Charleston West Virginia Economic Development

Discussions on Economic and Community Development in West Virginia and the Charleston MSA as well as issues of the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The article below appeared in today's Charleston Gazette. The 2008 Annual Celebration was a big success, and the Charleston Area Alliance would like to thank everyone, from guests to sponsors, who helped make it happen.

'Always lead with a gentle heart'
Kenova native, now CEO of Intuit, speaks at Area Alliance

By Sarah K. Winn
Staff writer

West Virginia native Brad Smith could have talked about hundreds of things related to business at the Charleston Area Alliance's Annual Celebration on Tuesday. He's the president and chief executive officer of Intuit, the software company that developed Quicken, QuickBooks and Turbo Tax.

Instead, he chose 10 things he's learned about leadership.

"Every one of us is an authentic human. Everyone has his or her own lesson to teach about leadership. No one is the same," he said.

In January, the Kenova native became Intuit's president and chief executive officer. Before being named CEO, he spent five years with Intuit, including serving as senior vice president and general manger of Intuit's small business division, where he was responsible for the company's QuickBooks, Quicken and Payroll products.

Smith earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Marshall University and a master's degree in management from Aquinas College in Michigan.

His lessons were peppered with sports metaphors, movie quotes and hometown stories. His accent, which a former employer tried to eliminate, was familiar.

For Smith, his first leadership lesson is remembering his values, especially those that were forged in his native state.

"This is a very special place," he said. "Always lead with a gentle heart."

Second is having a learn/teach mindset.

"Leaders are defined not by the answers they give, but the questions they ask," he said. Take ideas from others and make them better, he said.

Leaders should make sure their employees know that advancement is possible, he said.

"They have to believe that there is opportunity to move forward," he said.

Next, leadership requires not just talk, he said. "You can be a thinker or a doer or you can be both," he said.

"It takes both a plan and a vision to achieve."

A company's resources should also be allocated properly, he said. A leader must find a way to work for the now, but also put resources into short- and long-term goals, he said.

Taking from an advertising strategy known as the "power of threes," leaders should break down an employee's tasks and goals into groups of three, he said.

Also, a leader is as only good as the team he assembles and keeps working together, Smith said.

"Teams that are not pulling together, they can pull the entire team off track," he said.

Because of the rapid pace of business today, change and planning is necessary, he said.

"Today, the pace of change is moving too fast to write a plan at the beginning of the year and ride it out to the end of the year," he said.

A leader should be able to prepare, learn and adjust, he said.

"I've made many mistakes," he said. "Leaders take risks and sometimes we are wrong," he said.

However, it's a leader's mission to energize, educate and empower his employees, giving both positive and negative feedback, he said.

Finally, leaders should define how they want to be viewed, he said. For Smith, that means leadership through serving others, he said.

"Our brand is our legacy," he said.


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