Leadership Lessons 101: Straight From The Mouths of CEOs


Start the Year Right by Learning from Young and Successful CEOs: Leadership Advice

CEO-LessonsRunning an organization is tough, but it is also an exciting endeavor for those who have always wanted to put up their own businesses. If you’re an aspiring CEO or have already set up your own, it is important to seek advice from those who have learned how to run their enterprises.

That does not mean that they have never experienced failure. Rather, but they have managed to grow their business by standing by their leadership principles. Successful CEOs from various industries generously share their insights on leadership after surviving the past year.

Adaptability is essential from the start (Jennifer Fitzgerald of PolicyGenius)

Jennifer is a co-founder of PolicyGenius, an online insurance marketplace. As the CEO of the start-up company, she believes that her leadership style has to be highly adaptable, especially as her company is evolving. For any business to thrive, it needs to have a tremendous amount of adaptability to cope with the ever-changing business environment.

Be visible and interact with your employees (Mike Cagney of SoFi)

The co-founder and CEO of the marketplace lender SoFi sees value in being with employees whenever he can. The purpose is to get them more engaged in the company. Perhaps, for businesses with few employees, being visible is easy. However, as your team grows and the demands of the firm increase, leaders may have less time to be in the office. If you want to make your team feel that you’re always supportive to and concerned about them, spend time with them regularly and fit them into your busy schedule.

Sometimes, you need others to take the reins (Laura Weidman Powers of Code2040)

Laura cofounded the non-profit tech diversity, Code2040. Besides running the business, she also acts as a senior policy adviser to Megan Smith, a U.S. chief technology officer. One of the lessons she learned recently was that you have to let others step up and take control. By so doing,  you share responsibility and empower your team members to exercise their talents better. Furthermore, you enable them to have a collaborative leadership.

You have to let others step up and take control

Don’t try to do too much, but do things better (Scott Harrison of Charity: Water)

Scott Harrison is the founder of the water nonprofit, Charity: Water. He realized that he wants to accomplish a lot of things in his role as CEO. As such, he realized that he might end up achieving less or compromising the work quality. We should not spread ourselves too thin. Neither should we try to do so much that we lose our focus. Rather, we should take in only what we can handle at any given time and strive for excellence in each endeavor.

Accommodate leadership styles different from yours (Tristan Walker of Walker & Company Brands)

Leadership-InfographicsWalker & Company Brands is a health and beauty company for people of color. Tristan is the founder and CEO. He imparted that as leaders, we need to allow other styles of leadership in our team so as to flourish. As the CEO, you have your unique way of running your business. However, you have to allow other leaders in your team to “do their thing” even when their styles are different from yours. Diversity is critical, and it benefits your business to have more than one management style to make it more dynamic.

Have a realistic roadmap rooted on a clear vision (Linden Tibbets of IFTTT)

Linden is bent on increasing his clarity for himself and his team. He believes in having a vision of where he wants to take the company and what he wants the company to become. As CEO, he makes sure that he articulates his vision for IFTTT and formulates an attainable roadmap that he shares with his team.

Consider perspectives from the whole political scene (Meika Hollender of Sustain Natural)

Meika is the co-founder and co-CEO of the contraceptive brand, Sustain Natural. She shares how the business was affected by the recent U.S. elections that divided the nation. Meika learned from the political episode that no matter on which side people belong, it pays to listen to diverse opinions and advocacies to understand better how consumers think and behave. Setting aside her partialities is important if she wants to see the bigger picture that affects her clients.

Take your time when hiring, but waste no time in firing (Miki Agrawal of Thinx)

Thinx is a period-proof underwear start-up company founded by its CEO, Miki Agrawal. She is focused on just one thing—growing the business. She believes that she can do this by carefully choosing the people in her team to ensure that they have the characteristics that fit her desired mold. Conversely, she does not want to spend time policing people. She also avoids worrying about keeping those who may turn out to be out of sync with her views about the business.

Choose to make the right decisions even when they are unpopular (Aria Finger of Do Something)


Every leader has to make many decisions on a regular basis. As such, whenever faced with important decision-making situations, there may be a battle between the right and the unpopular decisions. Aria believes that it is the duty of leaders to favor the right choices always although they can make them unpopular to the others. As they say, “the path to truth isn’t always easy.” However, the truth does set you free. You cannot please everyone with your decisions, but if you know that it’s the right thing to do, then go ahead.

Give constructive feedback (Charles Best of DonorsChoose)

DonorsChoose is a nonprofit education organization. For its founder and CEO, Charles Best, it is important to give constructive feedback to your team freely. By doing this, members outrightly know that they are on the right track. They also know whether there is a need to improve their performance. From Charle’s advice that as leaders, we should try to frame our feedback in the most non-threatening and therefore most constructive way as possible. That is to motivate our workers to try giving their best.

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