A more integrated leader? A post conventional CEO? Chad Dickerson, CEO of the online commerce site, Etsy, may well fit these descriptions. At least his mindset about leading from the top reveals some of the contours we look for in a 21st century leader.
In an interview for the On Leadership section of the Washington Post he had some interesting things to say. I have picked out five that particularly caught my attention.
- His first annual performance review as CEO was in the form of a meeting with all of his top team managers present where he took direct feedback from them. During the discussion he acknowledged improvement areas they spotlighted for him to work on. This is an example of classic authentic & humble leadership because he was willing to model vulnerability and remain engaged “in the fire.”
- During Etsy’s busy holiday shopping period he was faced with a tough choice. He received a call on short notice to travel to South Korea for a key meeting. At the same time he and his wife were right at the critical stage of an adoption process. Dickerson chose Door #2. He requested his Board’s support for paternity leave to attend to the adoption. He since heard that his decision, by demonstrating his values, made a positive impression on employees. Furthermore, it sent a message to male employees who bragged about taking little or no time off.
- To the question, “what have you been working hardest to improve in your leadership style?” Dickerson replied, “being authentic.” As many researchers over the years have said, being authentic (aka integrity) is the number one leadership trait admired by followers.
- About mistakes. He tells a story from earlier in his career where he royally screwed up, to serious detriment of the company. He chose to go directly to his CEO, admit his error and responsibility, and offer a plan to fix it. To his surprise, he wasn’t fired. From this he learned that what is most important is not your faux pas but rather what you do once you have committed it. He now sees mistakes by his staff in a more developmental and character-building light.
- Finally, Chad Dickerson was an English major in university. A liberal arts curriculum, he explained, teaches you the power of storytelling and exposes you to the essential truths and questions around human existence.
We clearly aren’t going to run across all the strengths of a perfect “modern” leader in one individual. But if we notice, note, and remember examples of such strengths when we see them, the composite picture that emerges becomes one worth emulating.
© 2015 – 2016, Ian Cook. All rights reserved.