First, Navani describes his leadership as a collaborator, who makes things happen and coordinates them. He values being accessible as he can by sitting at a big oval table outside his office with eight chairs around it. Employees can stop by at any time to discuss an idea, ask questions, or brainstorm with Navani. Why? He wants to engage people in a conversation and to help people learn.
Second, the company is built around teams. Navani contends, the only leadership position you can have is team leader, whose primary function is to be a coach.
Third, Navani doesn’t believe in job titles. He says, “What I won’t do is create an unsustainable title warfare – today they’re a V.P., tomorrow a senior V.P., then executive V.P. . . Titles are self-fulfilling, short-term objectives that you get tired of.”
So, what can we glean from this for leaders?
1 – Lead by listening. Attentive and focused listening leads to a collaborative culture. “How deeply you listen, how often you listen, and how respectfully you listen are significant.”
- Tune into your listening and notice the effect of your own listening on your leadership and organization.
- Ask yourself: “What is one thing you can do to improve your listening?
2 – Lead by coaching. You are to inspire team members, provide direction and support, and draw the best out of everyone with everyone focused on an outcome.
- “Take a lesson from the river – seek the best outcome and let go of the form.
- Be focused on what is most important, but let go of the way in which the team accomplishes the goal.
- Ask yourself: “How can I be more flexible with my team?”
3 – Lead by being other-focused. If you place your self-interests before others, e.g., seeking the latest job title, there is no way you can lead by listening and coaching. Leadership is more than just the doing part; it is also the being part.
- Putting other’s interests ahead of yours creates authenticity, transparency, trust and connectivity.
- Ask yourself: “How can I place other’s interest before mine?”
Adapted from “Girish Navani, on Why Titles Don’t Matter,” “Corner Office” by Adam Bryant in The Sunday New York Times, January 26, 2014.