3 Leadership Hacks Every Business Owner Should Know

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John Mackey


John Mackey, cofounder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market

As the world becomes increasingly complex and business owners face more pressures than ever before, leadership advice hasn't really changed. That's why Mike Myatt, a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs and author of new book "Hacking Leadership," set out to provide shortcuts that would simplify the complexities of building a successful business.

"In the past couple of decades, we've lost our way," Myatt tells Business Insider. "Leadership has become more about self-service, personal brand, and advancing a personal agenda rather than serving those we lead. The pendulum has to swing back to be less about the leader and more about the people."

Culture, talent, and knowledge are the most important issues today's leaders face, says Myatt. He outlines his top strategies for each below.


Hacking The Culture Gap

Leaders tend to wax poetic about the importance of company culture, but most don't have a clue how to establish a healthy and sustainable one, says Myatt. And all the ping pong tables and free food in the world are just gimmicks if the right foundation isn't in place. Here are a few of his culture hacks:

Build the company around a purpose. "Have a purpose that guides you that is about more than profits," advises Myatt. Instead of making occasional corporate social responsibility efforts that are more like photo opps, he says today's successful companies make their purpose an integral part of the business. Take John Mackey at Whole Foods: He had a vision of providing a healthier way to eat and incorporated it across every facet of the company, from products to employees.

Drive decisions down the ladder. "When you take the most complex issues and have people far down and wide making complex decisions, that's valuable," says Myatt. By teaching individuals how to make tough decisions and take ownership over them, you show trust and create a culture of leaders.


Embrace dissenting opinion. Leaders who encourage independent thought create cultures that are able to innovate and challenge the status quo. Myatt suggests hiring people with diverse viewpoints and looking for ways to find a "yes" instead of immediately offering a "no."

Hacking The Talent Gap

"Leadership is always about the people," says Myatt. "Leaders deserve the teams they build." While it is incredibly important to hire great talent, he says it's much harder to deploy that talent and build collaborative, motivated teams. Here are some of his basic principles of talent management:

Be consistent. Say what you mean, and follow through on your commitments. Otherwise, you confuse people.


Prioritize respect. By acting in a way that earns respect and respecting your employees, vendors, and customers, respect becomes the default position.

Define acceptable behavior. Rather than assuming, outline good practices and what you won't stand for.

Address conflicts head-on. Dealing with conflict directly and quickly tends to minimize it and sets the standard for what employees should expect.


Understand the what's-in-it-for-me factor. Align company objectives with individual motivations to achieve shared goals.

Care. Perhaps the best thing a leader can do is show up, care, work hard, do what's right, and maintain a positive attitude.

Hacking The Knowledge Gap

"Leadership isn't a destination but a continuum," says Myatt. "The most commonly overlooked aspect of learning is what you don't know." Strive to always be a student with these learning hacks:


Read. Myatt says the average American reads one book a year (and 60% don't finish it), while the average Fortune 500 CEO reads four to five books a month. "If you're a leader and not an avid reader, you're wrong," he says.

Listen. Great leaders are great listeners, says Myatt, and they are always open to new ideas. To become a better listener, he suggests you look for opportunities to learn from people at different levels; stop worrying about what you're going to say and focus on what's being said; and pay attention to nonverbal communication in the body language of others.

Stick to a decision-making formula. Leaders will never have all the answers, but they will need to know how to make good decisions with the information they have. Myatt recommends you follow these steps when making a decision: Consider the context of why the decision needs to be made and who it will impact; seek feedback; consider the costs and benefits, as well as the potential risks and rewards of your decision; consider whether it's the right thing to do and reflects your values; make the decision and stand behind it; and always have a back-up plan.