Leadership Exploration, Application and Development—or LEAD as it’s known—is a 6-month leadership course offered by Salesloft. It is available for managers as well as senior-level ICs. I expected a something geared towards leadership best practices. Maybe we would study great leaders?
The course ended up being a bit different. It was closely geared towards becoming aware of your own personality traits. We spent a lot of time exploring where being at the extreme of each end (I have a fair number of extremes) can help and hurt you. It was largely up to us to decide where we needed to focus our energy.
About the Capstone
This Capstone presentation was our final project for LEAD. We given an open mic to talk about what we learned during lead. There were some fairly strict parameters around our presentation though. 5 minutes, 15 slides, 20 seconds per slide with auto-advancement enabled. This required heavy rehearsal, if not memorization to get the slides timed correctly. It was significantly more work than I had expected.
All-in-all it was a great experience. Courtney Swafford did an excellent job leading the class. I am grateful to have been a part of it.
In an early LEAD session we were asked to share 3 experiences that influenced who we are today.
One of the experiences I shared was attending a wrestling camp run by this man, J Robinson.
J won 3 national titles coaching University of Minnesota Wrestling team.
He was an Olympian, US Army Ranger and Vietnam Veteran.
J had a saying. It’s not what you say that counts—it’s what you do.
And what did we do? We pushed.
We pushed ourselves to the limits.
And then when we thought there was nothing left, we kept pushing.
And as barriers kept falling, something became obvious—
Our perception of those barriers were the only thing in standing in our way.
At camp we had 4 practices a day.
The first started before sunrise at 6am. The last ended at midnight.
We would do a couple of miles of conditioning in the morning,
Then a session on technique after breakfast
We would drill after lunch
And then we would run stadiums for a few hours after dinner.
One of those evening workouts, while running stadiums, I sliced my arm on the jagged edge of a chainlink fence.
When I left camp, I was 24 lbs lighter than when I arrived.
I had a hairline fracture in one of my knees.
I was left with this scar on my right arm.
My name is Sam Solomon.
And I tell that story not for you to hear about a horrible experience—
but to hear one that had a profound—and lasting impact impact on me.
One that I wouldn’t change for the world.
It opened my eyes. It lit a fire.
And 17 years later—I am instilled with that same ethos.
It has made me competitive, calculated and confident.
It has made me disciplined, decisive and determined.
If I am tired, I will keep going.
If I am ignorant, I will learn.
If I am challenged, I will overcome.
That scar is proof that when the stakes are high—I can count on myself.
I can count on myself—because I can push.
At the same time I have extremely high expectations for my work.
If something isn’t good, what do I do?
I rework it.
I rework it again.
I rework it on nights and weekends—
I rework it—not because someone asked me to, but because sometimes—that is the price—of exceptional work.
But great strengths can also be great weaknesses.
When you expect exceptional work and are willing to do what it takes to get there, it can be difficult to turn down.
For the vast majority of my career I have taken on work
Not because I needed to—but because I wanted to—
I wanted to build build, I wanted to learn—I wanted to push.
When I began LEAD I was aware of my blind spots, but couldn’t quite articulate them.
But if I am being completely honest with myself part of that is because I’ve been little selfish.
When you have the experience and the context and the capability
—it is easier to say “I’ll do it” —than to take the time to provide those things to someone else.
So where do I go from here? What can I do moving forward?
For one—I can wait to speak.
When I speak first it influences others who may have responded differently.
Or even worse my comments might discourage dissenting opinions—I know I am a difficult person to disagree with.
But by waiting to speak, I provide others the opportunity to voice their ideas.
I can start saying ‘No’ to projects.
Despite my desire to work on everything, it is really not possible. Nor is it right.
By taking a project, I might inadvertently hinder another designer from learning something new.
It might be a missed chance to do competitive analysis;
or study new patterns,
Or build confidence in their work.
Now, that’s not to say that design is zero sum, because it’s not. There’s always an opportunity to pair.
But there are a limited number of projects.
And there is a big difference when you’re the one that has to make and justify decisions.
And there is a big difference when the responsibility—is yours.
So—Instead of doing things myself, I will allow others to take on projects—
to build knowledge and hone their skills—and take responsibility for the work that they do.
Instead of speaking first, I will allow others to voice their opinions—
So that they can be heard and recognized for their ideas.
And so, there’s this question—
A question I’ve been asked over and over—by friends, by family, in interviews—
What makes Salesloft so special?
The answer really hasn’t changed in 5 years.
People disagree and they don’t take it personally. They disagree because they care.
They care about the customer, and the company and the product—
And I know what Salesloft can be. I wake up every day and throw my weight into that vision.
But moving forward I am going to take a slightly different approach.
I am going to be mindful about allowing others to speak, build, learn—and to push.
And should they need help—I’ll will still be here—
I will still be here to encourage—to push right alongside.