Being a core member of the Anant team means sharing the same leadership principles. But even though we may share the same principles, we needed to be able to define what they are, and decide what they mean to us. We have discussed what our core values are, and over time we clarified them. We’ve watched videos, reviewed blogs, looked at other successful company stories, and read books on leadership and entrepreneurship (a recent favorite was Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business). You’ll find that many of these resources share similar thoughts and themes, and in the end we discovered a series of well-defined principles that we recently decided we wanted to adopt.
These are Amazon’s Leadership Principles, and they are now ours too.
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.
The client comes first. We’ve always viewed our business this way (and not just because client work pays bills). We want to do what’s best for our customers, which means doing daily internal scrums, client check-ins during project development, and asking for feedback. All of this allows us to improve the client’s experience, the quality of our deliverables, and our own skills and efficiency.
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job”.
Take ownership. We don’t just spit out the easiest solution to the problems we face just to get the job done. We make evaluations of the choices we have, and consider how the things we do will impact ourselves, our peers, and our clients in the future.
Invent and Simplify
Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here”. As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.
It’s easy to keep doing something in a preestablished way, but it’s hard to find inefficiencies, and even harder to correct them. We’re willing to look at different parts of a business platform with a critical lense, and work to improve and correct what we find. Especially when we know that things could be done better.
Are Right, A Lot
Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.
This doesn’t mean being stubborn. This means that leaders do their homework and never stop absorbing information. And with this absorption comes the desire to know the truth, which may mean finding out that they were initially wrong. But a great leader learns from these experiences and remembers them the next time a problem or question comes up.
Learn and Be Curious
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
Tied into being right a lot, leaders are always learning and curious. It’s important to keep yourself up to date with the latest news and technologies, but also important to understand that learning never stops.
Hire and Develop the Best
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.
A major part of being a leader is being involved with growing the team. An individual can only grow so much so fast, but if you are able to gather together other like-minded, talented people, then you’re also fostering the growth of the people around you and the growth of your team or organization.
Insist on the Highest Standards
Leaders have relentlessly high standards – many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver high quality products, services and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.
Having high standards may suggest setting someone up for failure, but that’s not what we’re doing. We push ourselves and our team to shoot for goals that are challenging. That way we can all work together to improve our individual skills and over business practices. Without high standards, we stay stagnant; which, in an ever-evolving world is truly a setup for failure.
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.
Once again, we’re not trying to be so ambitious that we aren’t achieving what we want. Leaders should be thinking about taking the extra steps to improve upon work, which will be reflected in the speed and quality of future projects.
Bias for Action
Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.
It can be easy to find yourself researching, planning, and discussing an endless loop of ideas or improvements, but if there’s nothing to show for it then you’re creating a disservice to yourself and your clients. Leaders should have a bias for “Getting Things Done”, though that’s not to say they should be careless. Calculated actions and decision-making is crucial, but it shouldn’t get in the way of actually doing the work.
Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size or fixed expense.
Being frugal means being mindful. And being mindful opens up new possibilities. By making this a core value, our whole team is operating under the same principles, without forgetting that we’re all trying to achieve the same things. Doing more with less presents an opportunity for growth and efficiency that leaders should be willing to take on.
Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.
Being a leader means being a paragon of trust and respect. This means we’re expected to be honest about our beliefs and merits, while making these moments an opportunity for feedback. Nobody is perfect, and if everyone is in agreement of this then we are all able to grow.
Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.
While leaders are capable of working at any stage of a project, it’s important for them to be involved (or know when and how to be involved). Leaders should be keeping tabs on tasks, and making sure that important details aren’t being ignored.
Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.
Being in disagreement doesn’t mean being disrespectful. By bringing together disparate opinions and ideas, the entire group will benefit. But keeping quiet is a quick way to passively allow dissatisfaction, and can easily bring with it negative consequences. Leaders have a responsibility to disagree and commit. Besides, often times these disagreements are shared among other people too.
Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.
Finally, leaders should deliver results. There will always be problems that get in the way, but it’s important to take action and work through struggles to ensure that progress is being made, and that we’re not allowing ourselves to be stagnant.
Strong leadership takes time to build up, and clearly there is a lot that goes into becoming a great leader. Having well-articulated principles gives us a solid foundation that we can continuously look to for guidance, reason, and justification. And the more we embrace our own values, the more effectively we may pass them on and see their effects in action.
Do you agree with these leadership principles? Are you someone who is looking to become a leader but doesn’t know where to start? If you’re interested about Anant and how we operate, feel free to read more from our blog, sign up for our newsletter, or contact us.