How to LEAD (In Four Easy Steps)

I’m Vanguard Public Affairs’ Creative Director, and I have been with the company for one year. These last 12 months have improved my communication skills, instilled a more energetic attitude, and sharpened my willingness to learn.

Since my first interview at Vanguard, I knew I’d be pushing myself like never before in order to make a true difference not only at Vanguard, but also in the State of Michigan and across the entire nation. The standards for Vanguard are some of the highest in the industry. TJ Bucholz, our CEO and Managing Partner, manages us all as leaders. He expects every employee to strive for not only personal growth within their expertise, but also to increase the quality of our work across the board - constantly raising the bar.

During my second interview, I asked Katherine Erickson, our Chief Operating Officer, what type of advice she would give to someone in my role. In short, she answered with incredible insight.

Her answer was short (four simple steps actually), but memorable.

I listed her advice in an acronym: L.E.A.D.

The first letter stands for Listen. She said you’re going to be thrown into the midst of content, campaigns and clients, so always keep a keen ear. Make sure to listen whole-heartedly to the real issues and solutions from your clients and colleagues, so you can effectively learn, decide, and act. In fact, as a result of me listening, I now think of the acronym L.E.A.D. when going about my day.

She said to remain Eager. Katherine is the embodiment of energy and drive, so if she encounters others with a lack of ambition, she’ll speed right by. She encouraged me to do the same. Stay hungry, but also ready to eat. How does she get through the long list of responsibilities stacked on her plate? “How you eat an elephant,” she says, “one bite at a time.”

“A” stands for “Ask,” an action which should not be underestimated. The more questions asked in the now, the less issues in the future. Katherine said don’t be afraid to bug anyone by asking questions. She assured me everyone wants to guide me and it's more of a nuisance to not speak up.

Which leaves us with “D,” for “Divulge.” Divulge as much information as you can. If you’re asking questions, then there are probably more people with the same unanswered question. This means you should relay as much intel as possible to your clients and colleagues, so they aren’t left lost and confused.

Thank you, Katherine, for teaching me how to L.E.A.D.

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