Learning to lead

All of her life, Sheryl A.
Woods has been a student of good leaders, learning from them to help her
reach her goal of leading a nonprofit organization.

“In every role I’ve ever had … I
always viewed my position as
one of a CEO,” she says. “I tried
to emulate their success, had a
vision and embraced good communication.”

Woods’ focus on the qualities
of leaders who excel has
helped her reach her goal as
president and CEO of YMCA of
Broward County, overseeing an
annual budget of $21 million
and leading 750 employees at
the health and wellness program centers.

Smart Business spoke with
Woods about how to develop
the qualities of a good leader.

Q. What are the qualities of
a good leader?

You have to be confident.
Surround yourself with people
who can be honest with you,
tell you what you don’t want to
hear and what you do. You have
to be persistent and a good
communicator.

You have to get in there and
learn on the job because you’re
never going to know everything, but you’ve got to go back
to your core principles and
character and value structure
and discipline. There are things
that happen to me every day
that I go, ‘Wow, how am I going
to handle this?’ I always take a
step back and say, ‘Let’s get
back to the principles, and am I
being fair and equitable and
responsible for my decisions?’

Q. How do you become a
confident leader?

Being a confident leader
means not being afraid to take
risks — but you must prepare
for those risks to minimize disappointments. Surround yourself with people who can help
generate success, and you’ll
find that success breeds confidence.

Past experience is an indicator
of future performance, and you
must believe in what you are
doing. A key element is having a
sense of ownership — that
sense breeds confidence and
success. It gives you the opportunity to control your
own destiny.

Q. How do you find
those people who will be
honest with you?

We have an acronym
we use, KASH — what
knowledge does the person have, what is their
attitude, what are their
skills and what are their
habits? Do they have
good work habits? Do
they see the glass as half
full? Are they satisfied
with the status quo?

Most of them will have
some level of skill or
knowledge, but I can
teach and coach that; I
can’t change a person’s attitude
and habits.

Ask questions and for specific
examples. When you go through
an interview and ask a question
that prompts another question,
and you just dig deeper into the
person’s answer, and you will
find out a lot about them and
their habits — ‘Give me an
example of that. How did you
handle that? What didn’t you
like about that experience?
How would you have handled it
differently?’ I just keep drilling
down.

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