Over the years, I’ve often been asked for my advice on how to have a successful career, and how to be a good leader. A lot of the time, there has been a particular focus on the fact that I am a female. The context for that is because I work in what is traditionally considered a male-dominated industry. However, my advice on good leadership is not gender specific. A good leader is a good leader regardless of their gender.
From my experience, what truly sets a good leader aside is the willingness to lead with magnetism, authenticity and humility.
A servant leader is someone who puts their team’s success before their own. It’s a symbiotic relationship of course, and mutual success usually follows, but it’s important to think about others more than yourself sometimes. I focus on serving my team and my org. For me, leadership isn’t about managing other people to a defined set of rules or objectives, it’s about enabling them to develop and achieve their own personal and professional goals. Helping others progress should always come first. By helping other people achieve their success and potential, it helps me with my own; both directly and indirectly.
I constantly challenge myself to take a step back, and ensure I am thinking about others and how I can help them succeed. Helping someone else achieve success can happen naturally, but wanting to help someone succeed is what truly separates a good leader in my opinion, and that is not an easy thing to do for a lot of people. A good leader should truly care about the people they work with.
I will admit that this was not always the case in terms of my own leadership style. When I first was promoted to a manager, I adopted the mentality that I always needed to have the answers, and to be an effective leader I had to be seen to tell people what to do. It was a moment in my early management days when I wasn't enjoying the role, and I later realised it was because I didn't like who I was becoming. I wanted to be my true self, to be an authentic leader and to feel confident enough to show vulnerability. Not to feel that this was a weakness. Any leader who feels they know everything and has all the answers is at risk of failure. This was the turning point for me, and it was at this point in my career when the opportunities opening up to me started to accelerate.
When it comes to my leadership style, I try to create a following of people that want to work with me. I want to make sure my team are progressing, succeeding, and achieving their own professional goals but also, that they are enjoying themselves. Having fun is a huge part of Salesforce’s culture, and it’s important to me as well. People want to be part of your world when it’s a mutual relationship, so making sure they are succeeding and engaged is key.
While doing well is critical in terms of numbers and targets, doing good is just as vital, so make sure your team have proper balance between their work and home lives. You should foster an open culture where your team feel enabled to work remotely when necessary, and that their company supports them in all aspects of their life. There needs to be a mutual trust there. People are willing to go that extra mile when they feel valued.
I personally have been through a very challenging few months with the death of my beloved brother just before Christmas. I felt very supported by Salesforce to focus on my family and the traumatic time we were all going through. This awful experience has also helped me build a lot more empathy in my own leadership style, when I hear that someone is going through a difficult time I want to make sure that we are doing everything possible to support them. Life never goes in a straight line, and it’s important to respect and anticipate that.
Finally, remember that the tech world is a small one. Treat everyone with curiosity and respect because chances are, you will probably cross paths again. It’s important to build and maintain a broad, diverse network of connections that you can learn from and build connections with. Invest always in your network!
A good role model is someone who inspires others to achieve their potential. I think as a leader, people can often forget because of a title or a role that we are people too; with challenges, doubts, and struggles. It’s important to be transparent, authentic and honest with your team. Being vulnerable is not showing weakness, but showing that you are human, and people often connect very positively with that.
One of our most seasoned and tenured executives at Salesforce recently presented at a leadership conference on the difficulties he faced after returning from his sabbatical. He spoke about how he anticipated that his return would be a lot easier than it was, and instead that it was an incredibly difficult transition; that he had to rebuild connections and demonstrate credibility with an entirely new leadership team. I found his leadership story very inspiring, even the leaders who you most admire and have the upmost respect for are encountering leadership challenges on a day to day basis!
It’s important to constantly seek to better yourself regardless of whether you’re an individual contributor or the CEO of a company that spans across the globe. For anyone who knows me - they will know I am an avid reader! I have collated my top five reading recommendations on this topic that have really shaped my own thought processes and approach to leadership, and would recommend them at any level of your career.
Team of Rivals - The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. You may not think this is relevant to the topic I have shared today, but it is a fascinating read on leadership. This book is understood to be what inspired Barack Obama to his Presidency.
Multipliers - Liz Wiseman. This is one of the books you are recommended to read before joining Salesforce. It had a profound effect on me and I urge you to read it. One of the best business books I have ever read around the topic leadership and striving to be a better leader.
Dare to Lead. I have been very fortunate to be in a small group with Brené Brown and listen to her thoughts on Vulnerability in the context of authentic leadership. Her book and Ted Talk are well worth consuming on such an important topic.
Trailblazer - The Power of Business as The Greatest Platform for Change. Couldn't resist squeezing this one in. In today's world with all of the complex issues we are facing business can not be about revenue and profit alone. How are you thinking about leveraging the impact your business makes to help the most vulnerable and in need as well as focusing on business growth? This book demonstrates how it is possible to do both.