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Lead Your Team Leadership

Leadership Lessons: Lead by Listening

Leadership Lessons: Lead by Listening

There's no one "right" way to lead a business. Today's leaders have a lot of wisdom to impart about managing the modern workforce, because each one approaches leadership in his or her own unique way. Every week, Business News Daily will share a leadership lesson from a successful business owner or executive.

  • The leader: David Steinberg, CEO of Zeta Interactive
  • Time in current position: 9 years
  • David's philosophy: "Lead by listening, and focus on sustainable, rather than rapid, growth." (Click to tweet)

I realized early in my career that the sum of your team is greater than its parts — CEO included. It's impossible to single-handedly lead over 1,000 employees around the globe on your own, or know in-depth what each is doing.

The greatest success in my position as CEO has come from speaking less and listening more. By focusing on hearing colleagues rather than aiming to constantly provide direction as CEO, you're much better equipped to see the full picture of your company's collective strengths, weaknesses and needs. Doing this, you can see where you may need to make adjustments to push impactful innovations and bolster areas where you see great potential.

Spending energy and resources to force an organization to move in a particular direction because you're stubborn is a sure-fire way to failure. Prior to Zeta, I started a company called InPhonic, which was named the fastest growing private company in the U.S. by Inc. in 2004. However, to maintain our rapid growth strategy, we relied too heavily on debt to help accelerate our course. We grew extremely quickly, but then when the financial crisis of 2007 happened, we had to restructure by filing for bankruptcy.

I've made sure not to make the same mistake twice. At Zeta, we only allow growth that we can handle and that doesn't jeopardize the overall business. While calculated risks to achieve goals are important, understanding your business's needs today should be your No. 1 priority as a leader.

I've spent nearly 25 years leading different companies, and by making "listen first" my mantra, I've never had better relationships with my employees, stronger perspective on my business or more clarity on the direction for my company — because I rely on the entire organization, rather than my gut, to tell me what we should do next.