Driving lesson

5 key leadership principles to drive growth

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The proliferation of documentaries about Silicon Valley’s most notorious executives has, in some ways, vilified the role of the business leader. Sure, outliers exist, but these media portrayals ignore that many great entrepreneurs build startups with integrity.

Business leadership that stands the test of time requires striking the right balance between benefiting clients, clients, and team members. Most entrepreneurs have a growth mindset, but it takes integrity — doing the right thing every time — coupled with courageous action to get there. It takes people, processes and technology to lay the foundation for solid growth. Supporting each of these investments is one of the essential traits of an effective leader.

I founded Zotec in 1998 when I saw the healthcare industry was lacking in technology. My experience as a CPA and leader in the insurance industry has helped me prioritize business growth while delivering value, pursuing our purpose, and improving the healthcare financial experience for patients and providers.

I am able to motivate my team and partner with the vendors we serve because of the trust I have built by delivering on the promises I have made.

Related: Warren Buffett tried to kill the “tapeworm” of healthcare costs but couldn’t. Maybe entrepreneurs can.

Essentials for a hit – instead of a flop

My company now employs over 1,400 people through a combination of strategic acquisitions and organic growth. Every hire is an integral part of the team that provides relationship management, proprietary technology, insightful data and industry expertise to healthcare providers and patients nationwide.

Our team members build trust with customers, partners, patients and the community by tracking and making decisions based on five principles: people, passion, persistence, perspective and predictability. These characteristics have led to success and can apply to any person, organization or team looking to grow.

1. People

One of the most shocking themes of many of these docudramas is how leaders focus on their motivations instead of prioritizing company culture. If your employees don’t trust and care about each other or are not committed to excellence, the game is over before it started. Nearly 60% of employees believe that management teams are responsible for implementing engagement practices.

People need to have a sense of belonging to the team. They should be compensated fairly, provided with wellness opportunities, and provided with training, education, and resources to advance. The focus on people must start at the top and be instilled throughout the organization. Compassion, respect and mutual care should guide all interactions. When people hold themselves accountable for the mission, you have a champion team.

2. Passion

What made many infamous companies successful in the first place was the passion of their founders. I love what I do — that’s how I stayed in business for so long. When I was building the business, my kids knew instantly if I was having a tough day at work or a day that didn’t feel like work. I was (and still am) engaged and eager to see what’s on the horizon.

Seventy percent of respondents in a McKinsey study said their job defines their purpose, but only 18% said they received as many goals as they would like from their job. Companies must realize the power of inspiring their teams with strong missions and creating environments that cultivate purpose and collaboration. Especially when employees join virtual teams, they have to fill the void of a physical work environment. Great communication, recognition and a common goal help fuel passion, no matter where.

Create valuable growth and learning opportunities and make space for employees to work on projects that meet their needs. Suggest ways to give back with concrete steps to improve your internal culture and the community. You will find your company filled not only with employees, but also with passionate advocates.

3. Persistence

Albert Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” I believe the most important asset we have is our inventory of mistakes – if we learn from them. In business and in life, mistakes provide opportunities for growth and can be investments in the future. Even successful businesses need to guard against fear of failure by accepting the positives of losses and thinking critically about how to win next time. Many of these on-screen founders were trying to prove they were smart, but nothing beats hard work.

In a University of Texas study, entrepreneurs remained persistent in their business efforts when they continued to challenge themselves to achieve their goals. The concept of corporate or service goals is only a first step. Tap into what personally motivates your team members to achieve specific goals. Without knowing where you are going, you don’t know which road to stay on, and therefore you cannot persist through the forces trying to pull you off course.

Related: 3 must-have attributes that make for great business leadership

4. Viewpoint

These shows about fallen tech titans provide insight into each founder’s lack of perspective. Research shows that about half of leaders fail, often due to self-serving opinions. A business has many constituents – suppliers, customers, partners, and team members – with different needs, and effective leadership means balancing each of their perspectives in all decisions.

Understanding other perspectives means putting your ego aside in the negotiation process. Always look for unique vantage points. The next big idea is usually found within your own business. Many consultants make a living by listening to your team and putting a different perspective on those ideas. Try to be your own consultant to unlock new points of view.

5. Predictability

What each of the founders also had in common was that they were too unpredictable, which contributed to their label as “bad entrepreneurs”.

Actions speak louder than words. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. People’s careers are in my hands when they commit to joining our team, and I give them my commitment to take care of them and do the right thing in return.

Predictability encourages trust in leaders. Especially in unpredictable times, employees seek stability from their leaders, expecting consistent decision-making, monitoring, values, and work ethics. Being unreliable in any of these areas can bring down any corporate leadership and possibly any company. When you have clearly articulated expectations and structure, everyone knows their purpose and value.

Related: Power with Purpose: The Four Pillars of Leadership

Effective leadership in the real world

They could create compelling stories on screen, but the stories of many of these tech entrepreneurs also show us how endeavors transform when we deviate from the fundamentals. As the list of “who’s who” and what not to do as a leader continues to be popularized, many other leaders are doing business the right way. Their lessons can help us take the right steps to build businesses with integrity and drive success.