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Building Leadership at Every Level

Joe Allegra . June 23, 2014

Last’s week third annual Edison CEO Summit was a tremendous success, with more than 65 CEOs and Edison Director Network members in attendance. Our distinguished speakers and attendees brought important insights to the two-day sessions. This is the first in a series of articles summarizing

the event.

We kicked off with a keynote by David Marquet, a former nuclear submarine commander and author of Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders. turn the ship around

David told us a fascinating story of unexpectedly taking over the worst performing sub in the Pacific fleet and turning it into the best performing within a year. david marquetHe was an engaging speaker who was able to share actionable leadership tactics – the very ones he exercised to effect this dramatic turnaround.

I had seven key takeaways from this session:
1. Leaders can’t make all of the decisions. They need to push down authority in the organization to the people that have the information and let them make the decisions. BTW, this is not typical Naval doctrine, as the Navy teaches that commanders make all of the decisions.

2. Yes, there are going to be mistakes. In order to achieve greatness, you need to make mistakes. Create a culture where people are encouraged to make decisions and don’t get crazy if this results in some mistakes. Mistakes will happen; get over it.

3. Encourage people to think; not just do what you tell them. This is a big issue for me. Our portfolio companies have a lot of great people. We need all of their talents, energy and brain power to achieve greatness.

4. Make the way you run your company a leadership development program. The idea is to create a leadership culture. Don’t just talk about leadership. Make the core principles that you are trying to get across your standard operating behavior.

5. Act your way to action. Don’t think your way to action; act your way to action. Indecision is a decision. In most cases, your decisions are not going to be 100% wrong, maybe only 20-30% wrong, so be prepared to make course corrections along the way.

6. Environment matters more than you think. Leaders don’t change people. Leaders create environments where people can be great.

7. Do the thing that implements empowering. What about your culture doesn’t empower? Change it. Ask your team members for their recommendations. Ask questions; don’t dictate your views.

Perhaps one reason I really enjoyed this session is that it reinforced some of the experiences in my career. I never thought I was a good enough manager to “manage” people to greatness. However, I have always been a believer in giving people the vision of the mountain we were trying to take, encouraging them to commit to that goal, turning them loose to figure out how to get there, and playing the role of cheerleader and supporter on the journey.

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