Inspiring Women, Episode 24: Strategies For Success Using Your Own Leadership Style
As host Betty Collins explains, successful leadership requires a mix of knowing your values, understanding your strengths, and defining your uniqueness. This edition of “Inspiring Women” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Betty’s Show Notes
What does successful leadership look like? There’s so many definitions out there, but we’re well aware we’re desperate for good leadership.
When you look at successful leadership, you look at people who are pretty open and honest; good communication skills; they connect with that team member; they encourage personal and professional growth; they don’t just think that they are the only ones that should be learning and doing.
They make others better around them for sure, keeping that positive attitude. Nothing worse than working for a downer, right?
They teach employees instead of giving orders. It’s a huge, huge mindset. Some people just don’t have that ability, but that’s a successful leader. That’s what they look like.
But what about your own style in your leadership? Not everyone should be doing it the same. If you’re going to be a good leader, and you’re trying to be somebody else, you’re probably not going to be effective. You’ve got to find your style in the midst of all of it.
You’ve got to know your values. They’re traits upon which your reputation is built. They affect how you will consciously and subconsciously lead.
You’ve got to know what your strengths are. Chances are, you’re a leader because you have those certain strengths. A lot of times those strengths, too, are your weaknesses, so you have to be careful, but leverage them.
You’ve got to define your uniqueness. What sets you apart? Why are you so special?
What are your true-to-the-core motivations? In fact, what would people say you’re motivated by? When you’re figuring out your style, find out your motivation. Then, you’ve got to observe the leaders and peers around you. Who do you admire right now? Who do you look up to? But you’ve got to be you at the same time. It’s not that impossible.
Successful leadership is all about influence. It’s having followers and getting it done. But doing it on your terms, with your style, is even better. It’s the only way to do it.
Betty Collins, CPA, Brady Ware & Company and Host of the “Inspiring Women” Podcast
Betty Collins is the Office Lead for Brady Ware’s Columbus office and a Shareholder in the firm. Betty joined Brady Ware & Company in 2012 through a merger with Nipps, Brown, Collins & Associates. She started her career in public accounting in 1988. Betty is co-leader of the Long Term Care service team, which helps providers of services to Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and nursing centers establish effective operational models that also maximize available funding. She consults with other small businesses, helping them prosper with advice on general operations management, cash flow optimization, and tax minimization strategies.
In addition, Betty serves on the Board of Directors for Brady Ware and Company. She leads Brady Ware’s Women’s Initiative, a program designed to empower female employees, allowing them to tap into unique resources and unleash their full potential. Betty helps her colleagues create a work/life balance while inspiring them to set and reach personal and professional goals. The Women’s Initiative promotes women-to-women business relationships for clients and holds an annual conference that supports women business owners, women leaders, and other women who want to succeed. Betty actively participates in women-oriented conferences through speaking engagements and board activity.
Betty is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and she is the President-elect for the Columbus Chapter. Brady Ware also partners with the Women’s Small Business Accelerator (WSBA), an organization designed to help female business owners develop and implement a strong business strategy through education and mentorship, and Betty participates in their mentor match program. She is passionate about WSBA because she believes in their acceleration program and matching women with the right advisors to help them achieve their business ownership goals. Betty supports the WSBA and NAWBO because these organizations deliver resources that help other women-owned and managed businesses thrive.
Betty is a graduate of Mount Vernon Nazarene College, a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and a member of the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants. Betty is also the Board Chairwoman for the Gahanna Area Chamber of Commerce, and she serves on the Board of the Community Improvement Corporation of Gahanna as Treasurer.
“Inspiring Women” Podcast Series
“Inspiring Women” is THE podcast that advances women toward economic, social and political achievement. The show is hosted by Betty Collins, CPA, and presented by Brady Ware and Company. Brady Ware is committed to empowering women to go their distance in the workplace and at home. Other episodes of “Inspiring Women” can be found here.
Betty Collins: Today, we’re going to talk about strategies for success with your own leadership style. What does successful leadership look like? There’s so many definitions out there, but we’re well aware we’re desperate for good leadership. When you look at successful leadership, you look at people who are pretty open and honest; good communication skills; they connect with that team member; they encourage personal and professional growth; they don’t just think that they are the only ones that should be learning and doing. They make others better around them for sure, keeping that positive attitude. Nothing worse than working for a downer, right? They teach employees instead of giving orders. It’s a huge, huge mindset. Some people just don’t have that ability, but that’s a successful leader. That’s what they look like.
Betty Collins: Chances are they’re going to set clear goals with their employees, definitely expectations. People would rather know, “I’ve got to run up the hill today,’ rather than, “Well, let’s just see where we’re going to go.” Running up the hill doesn’t sound fun to me, but at least it’s clear, and I got it, and I know that’s what’s expected. Chances are they’re going to ask for feedback, as they are leader. That’s not always easy to take because you’re always going to have somebody with an opinion. A successful leader definitely looks like they’re open to new ideas. They understand their own motivation. By the way, the others around you know, probably, what you’re motivated by, so you’d better be careful with it. Good, successful leadership, they focus on impact, not just for themselves, but the whole team. They go even further. It’s about the whole organization.
Betty Collins: Those are things that successful leadership looks like, but what about your own style in your leadership? Not everyone should be doing it the same. If you’re going to being a good leader, and you’re trying to be somebody else, you’re probably not going to be effective. You’ve got to find your style in the midst of all of it. You’ve got to know your personality traits, right? I live in a very technical world at Brady Ware. It’s generally not a personable world, where I live. That happens to be something that is my strength. I can relate to people. I can talk with people. I have to be taking that style of leadership and applying it. It sets me apart. You’ve got to know a little bit about your personality. I’m not a technical person. If you had me sit in front of a computer all day, I’d be pretty tired. But, you know what? Accounting needs technicians, and entrepreneurs need advisors. Those are two very different things. So, as I understand who I am and what I’m best at, I really fit in that nice ‘entrepreneurs need advisors’ category. When you’re finding your style, you’ve got to understand those things.
Betty Collins: You’ve got to know your values. They affect how you will consciously and subconsciously lead. In my prior firm, I had a partner for many years who valued work flexibility. Well, his work flexibility … He would come in, 9:00, 9:30-ish, in that timeframe, because he enjoyed breakfast with his kids and driving them to school. Great. For the people who wanted to come in at 7:00 and leave by 4:00, he didn’t have the same respect for them, necessarily. He didn’t really value flex time because he didn’t hesitate to sit, while they were packing up their bags and even walk out to the door with them and to their car. Values are really important. No matter what you say … I love flex time … Not that that’s a value necessarily, but it’s my example. You only really enjoy flex time if you allow the others around you; you really don’t only believe it for yourself. He didn’t believe it for the employees that were there.
Betty Collins: Values, they’re traits upon which your reputation is built. I had another situation, where always talked about church, and faith, and family. That’s great, and his reputation was very, very much like that. But the close circle around him also knew that he was having an affair. So, everything that he was talking about, all those traits his reputation was built on, meant nothing. You’ve got to know your values. You can gauge someone’s personality and understand how that person thinks when you understand what they value. You really do. If my past person would have understood that the people who came in at 7:00, who wanted to leave by 3:00 because they also had families, if he would have understood they also were thinking just like him; his was just morning time, and theirs were evening. You’ve got to know that.
Betty Collins: Core values, the real core stuff – respect, impact, being authentic, courage, and integrity – those are the things that you take and put that into your style. How other ways do you find your style? Well, you’ve got to know what your strengths are. You’ve really got to look back, and go, “These are my strengths.” By the way, I would get a second opinion to make sure that those are really your strengths, because when you’re trying to find your own style, I’m going to lead completely different than my partner since 1995. We just are two very, very different people.
Betty Collins: His strengths are details, and his strengths are making sure, and driving, and all those things. My strengths were totally talking with people. “Where do you think we are? How do you think we can do this?” I just had a different approach. That was my strength. I could listen. He was more of a telling guy. There’s a time for both of those things, but you’ve got to know those strengths, and, again, get a second, maybe third opinion to make sure they really are your strength. There’s nothing worse than seeing a leader think they know how to do something, and they think it’s really good, and it’s not.
Betty Collins: Chances are, you’re a leader because you have those certain strengths. A lot of times those strengths, too, are your weaknesses, so you have to be careful. What I found at Brady Ware, truly, was as I began to really like that, hey, I’m not this technical crazy person. I’m really about entrepreneurship and advising. I’m really a personable person. I realized, too, that I started uptapping different strengths within me that have helped me be a better CPA, and they’ve helped me be a better business advisor. You’re going to have to look in … I really went through the book of, “What’s You’re Why?” by Simon Sinek. That totally changed my entire way I started doing business, how I started treating people, how I started leading. I took the “know your why” thing, which most accountants would not, and I applied that to: hey, these are my these are my characteristics and strengths that I could use and totally set myself apart.
Betty Collins: So, know those strengths, but know your weaknesses and leverage them. What does that mean? Well, when you know your weaknesses, they will affect your leadership style. Don’t be stubborn and prideful and go, “I’ve got this!” Instead, be transparent. It speaks volumes to your team, speaks volumes to your company. By the way, the people already know this about you, that you have these weaknesses … So, overcome them, great, or just realize you’re not going to and make sure you have a team member who can compensate that around you. That’s finding your style. It’s okay that you’re not going to do this part of the leadership because it’s probably not going to go well.
Betty Collins: You’ve got to define your uniqueness. What sets you apart? Why are you so special? There’s three tough questions that I think you have to really answer honestly. First one, what do I really do for the people around me? I’ll say it again. What do I really do for the people around me? I had to really think about that. So, what do I do for my team as I’m leading it? Because I kind of have a team within Brady Ware. What am I genuinely passionate about? For sure, the client experience; for sure, small business. I have to take that and go, “Okay, boom …” How does what I do and what am I passionate about- how do you combine that to make a fantastic difference to another person, or another client, or the peers in your office? How do you do that?
Betty Collins: I came across this formula, which I think is hilarious. What I’m just saying can be wrapped up beautifully like this: My brilliance – what I do – plus my passion is your gain. How does that sound? I read that, and went, “That’s perfect!” Really, when you’re defining your uniqueness, it isn’t just that, “Hey, I’m just loud and I talk too much.” I’m not talking about that uniqueness. I’m talking about what sets you apart to add to your success when you’re trying to be a leader, and you’re trying to do it with your own style. What do you do, and what are you passion about, and how are you going to combine those to really have impact? Again, my brilliance plus my passion is your gain. I love it.
Betty Collins: When you’re talking about your own style, you’ve got to come up with a few things. What are your true-to-the-core motivations? In fact, what would people say you’re motivated by? My children, this Mother’s Day, decided to give me a coffee cup, or actually, it was for was my birthday, that was huge. It’s probably, honestly, a half a gallon. On the outside of it, it says, “More.” So, I would say, easily, that my true-to-the-core motivation, according to my children, is I always want more. They got me this big cup; they think they’re so funny.
Betty Collins: Those around you think they probably know what your motivation is, but I would tell you, motivation is the reason behind all of your actions. It’s behind every desire, thought, needs. Hopefully, you can relate to this example. I’m working with a new training client at the gym, and they tell me they want to burn fat, and they want to lose weight. I ask immediately, why? The first answer is usually something like this: “Oh, because I want to be healthy. I want to look better.” So, I continue on. I want to know, why are they really motivated to be here, and that’s a really generic answer. So, I continue on, and I say, “So, why do you want to be healthy and look better?” At this point, they usually get a little embarrassed because, well, why wouldn’t I want to look better? So, at this point, I sit back in my chair, I take a breath, and I try to make them comfortable, but I’m going to dig deeper. I’m going to get to that. “What motivated you to come all the way to the gym, set an appointment with me, and you want to dedicate all this time to losing weight?” Again, I’m not letting them off the hook.
Betty Collins: After some squirming and a few more attempts to brush me off, the truth usually comes out. They might want to lose some fat, but it could be that they haven’t been asked out in a long time. They haven’t had some intimacy. They want to be more attractive. Their parent recently died of obesity that’s related to disease; or maybe they want to have a baby and they have to be healthier. I know, for me, I went through a weight loss this year, and I did have to dig down. I had to get a better reason than I’ve got to get on a diet; I can’t do this. Part of my reasoning, really, at the end of the day, was twofold. I have a grandson who I want to keep up with, and I have 10 more years to work. I’m very healthy, and I have so many people around me who are not. I have this gift, so, I’m motivated to take care of it.
Betty Collins: What are your true-to-the-core motivations? I mean, not just weight loss – everybody can do that – but in business, as you want to be that successful leader, as you want to do it with your own style, you really have to ask what those motivations are, and you have to keep digging deeper til you get to the real ones. Then, the people around you that you’re leading, probably, will follow differently. So, keep asking why til get to the truth. I’ve got to make money. Okay, why do you have to make money?
Betty Collins: Honestly, probably, one of the biggest time periods of my career in accounting was when I had the motivation to put my children through college. I did not work harder than those years because I wanted them to have that experience, and I didn’t have a lot of time. So, you’ve got to get to that. My core motivation- I rose up, and I became much more of a leader. I needed people to follow me to be successful. It’s just a point I want- when you’re figuring out your style, find out your motivation. Then, you’ve got to observe the leaders and peers around you. I mean, who do you admire right now? Who do you look up to? But you’ve got to be you at the same time. It’s not that impossible.
Betty Collins: Strategies to bring success and style together- we’re talking about leading success, whatever you put your success in. Then, I want to do it on my terms. By the way, if you think, “I’m really not a leader,” you are. We all lead. You’ve got to do continual assessment of where you are. Disengagement and stagnant? Man, game over, if there’s no new players or plays, right? I would tell you, a continual assessment is key to success. Try something different. Don’t do the norm. Is this part of your style now? You should maybe try these things. You’ve got to pay attention to the people around you that you’re trying to lead and not just be talking and telling. You’ve got to provide purpose and sense of belonging.
Betty Collins: One of the things I really emphasize with the team that I work with is not so much: did we get this done? Did we meet the deadline? It’s did the client get served? That’s a different purpose. Strategies to bring that success and style together … Also, you’ve got to try sometimes just some radical transparency. I’m not telling you to tell your story and divulge everything, but secrecy can really create a basis of mistrust. When you just put enough cards on the table just to get by instead of just putting it all out there, it can do a lot of mistrust and confusion.
Betty Collins: Then, another thing we don’t see a lot today – this is not of the norm – is what can I do for you? What can I do for you to make this day easier? What can I do for you to make sure this gets done? I’m not an admin person, but if I need to do admin work to make it easier to get where we need to go, I’m going to do it. Then, you’ve got to create a safe place. Those are different things that you don’t see a lot when you’re talking about your style, and leadership, and success, because those are more things about you giving than, “This is my team, and I’m going to run this, and I’m going to lead.” So, think about those things.
Betty Collins: Another strategy is just honest feedback from you. If you’ve got to have those conversations in your head, it’s okay. Maybe from your team, from your peers, certainly from mentors. Feedback is huge. Another strategy is recognize signs of poor leadership strategy. What does that mean? If nobody on your team has criticized you about one of your ideas in the past month, you probably don’t have any ideas. You really need to think about that. You maybe need to spend more time planning your own career progression than theirs. Their career is theirs; yours is yours. Poor leadership generally is trying to direct somebody so that they are doing what you want them to do. Poor signs of leadership: you haven’t had at least three completely non-work-related conversations with your team members. When’s the last time you heard about the kids and another things?
Betty Collins: I had this client who, part of their leadership strategy – he was the CFO – is how you approach people. I went into his office, and it said, “Before we talk business, I want to do these things. Ask me about my wife and my kids.” That was a top priority for him. That’s a good sign of someone who’s successful. Your team members, if they’re afraid to fail and live in fear, you’ve got some work to do. You’ve got some poor leadership strategy that’s not happening. I would tell you to recognize those signs and look around.
Betty Collins: You know what? You don’t know everything. In fact, you don’t know what you don’t know. When you want to succeed, one of the strategies – you especially want to succeed with your style, right? – ask yourself, how is this working? If you’re drawing a blank, it’s probably not working. I had somebody who was so funny; they kept talking about wanting to be a spiritual person. He’s Muslim, and he was reading the Koran. I said, “So, why aren’t you spiritual? You’re reading the Koran,” and he said, “I don’t know.” I said, “Well, is it working for you?” He goes, “It really isn’t.” I said, “You might want to read something else, you know?” The strategy comes back to how is it working? You really assess that and say, “I’ve got to do something different.” We all know what the definition of insanity is, right? You keep doing the same things over.
Betty Collins: Here’s one of the things that you have to … If you feel like you’re not being taken serious, what’s the strategy? Well, here’s what I would tell you. If you don’t want to end up at the circus, stop acting like a clown. Two great examples of this is Susan Boyle. Love her voice. She was on America’s Got Talent with Simon. I remember watching that, when she came out on stage. She looked completely- she didn’t own the stage. She came out just goofy. She had no presence. She mumbled around. Of course, the judges are all looking … We don’t know what’s reality TV and what isn’t. Then, she sang. Wow. I mean, everyone was mesmerized. For her- there’s a lot of singers. It takes beyond just being talented.
Betty Collins: Now, you see her, it’s nothing like that. She went through a whole thing. It was a big appearance, and her demeanor, and how she talked, and unfortunately … I don’t know why I always remember her coming out like that. Then you look at how far she came because she got the right direction; she got the right guidance. So, if you want to be taken seriously, sometimes you have to do that. Obviously, she did that. She also won a million dollars, and she’s probably beyond. But I will just never forget, how would anyone take her seriously? Now, when she sang, they took her seriously.
Betty Collins: Then I think of another singer, Aretha Franklin, who’s really my favorite. I watched her sing to President Obama, and her stage presence, her talent was like she was 20; yet she’s in her 70s. She had a lifetime of experience and she showed it. It was a completely different thing. I hadn’t really seen any clips of her, or I haven’t been that interested in her. Now, of course, everything’s on YouTube and Facebook. So, my first seeing of her really singing like that, I was like, wow. I don’t have a bad impression or anything, but I took her seriously because she owned the stage from the time she got on there.
Betty Collins: So, if you want to be taken seriously as a leader, even if you have … Susan Boyle’s style was just to kind of be goofy and come out and do her thing and then, she just figured singing would be enough. Now, in her case, it was because she was beyond talented. Successful leadership, at the end of the day, it’s all about influence. It’s having followers and getting it done but doing it on your terms with your style is even better. It’s the only way to do it.