Leadership Lesons

Leadership Lessons from Bill Campbell

What makes you a leader? Is it your title, your ability to go through situations unscathed or leading by popular demand? Maybe it is the numerous certificates on your wall or collecting subordinate appreciation. Not quite what you had in mind? Dive into the leadership lessons from Bill Campbell, legendary mentor and executive coach to many of business luminaries.

1. Don’t assume your employees automatically respect you because you’re the boss
Campbell did not believe in positional authority “Your title makes you a manager. Your people will decide if you’re a leader, and it’s up to you to live up to that”  Campbell told managers a strong company culture was a better way to motivate employees. They should “create the environment where they can do the best work of their lives.”

2. Lean into hard problems
Campbell believed in “being brave”, particularly during tough times. You need to lean into hard problems because they don’t go away.

3. Do what’s right, even if it’s not in fashion
Bill Campbell was focused on diversity, especially gender diversity, before it was cool. Campbell sparked the idea to launch a women’s entrepreneurship conference series and funded the first one himself.

4. Lead people to opportunity
Campbell did not place much value on degrees or even IQs—he cared about courage and getting things done. “Bill loved people that had dirt under their fingernails, get-shit-done kind of people,” says Brad Smith, Chairman and CEO of Intuit. “That validated a lot of people. He gave people a shot.”

5. It’s not about you, it’s about the team
Campbell didn’t want attention for his work. Though he worked with a lot of celebrity CEOs, he didn’t like ego. “He believed in team. He lived the kind of values he taught,” said John Doerr, a partner at Kleiner Perkins. “I don’t think you can be an effective coach and be on stage,” he added. “You gotta call the plays from the side.”