20 Leadership Lessons

Entrepreneurship is not for the weak of heart. Here are the lessons I've learned along the way.

20 Leadership Lessons from 20 Years in Business

It's been 20 years since I leaped to start Stacey Hanke, Inc. I felt confident I could teach others to become influential leaders, but I didn't realize how much I would learn about leadership and success.

Here are 20 valuable lessons I've learned about leadership these past 20 years.

1. Humility is a hallmark. Success doesn't happen on your own. It requires the sacrifice of others, too. Never allow yourself to become so confident that you fail to recognize those who helped you become successful or those you'll need to maintain that success.

2. Complacency kills. Once you reach a certain level of success, it's tempting to go on cruise control, but success today doesn't guarantee success tomorrow. Leaders must work harder when business is strong to create new opportunities and ensure upward momentum.

3. The team comes first. Success is not possible without the help and support of your team. When your team is happy, clients are happy; when clients are happy, the business is happy. You cannot do it alone, so put their needs first. Success is more likely when your team is happy.

4. Keep your eye on the prize. Mistakes happen, and setbacks occur. Leaders tend to drown in details, getting discouraged over the smallest issues. Remain focused on the big picture and acknowledge that not every outcome will turn out as planned. This doesn't mean success isn't just around the corner.

5. Learn from those you teach. No two scenarios are the same. If you remain open-minded, you'll find learning lessons in every client interaction. If you remain a lifelong student, you'll be amazed at how much you learn from others, even when you're the expert.

” Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

6. Business health requires body health. Running a business requires sustained focus and energy, which are only achieved through a dedication to health and fitness. Schedule time every day to invest in your physical and emotional well-being. Your business can only be as healthy as you are.

7. Ignore bad reviews. You can't make everyone happy every time. Instead, maintain the focus, grit and determination needed to accomplish your goals. Recognizing those who want you to be successful will help you celebrate that success. Anyone else's opinion is just noise.

8. Stay in your lane. No one knows it all, and pretending otherwise risks your reputation and level of influence. It is okay to share what you know but refrain from publicly expressing any ideas and opinions you lack in full understanding and expertise.

9. Recognize those behind the scenes. Awards and recognition are awesome, but nothing was ever accomplished without the help or sacrifice of others. Recognize that. Reward that. Your family, friends and team deserve accolades. It was their investment in you that led to your success.

10. Embrace the suck. Successful people know the pain that success requires. Everyone else generally only sees the glitz and glamour that success provides, not the hard work it requires. To succeed means working and sacrificing when everyone else sits on the sidelines.

11. What counts is what you do when no one else is looking. Consistency is key. What matters is not what you say or do when all eyes are on you but when no one else is looking. When you consistently deliver, trust is earned, credibility climbs, and influence grows.

12. Practice deliberately. Practice does not require deliberately setting aside time but instead integrating lessons learned in every daily interaction. Changing bad habits requires an intentional effort to do better next time.

13. Focus on your foundation. You are who you are because of those who raised you or invested in your upbringing. Never forget the life lessons and valuable traits that family taught you. Allow that foundation to inspire your work ethic and humble you in success.

14. Believe in the rule of 80/20. With anyone — friends, family, clients and colleagues — challenge yourself to listen 80 percent of the time and speak only 20 percent of the time. You'll be amazed at how much you learn and how your relationships with others grow.

15. Never underestimate who you're next to. Our world is small, a lot smaller than you think. The person you casually meet today may become a client or colleague tomorrow. Credibility is earned when you consistently demonstrate the characteristics you want others to know you for.

16. Not every opportunity is the right opportunity. It's tempting, especially in the early days, to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes your way. Instead, recognize when it's not the right fit and have the courage to say “no.” Sometimes, an opportunity is a setback in disguise.

17. Know your worth and charge accordingly. Having integrity in your work means having integrity in what you charge. It's easy to discount your services to earn business. In the end, you're discounted. Instead, know your value and what you offer. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

18. Trust yourself. It took years to accumulate your knowledge and experience. Don't doubt what you have to offer. Trust in yourself. You earned that seat at the table.

19. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable, but it is necessary to improve continually. If you are comfortable with your current title, position, or level of success, you've stopped growing. It is when we embrace the discomfort that personal and professional growth occurs.

20. Surround yourself with better. As the saying goes, we are the company we keep, so know those in your inner circle. Surround yourself with those who are wiser, more successful and more determined than you. Engage with positive personalities who challenge you to be better. This includes your employees. Lean into what they know and demonstrate leadership through trust.

Leadership means paving your own path. We must learn from each other along the way. I hope the 20 lessons I've learned in 20 years of business will help you achieve the success of your dreams.

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