; by regularly updating her team on progress; and by always being available to her analysts — by “walking the floor a lot; by working my tail off.”

Krawcheck writes: “You don’t gain a team’s confidence in a day, and perhaps particularly during periods of turbulence. But, slowly, slowly, as we kept a focus on what really mattered and shut out almost everything else, we rebuilt the business into one that was stronger than when we started.”

Craig Newmark: Pass the torch if you know you don’t have what it takes.

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark (right).

“Leadership? I’m not sure what that is,” the Craigslist founder writes. He says in 2000, upon realizing he “sucked” as a manager, he hired a new CEO who would do a much better job.

“Suckage, in this case, is relative to my own standards. In this case, I was thinking that I was average, and the Craigslist community needs better,” Newmark writes.

While a cliché, he advises, “hire the smartest people you can find, and get outta the way.”

He says he clearly remembers “a number of staff people approaching me for decisions in really difficult areas, like in personnel, and that I wasn’t acting decisively in critical areas, like geographic growth.

“That tied into my general observation that I had, and have, a problem with procrastination. (Still do, but I’ll deal with that later.) I removed myself from management completely.”

Claire Diaz-Ortiz: Find an anchor — or three.

Twitter’s social innovation manager Claire Diaz-Ortiz.

Having been with Twitter since the early days, “The Woman Who Got the Pope on Twitter” knows a thing or two about weathering the storms of startup life.

Now Twitter’s manager of social innovation, Diaz-Ortiz says her secret to “staying Zen” amid constant institutional change is to not have just one mentor — have three. “The best thing you can do if you’re not sure what team you’ll be on tomorrow is to find an anchor in a great mentor or professional champion,” she writes. But in a constantly shifting landscape, one mentor isn’t enough. People move on, get transferred, get fired — and you’ve got to be prepared.

The same goes for finding an “outlet” — a work buddy with whom you can “talk shop and share your woes in equal measure,” she explains. One is good, but three is better. The bottom line: To stay sane, cultivate relationships with the people around you.

Maynard Webb: Lead with intensity, not intimidation.

Yahoo chairman and former eBay COO Maynard Webb.

As Yahoo! chairman and former eBay COO, Maynard Webb has lead companies in good times and in bad. In times of growth, he can focus on inspiring teams to find the best possible answers. But while crisis may call for “a different kind of leadership,” Webb has learned that it’s possible to turn up his intensity without invoking fear.

His strategy for leading a team through turbulence? Not so different than leading a team the rest of the time, he’s discovered.

When the waters are rougher, he prioritizes consistent communication, clear objectives, and regular (and prompt) performance feedback. He also works hard to stay patient (“losing your temper is never a fine moment,”) and strives to see situations from his employees’ point of view.

Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz: It’s not about you.

Charles Schwab SVP Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz.

Charles Schwab SVP and president of the Charles Schwab Foundation says in her LinkedIn post that being a great leader isn’t about you — it’s about helping the people around you achieve great things.

It may be a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason: “You’re only as good as your team,” Schwab-Pomerantz says. Being a good leader doesn’t mean you have to be the first, “or even the best,” she observes. “What you need is the courage to bring out the best in others — to help them improve their skills and opportunities.”

That can mean putting your own ego (and biases) aside. “You’re not looking for people who are just like you,” she explains. “You’re looking for people who are better than you in certain areas.” For inspiration, she looks no further than President Lincoln, who famously appointed his chief rivals to his cabinet. “Lincoln understood that surrounding himself with the best people was the key to accomplishing his own goals.”

Shane Atchison: Uncertainty is always worse than bad news.

POSSIBLE CEO Shane Atchison.

The CEO of creative agency POSSIBLE believes in transparency — even when people aren’t going to like what they see. “Uncertainty is always much worse than bad news,” he writes.

When the company’s facing a roadblock, he advocates telling the truth — and doing it as quickly and thoroughly as possible. “You owe it to your people to let them know as quickly as possible if something bad might happen to them,” he says. “You don’t want to tell someone to learn their job is in trouble by handing them a pink slip. That’s just not cool.”

Honesty — even when it’s negative — will always be appreciated, he argues. Besides, what choice do you really have? “Just because you don’t say anything doesn’t mean people aren’t going to think it.”

Authors: Jacquelyn Smith and Rachel Sugar

Jacquelyn Smith joined Business Insider as the careers editor in February 2014. She previously worked as a leadership reporter for Forbes. She is the coauthor of “Find and Keep Your Dream Job: The Definitive Careers Guide From Forbes.” Jacquelyn holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from The University of Arizona and a master’s degree from Hofstra University. 

Rachel is a careers reporter for Business Insider. Before joining BI in May 2015, she wrote about culture and relationships for Nerve. Her work has also appeared at Fortune.com, The Hairpin, The Toast, Men’s Journal, Newcity, and The New York Observer, among others. She graduated from Swarthmore College, where she studied theater and English literature.

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