THE secret of a great leader

“Find smart people, give them resources and interesting problems, and get out of the way” – Bob Baker

I have been fortunate in my career to work for several really effective leaders. One of those was Bob Baker, who joined one of the companies I worked for as CEO. Bob was a terrific leader and an effective manager. Many of the things I know about leading people I learned from him.

Whenever anyone asked Bob about the “secret” the secret of his success, or asked him about his job he’d say, “I find smart people, give them resources and interesting problems, and get out of the way.”

And that was what he did. Bob would spend a large proportion of his time on talent — making sure he had the best talent on his team, that they were getting all the feedback they needed, and that they had challenges in front of them. He was always there for advice and coaching, but the challenges were always “owned” by the team members.

Bob’s approach did not mean that he would just “toss things over the wall”. He stayed close to the process, checking in and offering advice without diminishing our ownership. If he saw we needed resources — more money, more people, expert advice — he’d make that happen. That enabled us to stay focused on the task.

Bob was a great leader and manager. We were working with high-performing, smart team members on important, challenging projects. If we needed help or more resources, Bob would figure out how to get them for us. As a team, we performed at a high level, so there was plenty of profit to fund generous bonuses.

What’s your job as a leader? Does your work as a manager support that?

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