5 Key Takeaways On Leadership
Not everyone is cut out to be a leader—bottom line. While there are ways to train people to develop better leadership skills, there’s ultimately two types of people in this world: those that lead and those that follow—and that’s not a bad thing. Leadership is a difficult responsibility, requiring those with strong communication skills, passion, patience and the ability to make decisions when it matters. Shawn Dorgan, Vice President of National Accounts with Aetna, draws on his experience in the military for direction in leadership, while adapting when necessary for life in business, “From my six years in the military—four of those in leadership roles—I learned the difference between accountability and responsibility. Whatever I do in life, I want to be an extreme owner. If that’s leading a team in business, then I want to be someone that others can follow.”
While Dorgan’s military experience taught him valuable lessons, there have been many that came from working with people in a different environment that paved the way to his current leadership style. Here are five additional takeaways that you’ll want to emulate:
Dorgan says that having and showing empathy was not one of the requirements in the military, but something he learned after, “If you’re a leader and you tell me that you don’t have time to create a relationship with your people then your priorities—and your ego—aren’t in check. People are the only thing that really matters; if you can walk a mile in their shoes then you can build a relationship with them and create the trust that is necessary for success.”
While providing a fun environment never goes unappreciated, Dorgan says it’s more about showing your passion that helps other employees to get on board. “I’ve worked in really dumpy offices before, but I believed in and felt the passion behind the mission of those leaders. That’s better than a ping pong table if you ask me. It’s important to build the ‘buy in’ around the project, mission or goal and help people to get excited about what’s going to come from it or how they can make an impact.”
Perhaps one of the most common keys to leadership is the concept of leading by example—and yet, it’s still so often overlooked or underutilized. “Setting examples of how you want the day-to-day business operated is massively important if you want others to pick up on it.” To Dorgan’s point, if the leadership team chooses not to lead by example, employees will find their own patterns and behaviors to model—and they may not align with the vision of the company.
“A while back a friend of mine told me something he was trying to instill in his children and it’s stuck with me ever since: ‘You can either be a thumb pointer or a finger pointer in life, which do you choose?’ I believe full-heartedly in starting with myself first, putting pride aside and taking ownership of my roles and expectations. At the end of the day, I want to be a thumb pointer because I know the responsibility is on me.”
Dorgan makes the point that recognizing employees and providing incentives can go beyond financial bonuses, “Look for ways that reward outside of money—invest in their education, create more time for them to spend with their loved ones and help them to see a future for their careers.”
Additionally, he believes in the power of consistent—and authentic—praise for a job well done. “You can never over-compliment your spouse or your employees. Studies have shown that it takes a person seven times until they truly hear something and 24 times before they remember it—so make sure you’re providing positive reinforcement for their efforts—it does matter.”
Kevin Bugielski is the Marketing Manager for Victory Lap, a purpose-driven startup changing the sales game. Avid Snapchatter, SoulCycle lover, newfound runner, but ultimately, a foodie.