Advice for Better Leadership: Share Priorities, Listen Actively, Empathize, Think Before Acting

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that has helped you become a better leader?

Jeremy Harris, ACE, IOM
Long Beach Area (CA) Chamber

I was reminded often early in my chamber career to always over-share your organizational priorities and goals far and wide. That way when you are asked to take on more (as many of us in this industry find ourselves in these situations), you have something to point to and can respectfully remind those individuals who make the ask. This also allows you to remain focused with leadership in your organization and gives you cover, especially when the ask comes from an elected official.

John Rolfe
Wichita (KS) Regional Chamber

The best piece of advice I’ve received that has helped me become a better leader is to listen actively and empathetically. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that leadership is about giving orders and making decisions. However, true leadership is about understanding and empowering others.

By actively listening to other ideas, concerns and feedback, I gain valuable insights and create an environment of collaboration and trust. Empathy allows me to connect with my team on a deeper level, recognizing their strengths, challenges, and motivations.

This advice has taught me that leadership is not about being in control, but about genuinely caring for and supporting those I lead.

Candace Carnahan, ACE
Grand Junction Area (CO) Chamber

Be authentic.

When you are true to yourself and your organization’s values, you can build trust and credibility with your team, your stakeholders, your members, and your community. When you are genuine, you inspire others to do the same, empowering those around you to engage and innovate in a way that capitalizes on their unique strengths, bringing out the best in all situations. Through this, your leadership becomes more sustainable through authenticity and passion instead of sheer energy and enthusiasm.

Tara Doyle-Enneking
Puyallup Sumner (WA) Chamber

I have spent a lot of time the past two years studying executive leadership as part of my M.B.A. journey. An important theme was consistently conveyed that when implemented has been impactful to my leadership growth. “Be quick to listen, and slow to speak.”

There is a lot that is baked into that statement that touches upon modern leadership skills of being more empathetic and creating a comfortable space for those that you are guiding to contribute to the conversation and/or issue at hand.

In the chamber world, we all move at such a quick pace, and it is my tendency to want to quickly fix, direct or solve a problem that is brought to my attention. What I have learned is that a “quick fix” is what a level one leader does. If you want to take it to the next level of being a leader where developing other leaders is paramount, then you want to learn to ask more questions and provide fewer quick solution answers. These questions should push your team to be reflective, to suggest that they think about their thinking.

For instance, asking them “What have you tried?”; “How much thinking have you done about this problem?”; “What do you think you should do first?”; and “In what ways can I support this effort?”

All these questions convey that you are attentive and empathetic to their issue and at the same time you are empowering them and placing yourself in a supportive role. Ultimately, this creates multiple leaders around you and pulls you out of the day-to-day tasks at hand, providing you with more time for strategy, casting a vision and leadership cultivation for yourself and others.

As leaders in our community, I believe chambers can play a valuable role in teaching employers how to become a Deliberately Developmental Organization (DDO). This leadership model places a focus on their most valuable asset — their human capital. By shifting the focus from ROI to employee development, research has shown that ROI naturally goes up, retention is improved and overall, employees of the organization are more aligned with the mission and help to foster a positive company culture. I am currently working on a duplicatable DDO curriculum that can be offered to chambers in the near future.