Insights

Street Performer to Orchestra Conductor: Lessons in Leadership

Verun Mehta
December 1, 2020

Let's get this out of the way early. Yes, I'm a year into being CEO, so why read my ramblings on lessons in leadership? I'm taking a different route. This is not the Jack Welch guide from the top of the mountain. This is a ground level look at not having all the answers and at needing to adjust to be effective.

So yes I had to adjust, especially when you grew up in sales like I did. Back in those days, I chased wins, uncovered new deals, and helped architect solutions. Ok fine, I’ll admit I spent a ton of time entertaining clients in my favorite restaurants too. The point is - I was always on the move.

In my new world, work feels different, and I’ve written before about what we’ve gotten right at Factor and highlighted some achievements I’m proud of (hey, it’s my blog after all). It’s satisfying to work hard with a team of people and witness the work pay off. And I’m drawn to the innovation and creativity that comes with the role. It’s one I’m happy in.

This year, my first as CEO, I've found it's more about slowing down than being a quick mover, about chasing empathy over wins. As I look back and reflect, here are a few things I found helpful and learned about leadership along the way:

Find your anchors. Your anchors might be friends and family. Your anchors might be painting, meditating or reading. Look for endeavors or people that help you reflect. Personally, I know I’ve found a good anchor when that anchor helps me…..slow…..down. Ensuring I have time to think has been imperative to leading effectively. 

Find the personal in the professional. I struggle with the idea of work/life balance. My work feeds my life, and my life feeds my work, and I’ve never wrapped my head around splitting the two. Instead, figure out the ways in which your work is meaningful to you on a personal level. It will make you a better professional and more present in your personal life.

Hesitation is encouraged. There are areas in which I have strong conviction, and others where I have a growing curiosity. I have, at times, felt pressure to know everything. But that’s not my job. My job is to live within my circle of competence and to know when I’m outside of it. A moment of hesitation is natural and encouraged.

Delegate. I delegate work I know I can get done in a few hours and then spend much more time teaching, training, and coaching the person I’ve delegated to. Why use my time in this way? Because leadership isn’t about being a great street performer, it’s about being a great orchestra conductor. Empowering and engaging and aligning across the orchestra leads to magic.

“I don’t know” is an acceptable initial response

So often I’ve gotten caught up in the idea that, as a leader, I had to have the answers and immediately act. But this new role and new world has directed me to take a different route.

I’m no longer trying to fit as many meetings as I possibly can into a day. Instead, I’m keeping my anchors close by because they put me in a place from which I can make better decisions. I’m building upon my personal connection to my work and letting that inform what we do next. I’m settling into hesitations and realizing “I don’t know” is an acceptable initial response which sets us on the path towards the right answer over time.

Think, learn, train, coach, repeat.

My mantra is: think, learn, train, coach, repeat. And I’m intentionally carving out ways to cover the “think” step. I’m moving more thoughtfully, which sometimes means more slowly, and I’m ok with that. I believe this is the better way and will build a culture that helps buffer the challenges that leaders, and all team members, face along the way.