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How to Succeed as a Leader, part 3

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

In part 1, I discussed how I found success as a campaign manager with ZERO prior political or campaign experience.

In part 2, I discussed my time as Chief of Staff in the Missouri Auditor's Office and how to rise to the challenge of a new, highly visible, high-level leadership role.

Today, we begin to tie this all together around our leadership theme.

My next career move was to the private sector as Vice President & General Counsel of an oilfield distribution company.

Moving to the private sector from politics was a big shift. My role changed substantially.

  • I had to learn new products and a supply chain

  • I had to evaluate the company's internal processes and procedures

  • I took over all risk management, claims, and litigation

  • I was involved in sales, inventory management, and purchasing

Basically everything that the business did, I had to learn in order to perform my role.

You rarely get to choose your leadership challenges. Most of the time they just arrive, unannounced, at your door step. It is up to you whether or not you're going to rise to the challenge.

Lesson 1) Command & Control does have a place, it's just a very limited place.

In this instance, it was a barrage of products claims and litigation.

I took over all of these claims to centralize those issues onto my desk. I was, after all, the company's in-house attorney. In order to manage the issue and deliver an outcome, I had to step up and take this on because managing type of crisis was exactly why I was hired. But, this required me to unload some other duties.

This is the issue with command and control. You become very focused, possibly to the detriment of your other duties and (as we've pointed out in other posts) your team's culture. So if you do need to implement it, take care to ensure that things don't start falling through the cracks.

And, once again, a great team was involved to help me through these various claims in a variety of jurisdictions. I did take charge, but I didn't take over. I had to learn a lot of new information in order to meet the demands of my role and I had to rely on my team to perform their roles. I put together the overall strategy, but it took the whole team and we crossed the finish line together.

Lesson 2) Learn from every challenge and embrace new perspectives.

From my experience in claims, I got a very nuanced view of our supply chain and other commercial behavior. As a result, I used this new learning to improve some of our best practices. I overhauled our risk management.

As luck would have it, these changes positioned us to deal with a new challenge: Trade Cases impacting key suppliers. The work we did to update and upgrade our best practices significantly reduced the impact of those trade cases.

The benefit of "fresh eyes" or a new perspective can shine a light on these types of changes and neutralize a potential gap or threat, and in some cases maybe even turn it into an opportunity. Once you spot one of these opportunities, don't wait, take action.

Lesson 3) Work to AVOID problems rather than fixing them.

Lesson 3 starts to bring our "big picture" into relief.

Leaders know how to assemble high-performing teams. They set goals and objectives and create the framework for the team to be greater than the sum of its individual parts.

They know when to step in and take charge, and when to step back and let teamwork flourish.

They embrace new perspectives. Step back from time to time and look at your "big picture". What do the trends tell you about where your business needs to go?

This type of proactive, engaged leadership creates a culture of continuous improvement. In that culture, problem avoidance overtakes problem solving, and the organization thrives as a result.

Lesson 4) Adapt and evolve.

Business is not static. Neither is leadership. Constant learning has been another theme throughout this series.

At the same time, there is no one-size-fits-all playbook for leadership. Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. But everyone can be a leader, if you put in the work and build the skills and competencies to do it.

I've done it several times without any direct prior experience. You can too.

About the Author:

Matt Beckmann is the Founder & Managing Director of Ascent Consultants. In addition to experience as a former Chief of Staff to the Missouri Auditor and as a Corporate Vice President and General Counsel, he has advanced training and certifications in law, business, coaching, athletics, and other disciplines. His blog content, inspired by his deep passion for unlocking his reader's best potential, consistently equips business owners and individuals with the knowledge and resources to overcome obstacles that may be hindering growth.

Ascent Consultants provides business and project management consulting services, and executive and leadership development coaching. By converting client growth goals into an actionable "game plan," we lead companies and individuals to extraordinary outcomes.

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