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Leading & Learning as a New CEO

I was recently working on my letter to our AIA Community for our first-ever Community Strong report, and I found myself thinking about leadership: my own over the past 21 months since I became AIA Corporation's CEO – and that of the many leaders who make up our diverse and talented community of business owners and entrepreneurs.

Three leadership behaviors have been essential for me in my role: 

  1. Set the vision; model the values. Successful leaders establish and convey a vision that is compelling and meaningful. They create values that describe who the organization is – or wants to be – and they demonstrate, day in and day out, what it means to live those values. For me, this isn’t the easiest part of leadership (if there is an easy part). In setting vision and values, a leader must consider a variety of perspectives and then make purposeful choices. No business succeeds by being everything to everyone. That’s why, at AIA, we’ve made the choice to focus on supporting our Owners’ growth and success. We are relentlessly committed to our vision of Community Strong, Owner Experience and Trusted Partner – and I view every decision with that in mind. 
  2. Develop others. I am motivated and fulfilled by seeing others succeed; I believe that’s why I became a CEO. Whether it’s growing the talent on the AIA team or helping our Owners grow their businesses, I find my best moments as a leader come from being a part of others’ growth and progress. A key to developing others is effective listening. As leaders, the more we listen, the better we can pinpoint developmental needs, offer support and provide opportunities that benefit both the individual and the organization. 
  3. Build and nurture my network. The CEO chair can be a lonely place to sit; yet ironically, it’s one that demands strong relationships based on mutual trust. I’ve worked hard to stay connected to past colleagues even as I’ve reached out to forge new connections in the promo industry. I make it a priority because I know I will be a better leader – and our AIA Community will be stronger – when I am engaged with and learning from a diverse group of business and community leaders.

As you think about your own leadership behaviors, if you’re interested in a deeper dive that is grounded in Gallup Research, check out CliftonStrengths 7 Expectations for Leaders.