Rick L. Stephens
7 Best Practices for
People love being around great leaders. Of course, we all know what it’s like to have a “horrible boss”—the boss who micromanages, who criticizes and nitpicks, and who doesn’t encourage or motivate his or her employees to do their best. But great leaders? They make their company and all of its employees better. People want to work for great leaders.
What makes a great leader? Probably many things, more than we can list here. But for the sake of brevity, here are what I believe are seven best practices (or words of wisdom) you can use to your hone your skills as a people developer, leader, and visionary.
1. Great leaders have a vision. They provide others with a goal that’s worth pursuing. They set objectives that are achievable and encourage you to keep going. They know the end goal, and make sure they have the skills, people, plan, and resources in place to make it happen.
2. Great leaders are continually remaking themselves. They never stop learning (whether it’s through regular reading, having a mentor, or taking classes). They are adaptable, changing, innovating, and growing. They are open to fresh thoughts and ideas.
3. Great leaders love their job. They have a positive attitude that not only reveals their own happiness, but makes other people around them happy, too. When your people on the front lines are happy, they make your customers happy. It’s a formula for success in whatever you do. If your leader or boss is disgruntled and negative, something is amiss.
4. Great leaders take risks. In my business career, I had to take many risks that sometimes felt crazy. And, to put it plainly, risks are called risks because lots of times they don’t work out as planned. However, it’s important to be brave, think outside the box, and be willing to learn from the experience if it doesn’t work out. Taking risks is how big things happen!
5. Great leaders do not let failure define them. I have experienced many failures in my lifetime. In fact, before founding Horizon Hobby, which eventually employed over 700 people and had operations throughout Illinois, California, London, Hamburg, and Shanghai, I was fired. TWICE! I certainly didn’t feel like a leader then. But I was willing to self-reflect, learn, grow, and move forward. Failures are not fatal if you don’t let them stop you!
6. Great leaders are marked by humility. One of the most foundational aspects of our culture at Horizon—and I believe one of the biggest catalysts in our success—was our upside-down, pyramid-shaped org chart (meaning I, the CEO, was at the bottom). My goal was to be a servant leader, willing to serve wherever needed, rather than ruling from the top.
7. Great leaders are flexible. In 1990, the hobby industry took a huge hit. RC cars, which had miraculously boomed previously, stalled. However, instead of throwing in the towel, we changed our business model. We evolved with the times. As a leader and as a team, we made changes to the way we operated in order to continue on as a top seller and manufacturer in the industry. If we hadn’t continued to change our business model (for example, when internet sales became the next big thing), Horizon wouldn’t have become what it did.
Ordinary people are capable of doing extraordinary things. It just comes down to leadership. As a leader, you have a big responsibility, but you also have an awesome opportunity! You can actually improve people’s lives with your leadership, which includes your vision, your positive attitude, your humility, your flexibility, your resilience, and more. You can make a difference in this world!
I encourage you to work hard at it and be a great leader.