The ins and outs of being a leader

In a world filled with choice, customer expectations are higher than ever and competition between businesses is increasingly fierce. For business leaders, this translates to a constant need to reinvent and innovate around product offering, customer service and marketing.

These are the eight leadership principles that have helped me succeed in this exciting and challenging environment as Director-GM of Gumtree SA.

  1. People first. People are your biggest business asset. Surround yourself with a diverse group of top talent that buy into your vision, but challenge you at the right times.
  1. Reinvent constantly. This requires an open mind but also the ability to self-evaluate regularly and adapt accordingly. The world is always shifting; you can’t rest on your laurels when you are doing well and you can’t dwell on your failures when you aren’t. Apply this principle to your own thinking, and to your organisation’s approach to innovation.
  1. Trust and agility. Know to say yes and when to say no. You’ll need to be able to identify the right challenges and opportunities and meet them with a resounding “yes”. It’s also good to be aware that good leadership often means risk minimizing rather than risk-taking. That’s when the word “no” comes in handy.
  1. Be the leader your company needs. New leaders often like to come in and shake things up. A grand plan or brilliant product innovation can be the gateway to success – but you don’t always need the next big idea. For many companies, delivering value is about doing what’s already been done, but doing it better than anyone else.
  1. Establish a point of view early on.  Have a vision that captures people’s imaginations and filter it down throughout the organization. Establish a trusted group of colleagues in senior management that share your vision and can speak in a coordinated way to make it happen. As a team, focus on small, frequent wins that build the confidence of your employees and increase their buy-in.
  1. Share the load. As a leader, your natural instinct will be to do more, make greater sacrifices, and take on greater responsibility. This approach can result in counter productivity and eventual burn-out. Put boundaries in place and learn to delegate.
  1. Numbers aren’t everything. Numbers are important, but they show only a portion of the big picture. Understanding both the customer and employee experience of your business will help you interpret the numbers and define the right way forward.
  1. Strive for customer satisfaction. When your customer is happy, you know that your team’s hard work has paid off. Nothing gives me great joy than the amazing success stories that come from our Gumtree customers. We recently heard from a woman who bought two stoves off Gumtree to start a catering business after matric. She now employs others in her business, and she managed to obtain a tertiary education for herself. It’s a humble success story, but it proves that the time we put in behind the scenes makes a real difference to the lives of our customers.

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