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The Best and Worst Advice for Effective Leadership as Told by 5 Successful Leaders

Posted by Sandy Yu on 8.22.2019

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Leadership advice is floating around everywhere. Some of it’s good, and some it is, well, not so good. Following the best advice and ignoring the worst is critical to effective leadership. Advice doesn’t just impact a leader’s career -- it affects their employees’ careers, too.

That’s why we asked successful leaders to share the best and worst leadership advice they’ve ever received. Here’s what they had to say:

Best advice for effective leadership: It’s not what you get done, it’s how you do it.

You can deliver the most amazing product, but if you stepped on everyone to get there and if people don't want to work with you again, it doesn't really matter. 

Worst advice: Go for coffee or lunch. 

Copy of Copy of 200x200 headshot (35)I hate this advice! Coffee and lunch do not fix a challenging relationship. In fact, I see it as a generic solution to complex problems. It seems to be managers’ go-to advice for a direct report who is having trouble managing a difficult relationship. Instead, managers ought to seek to understand the issue and help the report come up with actual ways to mend the relationship. 

Holly Knoll, Business Coach and Creator of The Consultant Code 

Best advice for effective leadership: Make friends, not enemies. 

My mentor said this to me when I first started out in a graduate talent program. I had fallen into the typical mistake of replying too quickly to an unfriendly email, and I asked my mentor for advice on how to “win” the conversation (facepalm, I know). Copy of Copy of 200x200 headshot (36)

When my mentor told me to make friends, not enemies, a new world opened up. A world where you look for opportunities to connect and find allies, not a world of winners and losers. 

Worst advice: Keep control of your team. 

This one was recommended to me by an external consultant over lunch. The idea that you need to keep control over people leads to a me vs them mindset. A mindset where the leader is compared to a shepard, and the team sheep. I prefer a team of engaged self-starters who don't need me to keep control of them. 

Lucio Buffalmano, Founder of The Power Moves

Best advice for effective leadership: Find the leadership style that works for you.

A style and strategy that works for one leader may not translate for everyone else. A great leader is someone who sees the wisdom in multiple approaches, and derives an effective solution that works for them. 

Worst advice: It’s important that people fear you.

Copy of Copy of 200x200 headshot (37)I’ve never been in a situation where it’s necessary that people fear me. It doesn’t align with my personality, and it’s not something that really works for me. Fear creates the wrong kind of relationship with your employees. You might see some results, but you also have to deal with a workforce that is constantly stressed out, which comes with its own set of problems. 

Michael Drake, President of PMG Home Loans

Best advice for effective leadership: Only do the things only you can do. 

Delegation is often the biggest challenge of leadership. It’s very human to think that we do things better than our employees that are below our paygrade (whether it’s true or not, is a different story). However, an important aspect of leadership is the ability to manage such thoughts and let go. 

The worst: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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I’ve learned that willpower and discipline aren’t always the answer to everything. 

Having a strong, clear motivation is more powerful than will. Effort without the right direction is mostly fruitless. The ability to envision strong reasons and to communicate this vision as a motivation and direction is more important as a leader. 

Steve Kurniawan, SaaS Marketing Expert and Growth Strategist for Nine Peaks Media 

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Topics: HR trends, leadership communication

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