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After Co-founding a Company Turning 10, Here’s What I Know About Leadership

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Ten years ago today, Darrin and I started LABUR. It was July 2, 2008 – the start of our business, and the financial crisis.

What didn’t stop us made us stronger, and I couldn’t be happier we started LABUR when we did. Grit and hard-work are at our foundation and we only built up from there.

We started our business because we wanted to build a legacy for those who worked with us, for ourselves, and for those wanting more than a transactional business relationship. We wanted to create a company that people wanted to work for, are proud to work for, and that would inspire people to do more, be more, and think more. We created LABUR with a high-performance culture rooted in integrity, dedication, and empathy.

Along the way, I have learned so much about myself, the business, and especially leadership. But I did not create accountability or lead the way other more traditional, albeit successful, companies and leaders have. In fact, I feel like I took the long way around in discovering my own unique leadership qualities and capabilities, and how best to inspire those around me. One thing has not changed, however, and that is my – and Darrin’s – dedication to continuous improvement. It’s an unwavering quality for both of us and it has led me to be the person and the leader I am today.

My Top 6 Lessons on Leadership

From founding a business to being a family man, there are some lessons I’ve picked up and expounded upon over the last 10 years. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Read relevant books and materials on your industry, but more importantly on leadership. You can learn so much from other people’s experiences. Develop a publication “hit list” and always be consuming content to better yourself, your business, and those around you. You will never grow as a person, but especially as a leader, living in a vacuum.
  2. Talk to as many successful leaders as possible. Surrounding yourself with people who think differently than you do is key, and like success, leaders take on many different forms – learn from them all.
  3. Listen more than you talk. The best leadership lessons don’t necessarily come from people who credit themselves as being leaders, nor does someone have to hold a certain title or rank to be a leader. There’s great leadership to be observed in just about everybody. Stop. Listen. Look around.
  4. Encourage everyone around you to think about their own personal development, not just professional. The key to success is not only in business but also at home. Happy, well-rounded people who focus on self-care make the best employees. Leadership is about nourishing those around you in all facets of their lives.
  5. Always have people around you that are smarter than you. The old adage holds true, that “if you’re the smartest person in the room, it’s time to find a new room.” Ask for advice. Find people who align with your values and vision and use them as a resource. The best version of yourself is not in who you currently are but who you aspire to be.
  6. Be humble. Remind yourself regularly that you do not know everything, and always be open to learning more.

Thank You

In addition to the amazing team we have at LABUR, I would like to thank my grandparents and parents for instilling the qualities in me that I try to pass along every day to those around me – integrity, kindness, tacit but deliberate observance, and the ability to address conflict head on and with tact. Business, as in life, is not about the ability to avoid tough situations but how you handle them. In the toughest of moments, a leader develops.

I would also like to thank my wife and kids: they do not get to spend nearly as much time with me as they, or I would like, but they love me for balancing and trying to be the best at what I do.

Darrin, the list of gratitude to you is virtually infinite. It’s great to be in business with you, my friend. Here’s to 10 more!