MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time? is written by Stacia Pierce, CEO of Ultimate Lifestyle Enterprises.
My father gave me my first leadership role when I was only 13 years old – managing our family-owned ice cream shop. As a manager, I had to quickly learn what went into running a small business — everything from hiring employees to marketing our product. Luckily, I had my father as a mentor. It wasn’t until later in my career that I realized the full value of my first leadership experience.
These are the three most important lessons I learned that summer:
Be a good listener. My father taught me that in order to lead, I had to listen. It’s important to form a connection with those who fight in the trenches with you. You need to keep an open mind and ear to what your team is saying. Good leaders are ones who can become a sponge, soaking up ideas and feedback to collaborate with their team members. Leverage your ideas and productivity by utilizing input from others. In my first team meeting, we were able to come up with new ice cream flavors to add to the menu and exciting ways to attract more customers. Always be slow to speak and quick to listen.
Have a (complete) vision. You need a vision for others to follow. As a leader, your job is to articulate a strategic plan that others can support and help bring to fruition. Your ability to convey this vision is crucial to your success. Your vision should ignite energy, provide big-picture perspectives and inspire productivity. Give your team a reason to commit their heart and soul to helping your company thrive.
When I had my first image consulting firm and beauty salon at 20 years old, my dad gave me a building to create my dream business. I designed a storefront, which included a beauty salon, clothing store and a classroom setting in the back. The design project was so fun! I created a vision board of London salons and boutiques that I used to model my salon style. I wanted to bring that image and style to my shop — and I did! I put all this money into the décor and design of the salon. When we finished the project, it was a beautiful place. I just stood in the center of my new salon filled with excitement and awe at how I brought my vision to life. Then my father asked how I planned to bring in business. He pointed out to me my own shortsightedness. He said, “Stacia, you only had a vision to get started but you need a vision to finish.
Trust your gut. This is one leadership lesson I learned through trial and error. There were times where I had wanted to expand my business into different areas, but hesitated for fear of what others might think. However, leadership requires you to take risks — you’ll have to learn to trust your gut and take leaps of faith if you want to take your organization to the next level. Your gut instinct or intuition is the all-knowing compass that can assist you in achieving success at an accelerated rate. Follow those hunches and move in the moment.
I use morning meditation to become more in touch with my intuition and then filter my instincts through supportive evidence. While the answers may not always be there upfront, this process has helped me to confidently trust my gut!
As you grow and learn over the years, your leadership style and skills will change and improve. It’s important that you reflect often on your own growth and keep track of the lessons you learn. My best leadership lessons came from “on the job training.” The biggest lesson that I often remind myself of is to learn from mistakes and keep it moving. You should never allow a failure to stagnate your progress.
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