CTO at Microsoft, representing the LatinX leaders in Tech, committed to developing ethical AI solutions putting people first
Over the years, I have learned that being a mentor to a co-worker, direct report or a friend helps me grow professionally. For that reason, I mentor four people — and ask for one mentor myself — each fiscal year. My mentees are usually technology architects or solution sellers looking for advice to improve their careers and enhance their value to the customers we serve. Most of them ask me about my leadership style, so I want to share my approach here.
I started by adopting a leadership style based on my own experience from previous leaders, managers and mentors. Any new manager will learn to be a manager in the same way kids copy their parents’ behavior. From there, my style has evolved based on my experience managing, directly and indirectly, a diverse team of people and the situations they face.
The definition of my leadership style is very dynamic. That is why I prefer to follow seven simple rules:
1. Align personal values with the company values and culture.
Having a clear understanding of your values and priorities can give you the confidence you need when setting the organization or team strategy. Only by acting with integrity and according to values can you perform to your best.
2. Be transparent to create trust.
Three years ago, one of my best people shared with his board of directors, “Transparency creates trust. Trust creates velocity.” Since then, I have used the quote as an unbreakable rule when setting the North Star for my team. Why? Because teamwork becomes possible only when you trust each other.
3. Bring clarity about the vision, goals and success.
Micromanagement shouldn’t be part of any operating model; it’s a blocker for innovation. Instead, you should invest time and effort to adjust the company vision to the team’s mission. It’s crucial to share the organizational aspirations in advance and to have open discussions to envision what success means. Open discussions create accountability and make it easier to find ways to exceed targets with a shared goal, and they make it possible to identify blockers and agree to measure success beyond just what’s on the scorecard.
Any manager can get too busy giving directives and managing the team. Open discussions help keep you connected with the team and understand each member’s needs. In other words, they allows you to interact and listen to all the team members before making decisions.
4. Measure team performance.
Knowing how to measure where you are against goals and expectations is vital. You can’t improve something that you can’t measure and track. Therefore, defining KPIs is critical to creating a plan with the ambition of exceeding the commitments.
With clear guidelines and actionable rules of engagement, members of the team can manage themselves. Managers need to find a way to effectively oversee performance without impacting autonomy, productivity and creativity.
5. Build a community.
Unlike some macro-environmental factors — such as in politics, the economy and the sociocultural sphere — technology (and usage) is moving fast. Governments, business leaders and even technology professionals may not understand it enough to get the full benefits from their investments. Communities are a compelling way to drive consistent execution. A community connects people to identify common challenges, share best practices and lessons learned, discuss new trends, learn from peers, and enhance skills by tapping into collective knowledge to help each other to achieve more.
Invest in building a community to achieve business results. Leaders should facilitate the space for collaboration through regular calls and communications. In my experience, high performers get the recognition they deserve from their peers, and the people not doing that well yet get inspired and motivated by knowing the way to success. As a manager, you can receive personalized feedback, which is priceless — a real win-win situation.
6. Lead by example.
As an individual contributor, I follow people who lead by example because I see them as credible people who deserve to be respected and trusted by senior executives and myself.
Make sure your team sees you as a leader who understands their situation and not just a person who gives instructions — in other words, lead by example, not by authority. But how? By putting yourself in your team’s shoes. Although I’m not required to get expert-level certifications like my architect, for example, I’m continuously studying and passing the required exam. It’s not about being the best; it’s about inspiring the team with a can-do attitude and building an empathic mindset.
When you’re accountable for running the business, you need to get involved in the actual work and get your hands dirty. Doing this will give you a better picture of the challenges and problems that the team is trying to solve. It will help you work out ways to make their work more comfortable and productive.
7. Prepare and empower the next leader.
To be a good leader, you should identify, prepare and empower people who should be part of the succession planning.
This rule has a fantastic side effect because when you decide to leave the organization or move to another business unit or role, the appointed leader will facilitate the transition and reduce the change’s impact. It’s good for them, the organization and, of course, you.
I’m working hard to be in a position where the people I’m leading trust me and follow me because I add value to their career, brand and journey. Following these seven rules helps me reach my purposes; simultaneously, I’m assisting others in growing and increasing their visibility and credibility. Leaders should avoid situations where team members follow directions and seek to please the executive board. As Irene Rosenfeld, the former CEO of Mondelēz International, once said, “The most important role of a leader is to set a clear direction, be transparent about how to get there and to stay the course.”
I’m looking forward to seeing you as a leader, not as a simple manager.