The Essence Of Leadership
If there is anything that I have learned from starting, leading, buying, selling, and running companies since I was 27 years old, it is that true leadership has nothing to do with popularity, status, power, money, or fame. True leadership has everything to do with trying to do what is right. True leaders must be fearless in striving to do the right thing for the people they serve, even if they may be misunderstood, ridiculed, hated, or feared for their decisions.
I am far from perfect as a leader, but I take pride in creating a true meritocracy for everyone at all of my companies. I believe that everyone should be afforded the equal opportunity to be the master of his/her own destiny. I believe in fairness. I believe in the simple law of karma. Do good, and good will come back to you. Do bad, and bad will come back to you. At my companies, we don’t care about paper qualifications, CVs, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, social status, nationality, color, or any of society’s typical bullshit. I embrace diversity of every kind. We welcome people from all walks of life and from any and all backgrounds. I believe that everyone should have the power to control his/her future based on integrity, character, and performance. By the same token, I have zero tolerance for hatred, prejudice, politics, ass-kissing, back-stabbing, etc.
Leaders must stand for a certain set of values, and do everything possible to defend, nurture, and protect those values. Values are the bedrock of the greatest companies on the planet. When a leader and his/her team have shared values, aligned goals, and a common mission, wonderful things can happen. The secret sauce for any company is its culture. Values create the foundation for a great culture. And a great culture inspires extraordinary achievement. At my companies, there are 6 core values (in order of importance) that drive the culture:
Integrity: Do the right thing even when no one is watching. No one is perfect, but try your best to do the right thing. Don’t lie, cheat, or steal. Do your best to live in a way that would make your mom proud.
Happiness: Spread happiness. Try to be a source of positive energy and happiness for yourself and your colleagues. Positive energy is what changes the world for the better. Happiness is what creates extraordinary performance.
Excellence: Excellence is doing your job above and beyond the call of duty even when no one is watching. Hold yourself and your colleagues to the highest standard of excellence.
Continuous Self-Improvement: Try your best to learn, grow, and improve 1% a day in every area of your life. No one is without flaws or weaknesses. We are all imperfect. We are all works-in-progress. Be intellectually honest with yourself so that you can always improve. Use constructive criticism as an opportunity to unleash your potential.
Teamwork: Put the needs of the team ahead of your own. If you look at history in any sport, world championship teams are made of selfless individuals who put the team ahead of themselves.
Loyalty: Loyalty is black and white. If you want everyone to invest 1000% of themselves into your success, you must be loyal to everyone. No one will give 1000% to you if you are not loyal. It is the simple law of reciprocity. Be worthy of your teammates’ loyalty. Be loyal to your team and your team will do everything in its power to see you succeed.
Throughout my business career in the last 20+ years, I have had to make many tough and unpopular decisions that I did not necessarily want to take. I have had to fire good people who couldn’t make the grade. I have had to cut jobs in order to keep a company afloat. I have had to punish others for poor behavior to protect the rest of the team. I have had to ask decent, hard-working people to leave for all sorts of reasons like lying, stealing, egotistical behavior, laziness, etc. It is never fun or easy to deal with these types of situations, but it comes with the territory as a leader. Whenever I feel frustrated, upset, or angry at a given situation, I always take a pause and go back to gratitude. Through pure luck and good fortune, I have been blessed with the precious opportunity to help the world in a way that reflects my values and who I am. So, as a leader, it is my duty to strive to do the right thing always for the people I serve.
Ultimately, the only proof of good or bad leadership is the performance and happiness of the team that a leader serves. Whether it is the greatest countries in the world, the most successful companies in the world, the most feared military units in the world, or the winningest athletic teams in the world, everything begins and ends with great leadership.