What Makes a Good Leader?
By Stephan Labonté
Vice President, Strategy and Marketing
Leadership goes beyond skills and titles. To me, it’s rooted in values that take time to develop. Whether you spend that time reading, listening, or simply observing others, there’s a lot to learn. Don’t be afraid to build on the traits you see represented in leaders you admire. I promise, they haven’t placed a trademark on their behavior.
Early in my career, I didn’t understand the importance of leadership values, but I’ve grown to realize their significance over time. I keep a page in the back of my notebook detailing what these values mean to me and read them regularly as a reminder. They help me stay focused and align with both my goals and character. Everyone’s list is allowed and expected to differ, but the following offers a glimpse into the six values I strive to uphold.
Leadership begins with integrity. It’s as simple as knowing what’s right and always choosing that path. Many of the values on this list are non-negotiable, you either live by them or you don’t. Integrity is especially that way, requiring honesty to help you build trust as an individual and a collective company. Without it, it becomes difficult to earn the trust of your peers. And one lapse in judgement can cause a crack to form in the foundation of these relationships.
Having an understanding of where you want to go and articulating that journey is essential. Visualize the bigger picture and think less about a specific job title or responsibility. Create a step by step plan and measure your progress along the way. When you look back on your life, what goal will you be glad you fulfilled? Consider what’s important to you in the present moment, but also in the future.
There will always be technical and structural components to your work, but passion makes all the difference. It will elevate you above anyone who’s simply checking steps off a list. You’ll notice how the quality of your work and your overall happiness improves. While a day on the job can take a variety of forms, it’s undeniable that you’ll spend countless hours at work, so loving what you do is imperative. Find what you’re passionate about and devote yourself to that calling.
A leader should have an understanding of how people work, what’s important to them, the challenges they’re facing, and what can be done to help them overcome those challenges. Venture outside the walls of your office, making yourself visible, accessible, and approachable. Don’t be the kind of leader who sits at their desk making decisions. Stay informed and maintain involvement for the sake of those around you. Inspire the next generation of leaders through the example you set.
There’s so much more to life than work. Find your ideal balance by developing a clear set of priorities. Whether that’s family, friends, hobbies, or self-care, determine what’s important to you as an individual. If you take the time to develop an overall life balance, you’ll be a well-rounded professional who’s less likely to burn out. This will probably require trial and error, but dedicating yourself to these different areas of life will benefit you and your peers.
As a leader, you have to trust your team. Become more of a coach and mentor, serving as a guide or source of clarification, and choosing to listen more than you speak. Maintain an objective point of view and only give advice when it’s requested. When you consider the thoughts of those around you, you’ll develop a mutual respect that helps create a functional work relationship. Speaking from a place of compassion and understanding will go a long way.
In addition to developing this list of values, I’ve learned how important it is to care about the work you do. At Thermo Fisher Scientific, we’re enabling scientists to make the world healthier, cleaner, and safer. Achievements are important, but the sense of pride that comes from serving an organization with such innovative customers is motivating and rewarding. I’m continually inspired by their efforts and am glad to play a part in helping them succeed.