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October 9, 2014

Five years ago, I was told “you’re going to GILD this year,” and I’ve been lucky enough to go every year since. I enjoy going back because it serves as a refresher and reminder of what effective leadership looks like and each year and I pick up new insights from each speaker, even though I’ve heard some of them before. I can never get enough of Bill Strickland and Nando Parrado and their inspirational stories, no matter how many times I hear them. The best part is, I get a chance to reflect on the times when I was an effective leader during the year (too few) and when I wasn’t (too many).

Each year, I look for themes that resonate with me. This year the theme (for me anyway) was “understanding your purpose in life.” That was one of the unifying concepts for many of the speakers. And reflecting on the experience of being with those world-class leaders helps me be a much better leader—like when we did an exercise developed by Richard Leider on finding your purpose. The object of the exercise is to come up with 5 short statements (written on cards) that describe your strengths and passions in priority order.

I did the exercise again for myself when I got home. Mine were in order:

  1. Growing Things
  2. Making Things Work
  3. Adding Humor
  4. Seeing the Big Picture
  5. Doing the Numbers

The first two are related to each other and have been key drivers of what I’ve done in business for most of my career. Those forces are also why I want to continue to grow as a leader. I’ve also found that doing this kind of exercise and reflecting on something as significant as GILD helps too.

Here are some of my takeaways:

Roger Nierenberg, the “Maestro,” talked about the importance of a leader managing the meaning and the execution for a team and system and knowing when to do each. My translation is that I need a better balance between leading and managing when it comes to how I handle my role going forward.

Mike Abrashoff, the “Navy Commander,” talked about the importance of getting information and ideas from those closest to the work and business. My translation is that I need to do a better job in that area with all of my colleagues.

Jeremy Gutsche, the “Innovation Guru,” reminded me of the importance of “destroying”—not being afraid to tear things down even if they are successful and redoing them before your competition does. My translation is that we need to look at everything we do, the way we do it, and challenge everything to make sure we are positioned for future growth, not just past success.

Nando Parrado, the “Survivor,” reminded me of the importance of living in the present. Yes, we need to plan for the future too, but if we don’t enjoy the present in the moment, we are missing living a full life.

Now it’s up to me to put these lessons into practice. And to always ask for honest feedback from those around me when I might fall short of living up to these commitments.

What are you doing to be a better leader? Please share your thoughts with us below.

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