What makes a good leader?

Multimillionaire Gary Vee talks which qualities are key to leading effectively.

Gary Vaynerchuk, better known as Gary Vee, knows a thing or two about leadership. As an entrepreneur, author and speaker, he’s learned what elements of leadership are obvious and what’s not talked about enough.

“Work ethic, determination, tenacity, ambition – all those are incredibly great traits for leadership,” he says. Vee says these are all part of an “old world” approach to leadership, while things like empathy, compassion, gratitude, humility and accountability trump those other qualities.

Vee delivered a keynote speech to green industry professionals during Jobber’s Professional Development Day in March.

“I believe that most people hate accountability,” Vee says. “They’d rather blame somebody else. It’s just the way it is. And I think it’s a huge mistake… no question the thing that’s helped me the most in my career is realizing that any mistake anyone’s ever made is completely my fault because I am the person who hired them.”

Vee says that by first recognizing that you’re wrong before focusing on what someone’s mistake was helps you take on more accountability.

He also suggests finding someone who actively takes accountability during times of crisis to serve as leaders within your company.

“I say to a lot of my leaders, ‘I don’t need any peace time generals,’” he says. “Show me what you do when there’s adversity. Show me what you do when the pressure comes on. That, to me, is pure leadership.”

Vee says empathy also goes hand in hand with accountability. By remembering these two things, a leader can have a meaningful conversation with someone who’s made a mistake that will lead to resolution.

Vee says another characteristic of a great leader is curiosity. “Have you spent time trying to figure out if LinkedIn can help? Or does a podcast help?” he asks.

Vee recommends being curious and reflecting on if direct mailers, or print ads, or any other marketing approach is really working for your company. 

He adds that good leaders should spend roughly 30 to 40 hours mastering something new, like how to utilize social media or YouTube, in order to grow their business.

“It’s hard to inspire your organization to be more progressive in its marketing if you yourself haven’t really gone there or dismiss it,” he says. “Complacency is a huge mistake.”

While accountability and curiosity have certainly helped Vee, he says there are elements of leadership that he’s struggled with over the years.

“As a manager of people, I struggled with delivering bad news,” he says.

Vee says early on when he’d address someone for a lackluster performance, he would dance around the issue and wind up boosting that person up, then the next time an issue arose, he would get frustrated and end up firing them.

Now, Vee says he focuses now on kind candor.

“I think people use candor as a way to be mean, and to rear their insecurities and talk down to people. I don’t love that,” he says. “That’s why I call it kind candor. You have to be able to deliver feedback to people and you need to be kind about it.”

Vee says good leaders make a note to hedge with kindness. He advises starting with a positive note, then transition into the problem and then finish with a resolution.

By making it a point to embrace accountability, curiosity and kind candor, Vee says that also promotes humility – his final cornerstone of a good leader.

“Humility is incredibility important,” he says. “I think a lot of you would have a lot more success if you didn’t need to take credit for everything your team is doing. It really matters. I highly recommend you get into an honest place of self-awareness.”

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