Through her decades of executive experience, CoreVest CEO Beth O’Brien has cultivated a deep understanding of what’s important in leadership.
Now as the honcho of more than 100 employees, O’Brien has been intentional in stepping back to evaluate what aspects of her own leadership should remain consistent and what should evolve. Here are a few of her insights over the years.
1. Find Your Voice
O’Brien believes that we’re all more effective if we’re true to who we are.
The same piece of advice that she issues to new leaders is the same she gives to her children and employees: Find your own voice.
“It’s great to be exposed to all different types of people, to learn from them and take from them the things you feel you can incorporate,” O’Brien said. “But at the end of the day, you’re never going to be as effective unless you find your own voice. You need to be the leader that you are — not the one that you know you thought was great when you were two jobs in. And that means finding a voice and a style that’s really you.”
When you harness your voice, O’Brien said that employees will naturally gravitate toward your message. Authenticity is contagious and will empower those around you, she added.
“If you’re true to your own voice, the people will really follow you because it’s genuine,” O’Brien said. “Think about what your friends like about you. What your family likes about you? Those are your key attributes that are going to work in your voice. If your friends find you hilariously funny, it may not be the easiest thing to translate to a work environment. But that means that you probably should be a little bit more lighthearted than the average leader because that is part of your persona.”
2. Your Approach Should Evolve
As with many things in life, O’Brien encourages people to reflect on how far they’ve come and what should change as a result.
One thing to consider for new leaders is whether their approach has become inflexible or stuck in time. Often, new leaders are exclusively tapping into the approach that led them to the corner office, rather than adapting their tack to their new role.
“One of the early mistakes people make when they’re new to being leaders is that they’re so used to being an emerging leader. It’s important as an emerging leader to show strength and to be forceful. Sometimes, when you actually get to that leadership position, one of the mistakes people make is that they’re a little too forceful, a little too direct because it’s how they got there. It’s a very normal problem.”
O’Brien said that tweaking your approach is necessary to be a more effective leader because your words and behavior carry more weight. How you conduct yourself or even consider ideas can shape how people execute their work.
“Once you actually have that title you’ve been trying to get to, all of a sudden you have to be careful what you say or how you say it because people are going to do it,” she said. “If you say something in a meeting, they’re going to start working on it — even if you are brainstorming. … There’s that evolution piece that you have to be mindful of.”
3. Walk the Walk
What you accomplish and how you spend your time will always be a stronger testament of your character than what you say. O’Brien encourages all leaders to be mindful of the precedents they set, and to follow through on what they say.
“It sounds trite, but I really believe in leading by example,” she said. “If you’re going to expect people to do things, you better also be doing the same thing. Do what you expect people to do and that’s going to resonate more than anything you say.”
Want to learn more about Beth? Read our full feature here.