What All New Leaders Need to Know to Be Successful

Apr 2, 2014
7 Min Read

To learn about how new leaders, or employees who want to be leaders, can be more successful, I spoke to George Bradt. Bradt is the author of First-Time Leader: Foundational Tools for Inspiring and Enabling Your New Team. He progressed through sales, marketing, and general management roles around the world at companies including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and J.D. Power’s Power Information Network spin off as chief executive. Now he is a Principal of CEO Connection and Managing Director of the executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis. In this brief interview, Bradt talks about how anyone can take the role of a leader, his BRAVE methodology, the three stages of team development, leadership tools and more.

Dan Schawbel: How do you originally take on the role as a leader in a company? Does someone have to give you permission to be a leader?

George Bradt: The underlying premise of this question is that leadership is about the leader. It’s not. While some people will follow a charismatic leader who has been put into some sort of formal leadership role by others for a time, they will devote themselves to a BRAVE leader’s cause over time. Thus, the best way to take on the role of leader is by rallying others around a cause, asking no one’s permission but your followers’.

Leadership is not about coordinating, managing or telling. Instead, it is about inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose. Telling diminishes. The best you can hope for is compliance. But if you inspire, enable and co-create some will commit themselves to the cause.

Dan Schawbel: Can you go over what BRAVE is and why leaders should embrace it?

Bradt: BRAVE has a double meaning. 1) Brave means courageous and 2) It’s an acronym for Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and the Environment. This is a framework for thinking about leadership and putting it into action in pursuit of a cause rooted in five questions:

  1. Where to play? (Environment – context)
  2. What matters and why? (Values – bedrock)
  3. How to win? (Attitude – strategy, posture, culture)
  4. How to connect? (Relationships – the heart of leadership)
  5. What impact? (Behaviors – making it real)

Simplifying frameworks are valuable because they help people think things through on their own and then help groups or teams align their thinking. Nothing in this framework is particularly revolutionary on its own. Its power is an enabler.

Dan: What are the three stages of team development? How can you perform your best at each stage so you don't let the team down?

Bradt: The learning is that teams of less than 10 people are most effective operating differently than should teams of 10-30 people and then should teams of over 30 people. At a high level:

  • Adopt a start-up mindset for the first (<10 people), focusing on problem solving, values and creating momentum;
  • Treat teams of 10-30 like an extended family, emphasizing diversity of strengths and culture; and
  • Embrace hierarchy for teams of over 30 people, substituting some organizational and operating processes for your ability to know everyone on the team.

Dan: What are some leadership tools that any leader can take advantage of and implement quickly?

Bradt: Not surprisingly, I’d like to suggest that BRAVE and its components are highly leveragable. From the outside-in:

Environment – Start with understanding the context across customers, collaborators, capabilities, competitors and general conditions. Pull those together in some sort of SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Value – Get clear on what matters and why, leveraging tools to put in place a mission, vision, and values.

Attitude – You must get clear on your strategy. But don’t stop there. Make sure your posture and culture line up with that strategy.

Relationships – This is all about communication and connecting using messaging and communication tools and also about building an ADEPT team by Acquiring, Developing, Encouraging, Planning and Transitioning talent.

Behaviors – This is about operationalizing everything that’s come before. Some sort of milestone management tool is essential here.

(By the way, all these tools and more are in our new book, First-Time Leader)

Dan: Can you share a story of a leader that you helped advise or mentor through your methods and the outcome of the relationship?

Bradt: One leader was in a particularly tricky situation because he was taking over his boss’s sales team – which he had been a part of. Suddenly people that had been his peers were now his subordinates. Further, this leader realized that his old boss was a better salesperson than he was himself. He had to cycle his boss’s numbers. Couldn’t outsell him. So he decided to out-lead him.

  • He got everyone rallied around what they were trying to do.
  • Then he gave each of the area’s top four accounts to one of his former peers. Over the next six months he trained them on key account management.
  • At the end of the six months they “owned” their accounts and results.

It’s a great example of inspiring and enabling versus telling.

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