Imagine being able to learn from the CEOs of some of the biggest companies in the world. Companies like Apple, Pixar, and Disney.
That's exactly what Ali Rowghani did.
Over the years, he's worked closely with leaders he considers “extraordinary.” Specifically, Ed Catmull (Pixar's founder), Steve Jobs (Former CEO of both Apple and Pixar), John Lasseter (Pixar's Chief Creative Officer), and Bob Iget (Disney's CEO).
Although he found these four men to have contrasting styles, temperaments, and approaches, he noticed that they all were able to create an extraordinary amount of trust in the people around them.
Think about it: if people don't trust the leader and ‘buy in' to the mission, success will be difficult.
According to Rowghani, those four remarkable leaders were able to build this trust by doing these three things exceptionally well.
Clarity of Thought and Communication.
Great leaders think and communicate clearly. They describe a vision of the future that people find compelling to work hard to achieve.
Clarity of thought always precedes clarity of language. To improve your communication, the best thing you can do is to spend more time thinking about what you believe is truly important for your business.
Once you’ve crystallized what’s important for everyone to understand, practice expressing it in simple terms.
Simplicity is vital.
“Great leaders spend hours preparing their internal communications. They don't just wing it, no matter how naturally talented they are as communicators,” says Rowghani.
He cites the example of how Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke and his senior team spend hundreds of hours preparing for their annual employee Summit. “If we communicate well at the Summit, we achieve great alignment by the end,” says Lütke.
Judgment About People.
Great leaders have great intuition about people, particularly when it comes to selecting people to whom they give power and responsibility.
Not everyone is naturally gifted when it comes to intuition about people, but everyone can improve. Gathering more data will help you make better people decisions.
CEOs devote a lot of time to hiring and firing people, and the best CEOs do this particularly well, according to Rowghani: “They are able to see hidden potential in people and detect cases where ambition exceeds ability.
And when they make hiring or promotion mistakes, which are inevitable, they have the courage to rectify the situation if the employee cannot be coached to improve. Nothing does more damage to an organization or to the standing of a leader than picking the wrong leaders or failing to correct these mistakes when they happen.
Personal Integrity and Commitment.
Integrity means standing for something meaningful beyond oneself rather than being motivated by narrow personal interests.
“It means being able to admit when you have made a mistake rather than acting like you are always right and having the humility to receive critical feedback openly and work to improve. It means avoiding behavior like favoritism, conflicts of interest, inappropriate language, inappropriate work relationships, etc., that erode trust.
Building trust in this way is both a science and an art; it requires both competence and character. Trust is built when leaders think clearly about the future and move their organizations to the right place, in terms of product, sales, and people.
In difficult times, as you evaluate one course of action versus another, ask yourself which path will generate more trust in you as a person and as a leader. Always try to choose that path.
You can read the entire analysis of these leadership qualities at Y Combinator.