The 3 questions of leadership

What are the questions a great leader should always be asking themselves? The legendary Renn Vara lets us in on some Silicon Valley secrets.

In June we staged our first Sales Confidence conference at HereEast, in London’s Olympic Park. We called it SaaSGrowth2018. We had over 200 SaaS professionals in the audience, watching more than 30 of London’s foremost SaaS experts share their knowledge. Even if you couldn’t make it, we want to share the inspiration and education with you through our SaaSGrowth2018 articles.

Renn Vara

‘What do you need to do to be the very best leader in your business?’ was the title of one of the afternoon sessions. We were excited to welcome 5 leadership experts to the SaaSGrowth stage to talk about how to run teams. However, to have Renn Vara in our line-up was pretty special.

Since 1992, Renn has been the guy the Silicon Valley icons call when they need help with leadership communications. He was there from the beginning at Google (when they employed 300 people), at LinkedIn, at Salesforce and many more.

As part of his talk, Renn told us about 3 questions great leaders are constantly asking themselves.

‘Don’t be afraid to do things your way. Great leaders do this every day. They ask themselves 3 questions.’

1 — Who am I?

‘Who am I? What are my values? What do I care about? Really.’

For great leaders, their values are their guide. To always be aware of your values is essential in leadership when you’re constantly confronted by opportunities to go against them.

We often have opportunities to cut corners, to take your foot off the pedal, to let things slide when you really shouldn’t. We are tempted to give in to others for the sake of a quiet life. Awareness of your values keeps you on the right path.

2 — What do I do?

‘What do I do every day to embody my values? What do I do to ‘walk the earth’ with those values?’

‘What leaders screw up on is they put all their values on the wall, then live a different value. You lose your teams. You lose your companies because you’re living 2 lives.’

It’s true. Just knowing what you believe isn’t enough. You have to walk the walk every day.

3 — Why does it matter what I do?

‘Final question. Why does it matter what I’m doing? Why does being Head of Sales for this SaaS business matter?’

‘Be able to communicate this to your team. You can drive it on dollars and cents, but it sure does help if you can get into the ‘why’. That’s what I’ve seen in all my years working on the West Coast. It’s really been the difference. Most of those leaders, they get their teams thinking in this different place. That’s why they can take their valuations into the stratosphere.’

How to live your values

Renn tied his list together with a story about being in Barcelona with Brian Chesky, Founder of Airbnb, as he was trying to gain a foothold in Europe.

‘I’ll never forget sitting in Barcelona with Brian Chesky in 2011 or 2012. Airbnb in Europe was about to begin. We were in a room with a bunch of Europeans he had hired. He’d spent millions on these MBAs, and there were 30 or 40 of them in the room. They were sitting with him, giving him all the reasons Airbnb wasn’t going to work in Europe. Regulatory, local issues, everything else.’

‘Finally, Brian leaned over and said to these cynical Europeans, ‘Look. Can I describe the world I live in? Airbnb is going to have thousands of employees. We’re going to be in about 170 countries. We’re going to be worth somewhere around $30 billion. (I think at this point they were worth $100 million.)’

‘He described in very specific terms, 2018. That’s what gets them there. The narrative. Make sure you’re building the company you really want to build.’

Over to you

What do you think? What are the values that guide you as you lead your team or your business? What are you doing to live those values? Let us know in the comments below.

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