When a person has held as many leadership positions as Luis Orbegoso has, you might think he knows everything there is to know about being a great leader. Orbegoso started his career as a General Electric salesperson in 1994, and over the past two decades, he's headed up medical equipment sales teams, led a security software company and even became a Six Sigma Master Black Belt.
But Orbegoso is the first to admit that he doesn't know everything about leadership — in fact, he believes good leaders are humble enough to never stop learning and growing. That's why, despite nearly 20 years of leadership experience, he still finds himself asking questions and turning to his colleagues and employees for advice.
Orbegoso, who currently serves as president of ADT Business, spoke with Business News Daily about his personal approach to leadership and the lessons he has learned thus far.ADT Business President Luis Orbegoso Credit: Credit: ADT.com
Business News Daily: How has your career background influenced your approach to leadership?
Luis Orbegoso: I started in sales, [and] when I got thrown into general management, there were a lot of things I didn't know. So it's important ... to be open and honest about your shortfalls. When I first made the transition to [management], I didn't have a financial background, but I gained so much goodwill and credibility by admitting this was a weak spot and asking for help. I did a lot of studying, and the fact that I made an effort to learn … gave me a lot of credibility.
[I've learned] you get the most out of people when leaders walk the talk. The best way to get respect for the team is when you show them that what is good for goose is good for gander. If you want your employees to work hard, be the hardest-working person there. [What Kind of Leader Are You? Traits, Skills and Styles]
BND: What has been your biggest challenge as a leader?
L.O.: To this day, I struggle whenever I realize that someone is not the best fit for the organization. They may have the will, but they don't have the skill. They're not pulling their weight even after you've coached them and tried to bring them up. Many times, you postpone the inevitable, because they may be a wonderful person. But by not making the tough call with [that] employee, you put the rest of the organization at risk. After many years managing many people, I still struggle with [letting employees go].
BND: And how have you learned to deal with that?
L.O.: Take a look at the big picture. You're not necessarily doing that person a service by keeping them on. You may think you are, but at the end of the day, the situation is going to be untenable. Furthermore, you are not doing a service to the rest of the organization. If you wait too long [to fire], you may have to make other changes that are more painful. Keep a balanced approach, [but] don't lose your empathy. It should hurt every time you let people go, but you should also take swift action when you realize you have to. I never find it easy, and I hope I never do.
BND: What's one thing you wish you knew before you took your first leadership position?
L.O.: It's OK to be wrong, and it's OK to take a big swing and fail, as long as you have gone through a good, sound process of evaluating the opportunity. For example, if you make a significant investment, and you've gone through an analysis and reasoning of why that investment should be made, and all of a sudden, you don't get the returns you expected, it's OK, as long as you went through [the] process [and] … it was an educated risk.
BND: How do you think the modern work environment has changed the way people approach business leadership?
L.O.: Not only has technology impacted the way we work, but the expectations of the workforce have changed. There's a vast difference between what's important for millennials and what's important for Gen X. The key is for leaders to be adaptable. It's important for leaders to realize that there are different ways to motivate different people. There's not a one-size-fits-all approach. Just because something worked in the past doesn't mean it'll work now. It is very important to spend time with employees [and] ... make sure they understand not only what you want them to do, but also why.
BND: Do you have any advice for the leaders of tomorrow?
L.O.: Be a leader and not a manager, and understand the difference between [the two]. Many people confuse leadership with management, but they're two completely different things. What sets a leader apart from a manager is how employees react to your requests and expectations. Managers rely on the fact that they write the checks and are in charge of reviews and evaluations [to motivate workers]. Leaders motivate people because their employees believe in their vision and strategy. It doesn't mean they'll agree with every decision, but they trust the leader and will give it their all.
BND: Are there any other important leadership lessons you've learned over your career?
L.O.: Don't ever think that you have mastered the act of leadership. The minute you do that, you're setting yourself up for failure. I've found that the more experience I get, the less I feel I know. But that's OK, because it's my job to surround myself with people who do know. Just because you're a leader doesn't mean you can't lean on others for advice and that you can't constantly learn. You should be smarter tomorrow than you are today.