96% of companies fail in ten years, and less than 1% of businesses ever exceed 10 million in revenue. Not surprisingly, one of the top reasons is leadership.

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to present to a group of entrepreneurs who were looking for advice about how to begin and grow their businesses. The more I worked on my speech, the more I realized it was really about how to lead with intention. (You can download my presentation here, or watch the recording.)

I'm sharing these strategies with you because whether you're managing a team of 2, or 2,000,0000 your job is to lead by example. Here are three practical ways you can drive with intention and give your team a roadmap for success.


1. Vulnerability & Self-Awareness 

Quote_Three Unique Ways to Lead by Example

To start, I kicked off my presentation by telling less than flattering stories about myself. Job interviews that took a left turn, sporting games where I caught the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Why? Because this is the first lesson of leading by example:

If you want your team to trust you, you have to let them in.

In other words, if you want to build an organization that believes in you, gives you healthy pushback, and balances out your flaws, you need to be vulnerable. You need to let them see you as a real person.

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Tactical Tips

For example, UNA team practices the "hot seat" concept. First, everyone shares one thing that the person sitting in the spotlight is fantastic at. Then, something they can improve on, something they do that negatively impacts the organization. I'm always in the hot seat first. Because I'm the CEO, I'm the most intimidating person to give feedback to, but I press everyone to do so. Even more importantly, I reward their candid feedback.

Employing 'yes' people might be more comfortable than hiring people who will tell you when you're wrong, but they won't make your business successful.

In short, doing things like the hot seat help get these hard conversations started, and they help give everyone, especially managers, the self-awareness they need to be successful.

Self-awareness is the key indicator of how successful a leader will be. Therefore, to raise the average of your team, you need to continually be working to improve your self-awareness and emotional intelligence (EQ). Learn more about why businesses need EQ.

The good news is that being vulnerable and understanding how you affect those around you, are skills. They can be learned, practiced, and increased.


2. Say 'No' More Than You Say 'Yes' 

Equally important, you can lead by example by giving your organization focus and clarity. As Steve Jobs famously said:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying 'no' to 1,000 things.

Ultimately, if your business lacks focus, you’ll spread yourself too thin. Wealthy people say no to more things than they say yes to.

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Tactical Tips

Again, if you want your team to succeed they need to know how to judge success. Do they have clear goals? Are they quantitative? Do they know what "done" means? Teach your managers how to:

  • Have quarterly team planning and strategy meetings
    • Ask if goals were met last quarter and if not, why?
    • Decide key projects, timelines, deliverables
    • Agree on KPIs
    • Determine who will be involved
    • Decide on what will not be done to keep efforts on the top priorities
  • Hold weekly sprint planning
    • Teams meet to discusses each person's focus for the week
    • I recommend using Monday to manage
  • Lastly, ask employees to write a description of what they think their job is
    • Make it a part of their reviews
    • Is their understanding consistent with expectations?
    • Discuss how the role has changed

Above all, praise your managers for sticking to their priorities, saying no to busy work, and not engaging in fire drills. What they're not doing is just as crucial as what they are doing.


3. Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly 

Another critical point in leading by example is hiring slowly and firing quickly. People make or break you. Hiring the right way admittedly takes more effort, but bad fits and high turn over requires even more.

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Simply put, culture trumps strategy. For example, if you as a leader, tolerate the "bad cheese," people who are incompetent, lazy, jerks, or unsafe, you are communicating that you don't value your company culture. Likewise, even if these people are high performers, it's not worth it to keep them. Ultimately, they will poison everyone around them.

I believe the most important thing isn't a candidate's IQ or their job experience, but their emotional intelligence.

Tactical Tips

So, when you hire and evaluate employees look for:

  • Own their weaknesses
  • Understand what's it like to be in a room with them
  • Are aware of how they positively and negatively affect others
  • And are mature in how they handle conflict

Those people make great team players and managers.

Finally, don’t listen to what people say, watch what they do. Do they deliver what they promise? Give credit to others? Are open to constructive feedback? Even if someone is brilliant, if they're not teachable, I'm not interested.


In conclusion, the challenge of being a leader is the buck stops with you. So if you want your team to succeed, you need to show them how to be successful. 

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