Give your team a chance to show what it can do

Confidence and humility are two essential components to effective leadership. When we have the courage to ask for help and can demonstrate that even as leaders, we still have much to learn, we give our companies more tools to succeed. 

Jack Kahl embraced feedback and took every opportunity he could to learn from his team. This approach helped him grow Manco from a small Midwest industrial tape distributor to a leading global consumer products company that topped $300 million in revenue when Kahl retired in 2000. While he had a great business mind and certainly had ideas about how to solve tough problems, he recognized the value of his team’s passion and creativity.

Kahl empowered his people to take risks.

“Entrepreneurs are the guys who make it through and become the window breakers of the world,” Kahl said in a past interview with Smart Business. “They don’t let the status quo keep them within those bounds. There’s a mischief-maker in me, and I figure if it’s good for me, then I should treat others the same way and let them have some fun.”

Kahl passed away on Dec. 30 at the age of 78. He’ll be remembered for his selfless approach to leadership and for his entrepreneurial vision. These skills were developed through a long friendship with his mentor, Walmart founder Sam Walton, who provided the inspiration for Kahl’s 2004 book, “Leading from the Heart: Choosing to be a Servant Leader.” 

A collaborative approach to leadership can be a challenge. We often find it easier to abandon open discussions and forge ahead with our own ideas, rather than listen to what other people think. As a teachable leader, we need to listen more, talk less and resist the urge to be a know-it-all. We need to see the risk of funneling every decision through our own predetermined set of beliefs. 

Teachable leaders see the value of continuous personal growth. Most of all, they trust the people they’ve hired to contribute to a better outcome. 

When we develop that trust and are willing to learn from others, it opens up a world of possibility.