Business Strategy | Leadership / Management

Want to lead? You’ll need these 7 keys

Interesting, isn’t it, how great ideas seem to repeat themselves?

Your friendly neighborhood CPA Success bloggers have been talking about the future of leadership for a while now, but in pieces — a great idea here, an educated guess there, whitepapers and thought leaders and studies, oh my!

Then comes along someone who pulls all of those theories together into one brilliant, 90-minute oration and connects each to the other, like pieces of a puzzle.

That someone is Pat Williams. Co-founder and senior vice president of Orlando’s pro basketball team, the Magic, Williams is also a best-selling author who offered some pretty brilliant ideas about what modern-day leadership is all about at the 2014 Winning is Everything Conference in Las Vegas.

He boiled it all down to seven traits:

  1. Vision. Want to know what vision looks like? Williams help found the Orlando Magic by convincing 14,000 local basketball fans to fork over $100 each for season tickets for a team that didn’t exist. The non-existent team didn’t even have an arena to play in, and still people paid. Why? They bought into Williams’s vision. “Visionary leaders see farther and in a wider scope, in vivid technicolor, than the rest of us,” Williams said. “A vision keeps you focused and fueled. It gives you energy and enthusiasm. If you’re not pumped and passionate, no one else will be, either.”
  2. Communication. If you can’t communicate your vision, Williams said, nothing will happen. The more you communicate, the more people understand. The more they understand, they more they care. Williams said great leaders communicate optimism, hope, motivation, and inspiration — and they do it verbally, in front of other people.
  3. People skills. Great leaders love people. They truly care about them. They listen and ask great questions — the most important one being, “What do you think?” They empower their people and delegate authority. Says Williams: “The question we need to ask ourselves is, ‘Did we get the baton of leadership into the hands of the next generation?’”
  4. Character: Williams says character is made up equally of honesty, integrity, responsibility, and humility. And he channelled Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf for the kicker: "Leadership boils down to character and strategy. If you must do without one, do without the strategy."
  5. Competence: According to Williams, a leader's key competencies are solving problems, spotting talent, selling, and lifelong learning — with an emphasis on the learning part. Williams says there are two ways to be a lifelong learner: Hang out with smart people and read great books.
  6. Boldness: Leaders don’t second-guess themselves. If mistakes are made, they correct them and move on. “This is your team,” Williams said. “Don’t be afraid to coach it. Be the boss.”
  7. A serving heart: That means serving others, not yourself. Remember why you’re in business. It’s not to make money. It’s to solve problems. If you solve enough problems, the money will come. But serve others first. “A serving heart says, ‘It’s not about advancing my career,’” Williams said. “‘It’s about advancing yours.’”

As I said, a lot of this stuff isn’t new. We’ve talked to Andrew Zolli about the importance of vision. We’ve spoken to Emmanuel Gobillot about the need to empower our employees. Tom Hood has spoken over and over about the importance of lifelong learning. Peter Sheahan emphasizes boldness and the need for action before clarity. Humanize authors Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter told us that those who succeed going forward will put people at the heart of everything they do.

We’ve written about all of this before, but until I heard Pat Williams speak, I had never heard one speaker tie it all together.

Seven keys to leadership in a changing and complex world. Did Williams miss anything?

While you’re thinking, check out a few of our BLI leadership programs:


Bill Sheridan