I’m often asked for advice or input in how to be a better leader. It’s a question I ask myself all the time. In exploring a path of personal growth and learning, we should always seek to improve ourselves and our communities. Here are five lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur.
1. Do the Dirty Work
Every time I have started a new company, I always work the process end to end, 24/7, for a period of time. When we started Sin City Cupcakes, I learned how to bake. Before starting Ship Las Vegas, I worked and trained as a new hire in a mailbox/shipping store. Before starting my real estate brokerage, I worked as a residential real estate agent performing every portion of the business from contracts to negotiation to hosting open houses to running around with buyers. If you lead a team, you must lead by example.
Challenge yourself to learn every part of the business, down to the most basic of tasks. You must do the unglamorous and boring bits — not forever, but at least for a period of time to reap the rewards.
2. Have an ‘I Can Handle That’ Mindset
If you find yourself saying, “That’s not in my job description,” there’s a strong chance that you’re blocking yourself from future opportunities. Remember that successful people have a very different mentality. The most successful people will do whatever it takes to get the job done and be a contributing member of the team.
3. Embrace the Hardships
I keep a memo in the Notes section of my phone. It’s my “failure résumé”: a list of failed ventures and endeavors that I’ve tried over the years, from a failed bid for U.S. Congress to launching an app company that ended up folding in its first year. Everything, big and small, is on the list.
Your “failure résumé” serves several purposes. First, it keeps you humble. There’s nothing better to keep you in check than a handy list of things that you really wanted but that didn’t work out for you. Secondly, the list serves as a strong reminder that you are relentless. My list proves I will try and keep trying. This intangible grit is a muscle that has to be worked out and flexed regularly. Otherwise, it softens, it atrophies and over time you can barely use it at all. Lastly, keeping a close reminder of failures and hardships keeps you hungry. As the saying goes, a hungry dog runs faster. Complacency is the cousin of death, so embrace the hardships and learn from them.
4. Be Humble
I had a colleague who once asked for a high-level introduction to a 9-figure celebrity CEO that’s within my network. I made the introduction happen and was appalled by my colleague’s response. He had specifically asked for this introduction and then was too busy to coordinate scheduling a call with the exact person he wanted to be connected with. He passed the scheduling onto his assistant, while the other person didn’t rope in his assistant. I was annoyed and shocked at his dismissive attitude. Perhaps my colleague thought this was how successful people act. Perhaps he thought this was how multi-millionaires act.
Either way, he was dead wrong. Although apologetic, he totally burned the bridge I had attempted to create for him and left a bad taste in the mouth of the celebrity CEO. Always come from a place of humility in business. Everyone’s time is valuable, and if someone who has several competing priorities makes time for you directly, you should reciprocate.
5. Be Kind
A dog-eat-dog mentality is an antiquated view of severe competition; it’s a scarcity mentality that shouts “There’s only one winner, and if it’s not me, I’m losing.” There’s a new mindset around leadership that’s emerged over the past few years and it’s centered around being kind. We often hear buzz phrases like “leading with kindness” or “collaboration over competition.” More and more business people are embracing this abundance mentality. There is enough room for all of us to eat; there are enough clients out there for everyone. Just because you’re doing well doesn’t result in me not doing well.
There’s room for all of us to thrive. Whenever you give feedback, always ask yourself: Is this complete, accurate and truthful? Then ask yourself: Is this kind? Then ask yourself is it necessary?
As we all grow and learn, seek to surround yourself with others who take their leadership roles seriously and want to improve. There’s no magic solution, but as long as we all keep working together and learning from one another, we can always make our lives and communities better.