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Leadership Secrets from Successful CEOs

There's no one right way to be a good leader. One style of leadership might work well in one company, but not in another. Ultimately, leadership styles are a personal reflection of each individual leader. They are, in a sense, a reflection of each person's inner genius. With that in mind, I recently spoke with some successful CEOs--each of whom belongs to the Young Presidents’ Organization--to describe their most successful leadership strategies.

Hire the best and get out of their way “As a CEO, your job should be putting the best people in the best positions possible. You should give them the tools to do their jobs, get out of the way, and be an obstacle remover when needed. This is something that many people understand in concept, but fail to do. I've always followed this principle. I give people a lot of rope to test their ideas, develop customer relationships, and do what's right for the greater good of the company. When we speak, which is daily, we discuss how to grow, how to solve a problem, and what obstacles they need help overcoming. I can honestly say that I trust everyone on my team 100 percent and they know that I am there for them at any time. So far, it’s worked great.” --Rajeev Kapur, CEO of Sonic Emotion

Love your company “When I was working in my 20s and early 30s, female senior executives always told me not to not love the business, because it won't love you back. There was this feeling that you give a lot to your job, and therefore, hopefully love your job--but that the corporation won't reciprocate. When I started Hint Water, I decided I wanted to have a different take on leadership and the environment and incentives I created. I wanted my team to be able to love the business--and feel that love returned. It's been a great way to align the needs of my employees with those of the company. For example, one of our stellar employees had a baby and is a single mom. We created a structure that allows her to have flexible hours. We get the same high quality of work from her, and she is able to balance her job and being a mom. She loved Hint, gave it her all, and Hint loved her back when she needed it. This strategy has led to a stronger team.” --Kara Goldin, CEO of Hint Water

Focus on results, not face time "People are inherently honest and good. They want to work hard and reap the benefits of their contributions. Yet, traditional ways of tracking time and providing vacation treat people like assembly-line workers kept on a short leash doing mundane tasks. A year and a half ago, we implemented a results-only work environment, evaluating people based on their performance, not their presence in the office. Overall, it's been a big win. The surprising result was that we've had very little abuse of the policy. In fact, we've had to encourage some people to take more time off. When you give people authority over their own work and time, it changes the whole dynamic of accountability, for the better.” --Eric Johnson, CEO of Ignited

Be adaptable and open in any situation “I enjoy listening, learning, and adapting to the situation, whether I need to speak softly or be more assertive. I’m constantly adapting my communication style to the person I talk to so I can best relate to them and create a relationship. This approach to leadership is connected to my innate talent of always looking for a win-win in every business interaction. It means that I will get things done, but in a way that leaves everyone happy. It’s served me well with building multimillion-dollar businesses, as well as running a family. It's also a great way to lead.” --Lisa Hufford, CEO of Simplicity Consulting

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