Running a business and managing employees effectively is no walk in the park. And whether you’re managing a team of 20 or a business of 20,000, leadership and team management are always the most important elements of a successful business. Because stellar leadership trickles down to excellent, happy, and productive employees, which in turn create and build the business, and determine its success.
That being said, there’s a lot of pressure on leaders today. And to learn how you can be the best of the bunch, just take a look at the traits of today’s most successful executives. From Richard Branson to Howard Schultz, here are leadership tricks from six of the world’s most successful leaders.
1. Richard Branson
According to the highly successful Virgin Group founder, Richard Branson, team management and effective leadership come down to three things: listening, failing, and always putting employees first — even before customers. In an interview with Forbes, Richard Branson says, “Listening enables us to learn from each other, from the marketplace, and from the mistake that must be made in order to get anywhere that is original and disruptive.”
And in addition to listening, letting yourself fail is another top trait Branson swears by. “Making mistakes and experiencing setbacks is part of the DNA of every successful entrepreneur. I am no exception,” he says in the interview.
When leading a team, Branson advises to always put employees first. A motivated and happy workforce will result in happy customers. This ultimately creates a thriving business. “If you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your customers. Your customers will take care of your shareholders,” says Branson.
2. Mark Zuckerberg
For Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, successful leadership and team management are about purpose and passion. Leading with passion and understanding that everything he and his company does is moving the world forward. Being more connected is at the core of Zuckerberg’s management style. By hiring people who share this passion and by using it as fuel to inspire employees, Zuck has successfully built the Facebook empire.
“Find that thing you are super passionate about. A lot of the founding principles of Facebook are that if people have access to more information and are more connected, it will make the world better; people will have more understanding, more empathy. That’s the guiding principle for me. On hard days, I really just step back, and that’s the thing that keeps me going,” says Zuckerberg.
3. Tony Robbins
According to motivational speaker and public figure Tony Robbins, “[Team management] starts with understanding people’s true nature.” When building and managing a cohesive team, Robbins believes it’s crucial to understand what a person’s goals are so you can make sure they align with those of the company’s. Because once you’ve hired someone whose a perfect match in terms of long-term goals and passion, there’s no need to worry. When managing a team of people like this, you know every person is just as passionate as the next, collectively sharing the same drive and “true nature.” And Robbins believes it starts with hiring: “Team fit is critical for momentum,” he says.
4. Sara Blakely
Rather than looking down on failure and mistakes, Spanx founder Sara Blakely encourages them. In fact, at her company, she even plans “oops meetings,” where she asks employees to share stories about recent mistakes they’ve made.
“If you can create a culture where [your employees] are not terrified to fail or make a mistake, then they’re going to be highly productive and more innovative,” she says. “I’m curious about the things that hold power over us. And one is fear of embarrassment. We all have that. But if I embarrass myself, then it loses its power over me.”
5. Warren Buffett
Billionaire investor and business magnate Warren Buffett turns to centuries-old methods when it comes to leadership: storytelling and letter writing. Buffett’s well-known annual letter to shareholders is only one way the business exec uses writing to build trust in his company. In these letters, Buffett will also use analogies to help tell a story, for example comparing fund managers to monkeys.
When Buffett wants to share his take on something, he’ll write an op-ed in a major publication. In 2013, Buffett published his essay, “Warren Buffett Is Bullish on Women,” in Fortune. In the essay, Buffett shared his thoughts on the lack of diversity in finance, writing: “No CEO wants male employees to be underutilized when improved training or working conditions would boost productivity. So take it one step further: If obvious benefits flow from helping the male component of the workforce achieve its potential, why in the world wouldn’t you want to include its counterpart? Fellow males, get on board.”
Using writing and storytelling as a way to influence others, Buffett has successfully positioned himself as a leader. He has used this position to move his company — and the world — forward.
6. Howard Schultz
Like Buffett, Starbucks’ Howard Schultz also uses storytelling in his leadership technique. However, rather than pulling in analogies and writing op-eds, Schultz gets personal. By sharing his own stories of ups and downs, Schultz connects with employees and people around him, revealing the true person beneath all the power. Like many, Schultz too has faced the hardships that life sometimes throws.
His father was an uneducated World War II vet who got fired. He was left without healthcare coverage during a serious accident.
This personal experience has been a dominating factor in shaping Schultz’ leadership and managerial policies. It has helped him to build a winning corporate culture that offers healthcare to all employees (part- and full-time).