XPO Executives Share What Makes a Leader

How does someone help build a successful company? At a recent XPO leadership summit, I asked our executives for their thoughts on what makes a good leader. They responded with some great ideas worth sharing.

Inspire others with your passion. Passion is enthusiasm, curiosity and an excitement to learn new things. It will make you a better innovator and listener. Socrates said, “The only thing I know is that I know nothing.” Step back and learn from others.

Compassion builds trust and long-lasting business relationships, and commands respect. Show your team that you’re committed to their progress. Get to know people personally. Most people care deeply about making good on their promises. As a leader, you’re in a position to help them achieve that.

Communication is vital. Listen closely to what someone is saying, not what you expect them to say. Explain things clearly so others can understand your point of view. Great writing and speaking skills will serve you well, and great storytelling skills engage people with your ideas. You can have the best ideas in the world, but you need to convey them to make an impact.

Strong leaders actively embrace diversity of nationalities, ethnicities, genders, abilities and other characteristics. Diverse backgrounds and perspectives are valuable in business. All employees should feel they have a voice. The best leaders understand how to communicate in an inclusive way and incorporate diversity into a team effort. 

The businesses that thrive have a winning spirit. You can support that by setting high standards and upholding accountability. Constructive candor leads people to improve. Employees look to their leaders to analyze situations, problem-solve and communicate goals. This will keep the emphasis on performance and give you a framework for recognizing achievements.

Lead by example. Great leaders understand what the business looks like from the view of their employees. Demonstrate the same work ethic you expect from others — not just in the big things, but also with punctuality and attention to detail.

Leaders are visionary and look at the bigger picture. Understand how your department affects the business and its customers and communicate those connections to your team. This will create a greater sense of purpose. Leaders don’t make decisions in isolation; they care about the impact of their operations on the company‘s stakeholders.        

Humility is an important quality of leadership. Many of the best leaders come from humble beginnings. Never be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you are or delegate tasks to others who are better at certain things. This makes it clear that you put the company’s interests ahead of your own. Employees will notice and learn from you.

Character and credibility are extremely important. Be courageous enough to face problems head-on. Credibility is not just a matter of trust, but also about building a track record of results. Another way to earn credibility is by being consistently honest in your words and actions. If you’re optimistic and calm under pressure, that shows character.

Finally, a little charm never hurts! 

The leaders contributing to this post have helped grow XPO into a Fortune 200 global enterprise and the #1 top-performing U.S. company on the Forbes Global 2000 list this year.