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Successful Leaders Love The People They Work With

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Good business leaders do more than just understand facts, strategy and results. Mastering those "hard" skills is something every leader is expected to be able to do. Perhaps more importantly, today's business leaders must also master the "soft" skills of caring, connecting and communicating with their teams. It's all about leading with your head and your heart.

Leadership is revealed in everything you do throughout the day, particularly how you interact with others - in meetings, in the hallways and cafeteria, and even outside of work and working hours. One of my first mentors at Molson taught me that good leaders approach every day asking themselves the essential question: How am I going to be today?

For me, being a good leader involves three key things beyond the hard skills of business: caring and connecting, always being curious, and communicating with courage.

My father is a doctor, and many years ago he gave me my first real leadership lesson. Back when I was in high school, he came to my class on career day to talk about a career in medicine. One of the students asked him what it took to be a good doctor, and his reply surprised me. He didn't say that a good doctor had to be an excellent student or someone who could stand the sight of blood. Instead, he said, "A good doctor has to love people." That's how I look at good business leadership, too.

Good leaders love people - or at least care for them. Good leaders connect with their teams on a personal level, showing genuine concern for them, because they know that, when you show that you care about your people, they'll feel it and be willing to do what it takes for the team to achieve its goals. I believe that people can only truly reach their full potential - as individuals and as a team - if they are in a trusting environment. Caring and connecting builds trust.

Good leaders have a culture of curiosity - about the business and about its people. They're not afraid to ask questions, even ones others might consider to be dumb ones. As I learned when working as a young lawyer at a major Bay Street firm, a "dumb" question can sometimes provide new insights and understanding for the entire team. Taking a moment to ask "Why?" "What if?" or "Where can this take us?" can lead to new ways of thinking and better results all around.

Good leaders communicate with courage. They don't just express concerns about something, they say what they think needs to be done to achieve the team's goals. They're not afraid to follow Maya Angelou's advice: "Ask for what you want. And be prepared to get it."

Sometimes people think their advocacy is clear - but it is not - and then good ideas get overlooked. Whenever I have seen really powerful and courageous communication in our business (and in life, actually), the communication usually begins with the following words: "I would like us to do..." or "I advocate for us to..."

Every person, no matter their role, has the chance to be a leader. It all starts by asking in any given situation: how am I going to be today? A recipe that works for me is to use my head and my heart to care and connect, to get curious about the business and its people, and to communicate with courage.

Kelly Brown is Chief People, Legal and Corporate Affairs Officer at MolsonCoors.

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