Want to Be a Successful Leader? Former America250 CEO Joe Daniels Talks About the Importance of Your C-Suite
Everyone Knows Best
If you do a search on Amazon for “leadership book,” it returns over 50,000 options. There’s clearly no shortage of expertise on the subject. Titles such as The Savage Leader and The Servant Leader’s Manifesto grab attention and dangle the perfect leadership solution for any and all situations.
But that isn’t really true, is it? While there’s little doubt that the authors of those how-tos have a lot to share, leadership isn’t really something you get from a book. Leadership isn’t easy, which is why there’s such a constant clamoring to find “good” ones.
Even defining that is difficult. What’s a “good” leader? Someone who gets results? Someone whose employees are devoted to them? Someone who inspires? All of the above?
, who has held the chief executive role at three different organizations (in addition to the two above, Daniels was the CEO of the National Medal of Honor Museum in Arlington, Texas) and knows a bit about the ups and downs of being at the helm, shares that in his experience one of the foundational elements of being a successful leader is to care about the mission you are championing.
“At the memorial, what I found really foundational to the success when I look back is this sense of a leader who fosters a deep sense of mission among the team,” Daniels says. “I mean, one of the consistent themes I would express to my staff as we grew from 10 to 20 to 50 to 100, all the way up to the full amount, was this idea that a successful memorial and that museum was not inevitable. That is really up to the people in the room.”
Daniels and his team did complete the project, on time. And if one ever has the chance to visit the memorial and museum, one will find it’s beyond any expectation.
Joe Daniels and Teamwork
Joe Daniels and his crew were able to accomplish this feat because it was Daniels — and his team. No one person succeeds alone, even by perceived strong or successful leaders.
Tim Cook doesn’t design iPhones or curate the Apple Music experience. His engineers and content producers do. Jeff Bezos didn’t come up with the innovative business model that has Amazon as one of the largest companies in the world. His marketing and sales executives did. They’re a team, even if only one of them gets their name in lights.
“The idea, from a leadership perspective, is individually valuing the contribution that each member of the team makes and making them feel good about their work, whether they’re the receptionist all the way up to my right-hand person, that they’re an equally whole part of this team and that I care about what they have to say,” Daniels says. “That has been successful at every place that I’ve been. And it makes sense. People want to feel that they matter.”
Everyone does matter in a team setting, regardless of role. But levels of responsibility vary, and some important team members are required to carry more of it than others. Those would be the people who work directly with leadership. They are the executives, the forepeople, the C-suite.
While capability is of course paramount in an executive role, Daniels believes that equally important is the bond of trust and value sharing that he has with his most-trusted advisers.
But that isn’t most people; hence, the dearth of leadership talent.
“I’ve had heads of departments that when they come in to give me their weekly report and inform me on what their department is doing, they’re either talking about themselves or they’re just talking about the results,” Daniels says. “I never hear about what their staff is doing.”
Daniels adds he’s always very clear on expectations for his C-suite executives but even then, for most people, it’s still very difficult.