What a Leader Looks Like
By Charles Goldman
A few weeks ago, I was meeting with AssetMark's Senior Vice Presidents, the people who report to my leadership team and run most of the company. These folks are tasked with the daily execution of the work that financial advisors depend on: operations/service, product management, technology planning and implementation, investments, and marketing and sales. Without this team nothing gets done.
I am sharing this "inside baseball" with you because I know that, as advisors, you are leaders in your own organizations and some of you have leaders in similar roles as our SVPs.
While many people are called to lead, and have to develop leadership skills, individuals in SVP-style roles are in the eye of the leadership storm. They have been rewarded for managing and must continue to do so well. But now they have to lead at a level that many have not experienced before. Suddenly, they have to set an example in a way that challenges most people. They have to represent the company, not just their respective teams (or themselves). They have to balance those awkward tradeoffs where they may feel differently about an issue or decision, but once the decision is made, they have to own it like it is their own. They have to defend their respective organizations, but they must begin to realize that their actual team members are their peers and other executives. They have to push the organization by challenging everyone around them to grow, but also recognize that their respective voices are powerful so the way they push may matter more than what they are pushing for.
This is hard stuff. I know it was for me. Years and years ago, I had a boss who told me that "sometimes you can't see the difference between being 'right' versus 'correct.'" It took me a long time to realize that often there is no "right" answer. Rather, as an executive, my job was to work with others to find the best answer that worked for the team, and then to get behind that decision 100 percent so the organization could execute flawlessly.
I thought that fighting for that "right" answer was what leadership was all about, rather than focusing on setting an excellent example, owning decisions, seeing my team as leaders and peers, and most importantly, managing my communication style. Wow, what a hard lesson...
When you look for leaders, or want to demonstrate leadership yourself, look for these four qualities:
- A passion for mission, values and culture
- A focus on making everyone around you—and yourself—better
- An understanding that driving change is about motivating people, not tearing them down
- A deep and consistent positive outlook delivered through authentic communication
There are a lot of other leadership qualities that you can look for. I'd argue, however, that if you or leaders in your organization are smart and willing to learn, and can demonstrate the four qualities above, good things will happen.