Leadership is challenging. Even for people who naturally gravitate towards leadership positions it’s a skill that takes time and experience to cultivate. And it always takes some advice and support along the way. Entrepreneur Ryan Leonard remembers some of the first leadership advice he ever got.
“Growing up my mom always told me to be a leader, not a follower,” he said.
As an adult, Leonard has taken this advice to heart. He served in the US Military, where he dedicated himself to serving his country and leading his peers on and off the battlefield. While serving in Iraq, he helped to run a multi-billion dollar warehouse, taking care of sensitive items, thousands of soldiers, and a supply chain with a top secret security clearance.
After being honorably discharged from the Army, Leonard decided to continue his role as a leader. He started his business, NJF Worldwide, out of his home town of Neptune City, New Jersey, funding the entire endeavor himself. Over the years he was able to grow the business into an influential manufacturing company with a vast worldwide reach. In this journey, he has been able to take his leadership capabilities to the next level, building global partnerships with companies totalling over $100 billion in yearly revenue and sales and leading a dedicated team to success.
Let Your Values Guide You
Leonard attributes his success a a leader in large part to his dedication to his core values.
“During my career in the US Army, I learned to embrace their core values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage,” he said. “These are all values that I continue to apply in my everyday life, especially within my business.”
He believes that remaining true to his values has allowed him to hold himself and his team to the highest standards, fostering both personal and professional growth. Staying true to your values allows you to be consistent, and to reap the rewards of this consistency in your business.
For instance, he has followed his value of loyalty to hire qualified friends and members of his community in his business. This has lead him to develop strong personal and professional relationships that support him in reaching his goals. He has also remained committed to giving back to his community through charity and community organizing work, allowing him to stay motivated by ensuring that his business is always working for the greater good.
Lead by Example
The culture at NJF is not similar to the typical workplace environment, which Leonard points to as another reason for his success. He values being fair in the workplace, and asks nothing of employees that he has not done as well. He is willing to jump in any seat necessary to get the job done, whether it’s driving trucks, placing orders, or doing phone calls.
He also believes that transparency is essential to building a dedicated team and gaining their trust as a leader. It’s essential to be open and honest with your expectations from those around you, avoiding miscommunications and making sure everyone is clear on their goals and responsibilities.
“I believe in treating business like family,” he said. “You would be loyal to your family, you would consider your family when making decisions, and you would want your family to grow. At NJF Worldwide, every person is given the opportunity and freedom to highlight their talents.”
Find the Opportunities in Every Situation
Perhaps Leonard’s most important secret to leadership success is the ability to see the opportunity in every situation. This skill has allowed him to persevere through unimaginable hardship and turn adversity into opporutnities for business, personal, and community growth.
He learned this lesson the hard way in the early days of his business. As he was still making the difficult adjustment to civilian life, Leonard lost both his grandfather and younger brother, two cornerstones of his family and support network. But where many would have crumbled, Leonard used his heartache to fuel his business growth and better serve his loved ones and his community.
This work paid off in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. While local, state, and federal governments were struggling to meet the needs of their communities, Leonard and NJF were ready to step up to the plate. NJF was able to provide essential supply throughout the pandemic, recently completing a FEMA order of $160 million in a record 7 weeks time, just half the time that was expected. This order delivered over 80 tractor trailer loads to help all the school systems in New York City get iHealth Rapid Antigen tests, allowing the children to remain in school and get the education they deserve.
“I value selfless service, so when an opportunity presented itself to me to submit a bid to provide testing kits to the state of NY to allow kids to attend school, it was an easy decision for me,” said Leonard. “Because I stayed true to this value, I landed that huge deal, which allowed me to serve my community, made my company double and allowed me to expand other streams of my business as well.”
Original Article: https://disruptmagazine.com/entrepreneur-ryan-leonards-secrets-to-leadership-success/