Brian Paulen director of West Monroe Partners West Coast Customer Technology practice, and former Madrona Solutions Group CEO, joined a panel of top Seattle CEO’s to discuss his thoughts on what it takes to be a great leader, and why great leadership is important. Here’s a look at his thoughts on leadership and its importance to an organization.
“What does it take to be a great leader?“
That’s the kind of question that usually opens the door to many conversations. In a recent CEOtoCEO panel discussion, I was asked for my answers to a series of additional questions on what it takes to be a great leader.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader in your organization?
There are a number of important decisions that our leadership team has to make, but, generally, they center around two primary areas:
- People: Our leadership team regularly makes important decisions regarding hiring as we view our employees as long term company investments. We want to hire people who will blend well with our company culture, determine their unique strengths, and then decide on how much (and when) to empower them in their projects.
- Organization: I have to ensure that we’re concentrating our efforts on what is core to our organization. Certain clients may want services outside of our core competencies, and although we always want to try to support them as best we can, taking ourselves too far out of what we do best can put us in a difficult position. I often have to make tough decisions on what can both satisfy the customer and keep us true to our company’s focus.
How have your talents evolved as a leader in the last five years? What insights have you gained about your strengths and talents in that time?
Over my time as CEO at Madrona Solutions Group the firm continued to change. We grew from 10 people to 40, and, because of the importance of being open and communicative with employees, I’ve had to learn how to better define and articulate our company’s goals and results.
Over the past few years, I’ve also gained a better understanding of my strengths and the areas where I could use more support. I definitely benefit from being able to discuss and debate key organizational decisions with the strong leadership team we’ve developed here at Madrona.
Of all the lessons you’ve learned as a leader, which ones have spurred the most profitable growth of your organization?
As a small but aggressively growing business, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that there is such a thing as a “bad project”. Learning how to keep our business focused on our core business, on the areas where we can deliver exceptional service and grow revenue, has been the most valuable lesson I’ve learned yet.
I would also encourage leaders to ask for help – there are an amazing number of people out there who are willing to act as mentors; people who have their own comparable experience they are willing to share, which can provide huge learning benefits for developing leaders.
What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
When an organization is experiencing growth, particularly when it’s transitioning from a smaller, “family” culture to a larger, more complex employee structure, leadership needs to remain accessible. However, I often see leaders in this position become less accessible, which is one of the biggest mistakes a leader can make. It’s during this timeframe that the organization needs its most hands-on leadership from its CEO.
Hopefully you’ll find this insight interesting and useful in your own organizations. Please let us know your thoughts! Also, if you’d like to read more about this event and learn about connecting with other CEO’s, visit the CEOtoCEO website.