How I define success

August 18, 2015
in Leadership
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According to First West Credit Union CEO Launi Skinner, true leadership is not showcased by how many awards and accolades you have but is defined by the success of the people on your team.

While Skinner is no stranger to accolades — during her 20 year career, which includes her tenure as President of Starbucks and Chief Operating Officer of 1-800-Got-Junk, she’s received a honourary doctorate by BCIT, was appointed to the Woman’s Executive Network Hall of Fame in 2014 and has been named one Canada’s most powerful women four times — it's not what she finds motivating.

“Of course, I am humbled and honoured by accolades. They generate great recognition for the company, but they make me slightly uncomfortable if I am being honest,” she says.

Turns out the real mark of success for Skinner is building a strong team. “You can win an award, but then it’s over,” she says. “When you define success in terms of people, their success is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Skinner describes her leadership style as servant leadership. A concept coined by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s, a servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

“For me servant leadership means that although I am the CEO, I have no more important role than anyone else.”

Some examples of this include not having a designated parking spot —“why should I get the best parking spot? I’m no more important than anyone else — and working to fit meetings around other people’s schedules, not the other way around.

“The purpose of my role is to coming to work every day and make everyone else’s job easier, not the other way around,” she says. “If you put people first, give them the space to develop and the tools to grow, then they will do right by the company and the people that report to them. It pays itself forward.”

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