When I was first named Safelite AutoGlass’s CEO, someone shared a piece of advice that is also the name of a book by executive coach Marshall Goldsmith: “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There.” That struck me deeply. After nearly 20 years, I knew many of the ins and outs of the business but hadn’t spent much time reflecting on how I would lead the company to reach our full potential.
This advice prompted me to outline a strategic framework. Our People Powered, Customer Driven strategy supported by a Nationally Powered, Locally Driven approach has transformed our business and delivered outstanding results. And the heart of it is an obsessive focus on great leaders.
We’ve invested heavily in leadership development — recognizing that managing and leading are very different. In order to transform our business, we needed to transform our leadership style, collectively and individually, and that included me.
What I’ve taken from this journey are keys to earning trust as an inspiring leader — the four As and one V of leadership.
Be approachable — Make yourself available; open your door to all, not just those with significant titles. And be a coach, not a critic. When they share issues or concerns, don’t make assumptions — be curious and ask “why?” Then, help them to discover solutions.
Be authentic — To be genuine, it’s simple: always tell the truth, even when it’s hard. It’s the only way to establish trust. Show compassion and be transparent with positive intent.
Most of all, be sure your actions match your words. Leaders cast a shadow of influence, and people will model what they see you do more than what you say.
Be accountable — Great leaders know being accountable means delivering results: they do what they say they will do.
Demonstrate the difference between activity and accomplishment. Be an asset to the organization. Results earn credibility, and credibility builds trust.
We also need to openly invest in ourselves and pursue ongoing self-improvement. By doing so, we give others permission to invest in development, thereby creating a better, stronger team.
Be aspirational — Leaders must have vision and the ability to communicate that vision in a way that inspires and empowers belief that “it can be done.”
The role of a leader isn’t to direct action. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. Great leaders paint a compelling picture of the future, then hire, engage and develop talented people who deliver results.
Be visible — See and be seen. Get out there and talk with your people, customers and partners. Be sure they know how much you appreciate what they do to make your company successful.
Balance your time between the team you lead and the team you’re on — recognizing when one takes priority. Don’t be distracted; be present in the moment to make it time well spent.
These principles aren’t all the answers. In fact, great leaders use a variety of leadership styles for various situations to create a healthy, high-performing culture. But for certain: as people and the business continue to evolve, leadership must evolve with it.
So, whether you’re a new leader or one transforming your leadership style like me, I have one more word of advice … BEGIN!
Tom Feeney is the President and CEO of Safelite AutoGlass®. In his 28 years with Safelite Group Inc., Tom has been instrumental in establishing Safelite AutoGlass® as a nationally well-known brand. Since 2008, he has set the course for doubling Safelite’s business through two core principles: People Powered and Customer Driven.