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Martin Moore: how to be a true leader

Martin Moore Your CEO Mentor
Your CEO Mentor Martin Moore / Photo courtesy of Martin Moore

Martin Moore, author of “No Bullsh!t Leadership,” gave us his top tips on being a great leader. During our interview, we discussed the traits you need to lead your team to greatness. If you implement his tips and advice below, you will get a head start on your competition and prove yourself as a dedicated and thoughtful entrepreneur to your employees.

Nature over nurture is wrong

You may have heard that only certain types of people can make great leaders. According to Moore, this just isn’t true. Instead, he believes you can actively prepare yourself for a leadership role by doing certain things. To him, everyone is different, and a blanket approach just doesn’t fit.

First, minimize your negative impact on your employees as their leader. Then, by simply being aware of how your actions affect others, you can analyze how to break down your interactions into more productive conversations. As he puts it, “Don’t make excuses for yourself and do what you need to do to be a leader.”

Don’t yearn for approval

Moore’s philosophy on being a leader is about getting things done, not looking for admiration. As humans, it’s easy to want to seek the approval of our peers. However, that can hurt your team. You should focus on the big picture, not worrying about being liked by everyone. If you’re looking for someone to pat you on the back and hand out praise every time you take responsibility, think again. As Moore says, “Take an approach of respect before popularity and do the things that need to be done, even if they carry some personal risk.

Remember, what benefits you may not be what’s best for your team.

Push yourself further

Another important aspect of being a great leader is pushing yourself and your team to surpass what they think they can achieve. If you want people to do their best, that must include moving them out of their comfort zone.

This means working with employees and ensuring that a challenge is a positive experience while still moving them toward the goal. When you encourage your staff to go the extra mile, it’ll not only benefit them in the long run but also help you develop future leaders and strong teammates.

Moore breaks this down into 90% will and 10% skill. When you first try new things, you will always be inexperienced and often downright terrible at them. As he puts it, “The first 100 tries are hard. After that, it becomes a lot easier. But you will never get there unless you have the will and drive to put yourself in those situations willingly.”

Exercising discipline over your anxieties and apprehensions can grow in ways you never thought possible.

Learn how to read your team

Once you gain experience as an intuitive leader, you will pick up on little cues and expressions that show how your employees feel about certain things. 

With this information, you’ll be able to adjust your strategy accordingly and make the best decisions for your team.

To do this, having a good relationship with all your employees is crucial. Make them feel comfortable expressing their opinions and concerns with you. If you don’t, they may not open up to you about issues or be willing to discuss important things.

Also, as a leader, you should encourage your employees to come to you if they have problems that affect their performance. If they feel like their concerns aren’t being addressed or taken seriously, you may find yourself with a disgruntled and disengaged team member who is no longer willing to do quality work.

If someone shares something with you and you don’t take them seriously, that’s a bad sign. You can’t learn who your team members are unless you talk to them and encourage open dialogue.

Getting good at reading people will benefit both you and your team because everything will be out in the open, and everyone will feel comfortable speaking with you about issues or concerns.

If you’re looking for more information on reading body language in the workplace, watch the video below:

Empathy not sympathy

As a leader, you need to separate empathy from sympathy. This shift in mindset will take you from a position of weakness to one of strength because effective leaders will understand their employees without affecting the team’s morale. For example, don’t pity or coddle them if you have a new employee who hasn’t yet mastered the skill set required to do their job well. Instead, invest time and effort into training and developing them so that they can improve and become more valuable to your team.

Don’t be afraid to call someone out or correct them when they make a mistake. That’s how people grow and learn. Empathy comes from a place of understanding. Remind yourself that you would want to be held accountable instead of shamed or coddled if you were in their shoes.

As Moore says, “Strong leadership is the barrier that stops you from jumping down the hole with someone. You’re balancing leadership with empathy if you’re a strong leader.”

This approach will build trust and ensure everyone is doing their best.

A defining characteristic of great leaders

To be a great leader, you should always put the team’s goals ahead of your own. Unfortunately, although this seems simple, most leaders don’t do it.

If you have a goal or aspiration different from what your team needs, you need to take the backseat so that they can excel at their work. You can quickly derail your team’s progress when you put yourself first because you’ll lose focus.

This behavior will cause an imbalance because the rest of your team won’t be motivated to succeed beyond their personal goals, which means they won’t contribute as much as they can if you put them first.

Also, always having yourself at the top of your priority list will make you ineffective as a leader because you’ll be unable to help others achieve their own goals. Since everyone has different aspirations, if you’re only thinking about yourself, you won’t have the tools to achieve what they need from you.

Pay attention to everything around you

When you get too caught up in your head, you lose focus on what’s around you and your employees. This can lead to you improperly utilizing members of your team. Moore states, “the better you understand how your people think, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what they’re doing, the more chance you have of building a very high-performing team.”

Once you figure all of this out, you can determine what everyone’s capabilities are and get a better grasp of how you can best utilize them. Regarding pushing your employees’ boundaries, Moore says, “Understanding what people’s limits are and being able to stretch those limits, that where you get the real magic in their performance. And it’s also where they start to feel good about their level of achievement.”

Perfection is the enemy of good

If you spend all your time agonizing over making things perfect, you will never get to where you need to be. That’s because perfection doesn’t exist.

Instead of wishing for perfection, aim for good enough. Then, once you’ve accomplished that goal, push yourself to do better than simply good enough. This constant preparation and production results are how people bring their A-game to the table every time.

If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to be a better leader in your company, you must get past your fear of making mistakes. Moore believes that if you’re going to be a good leader, you must keep moving. He states, “The thing that you need to hold dear as a premium in business is speed and momentum. If you’re worried about perfectionism, you can’t get speed and momentum.”

Stay in constant revision

When checking in with your team, ask for signs of progress or drafts along the way. If you do this, you will avoid receiving an unsatisfactory product. By facilitating contact with your team members, you can ensure that they’re on the right track and producing something on track with what you’re looking for.

Although you want a high-quality product, it’s unrealistic to expect this without going through several revisions. People aren’t perfect, and they certainly do not mind readers. Often, they need your input to revise their work and learn from their mistakes.

According to Moore, having these conversations early will help your employees get used to the iterative process. He states, “The iterative process creates the culture that everything will be okay. It’s safe to make mistakes, and they aren’t fatal.”

He further elaborates that being in contact with your team throughout their creative process will help them process criticism from you more easily. For example, if they bring you a finished product after not communicating with you, and it completely misses the mark, they will blame you instead of themselves. So, it’s best to avoid this by actively participating in the process.

Playing an active role will also give your team more positive feedback and be more supportive. As he puts it, “You need to reward the approximations of desired behavior. You ultimately want people to do things their way without your approval or intervention.”

Be available but don’t hover

To be a good leader, you must be available. However, if you constantly monitor your employees, they will feel like they have no free will and never learn from their mistakes. They will also feel like you don’t trust them to make their own decisions. This can be detrimental to your team in several ways.

If you constantly have meetings because you are out of the loop or require approval for everything your employees do, you can decrease their productivity. Nobody wants to have to explain what they’re working on repeatedly. It takes time away from what they’re doing and creates a point of frustration. 

Because you’re their boss, you must step back and offer guidance when needed. Then, let them do what they need to.

3 tips for great leadership

If you want to be an effective leader, there are three things that you need to develop to be successful.


This includes how you handle meetings as a supervisor. Moore holds that this includes “how you design meetings, how you structure them, and what you talk about when you’re in them.”

Talent identification and management

Watch your employees and monitor their progress. Do they have a high level of achievement or potential? If so, covet that and help them grow. If not, offer them opportunities to do something else or see if there is something that they do excel at.

Accountability, motivation, and culture

These things are especially important if your employees are working from home. Since it’s hard to monitor what someone’s culture is within their own home, see where they fit in, and figure out the best way to interact with them. Remember, you’re the one that influences your employees’ culture. So, you need to know how you can impact or change it.

Giving employees company information

If you’re considering providing your employees with internal information about your company, exercise judgment over what you should and should not tell them. This will ensure that you give them the information they need to do their jobs but not overcomplicate things.

However, be careful when confiding in your employees. It can make some of them feel like you don’t trust them enough to keep what you tell them in confidence. And although they probably won’t take the information and run with it, you don’t want them to have it if they do.

It all comes down to what you feel comfortable doing. For instance, if you know that your employees will see something on the news, you may feel like it’s safe to discuss. However, you should never over-share information.

Regarding this topic, Moore states, “I’ve got to be prepared that anything I tell my employees is going to end up on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.”

The school photo principle

Although you may choose to keep some company information private, always provide your employees with all the information they need about what you’re trying to achieve. Your employees need to know what they’re doing and how it fits into the bigger picture. 

Moore calls this concept the “school photo principle.” He elaborates, “People want to know how they fit into things. The worst culture you can develop is one where someone feels like they are a small cog in a big wheel and don’t make a difference.”

If you explain what you are trying to do and how someone’s role is instrumental in helping you achieve your objective, people will become much more motivated and feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves. Once you reach that heightened level, you will unleash a new level of effort and drive within your employees.

To do that, Moore suggests, “You’ve got to give people a constant flow of information that lets them see where they are.” Once they see their contribution, they will reach a higher level of job satisfaction and feel more ingrained in your company and its culture. That’s instrumental when forming a solid, confident team.

Martin Moore Your CEO Mentor
Your CEO Mentor Martin Moore / Photo courtesy of Martin Moore

How to stay grounded as a leader

As a leader, there will always be people who try to tell you that you’re amazing, no matter what. So, when someone tries to do that, it’s your job to stay grounded and focused on what you want to achieve within the company. 

A great leader will deflect any compliment and concentrate on the truth and what they want to accomplish. However, even if you experience success, you must always stay grounded and authentic to your team. According to Moore, there are two good ways to do this.

First, have a trusted advisor who is exceptionally close to you. This person must always tell you the truth, no matter what, and have your best interest as a leader. It’s easy to lose sight of things, so having a trusted advisor will keep you in check and on track. However, don’t just randomly pick someone and expect them to keep you accountable. You must seek and develop someone into your trusted advisor. This can be someone that has worked with you for years or a close colleague. To have an effective advisor, pick someone with a different skill set and perspective. This will ensure that you aren’t expressing your thoughts to someone just like you.

Moore suggests listening to the market if you don’t have anyone you can trust as an advisor yet. The market will be a great feedback mechanism that will tell you how you’re doing.

The second is fostering a culture with positive tension. This means that everyone in the workplace must work hard and push themselves forward, but they must never be out to get each other. Moore believes this is super important because it helps leaders differentiate between what’s progress and what’s just everyone getting along too well. Moore believes this can be detrimental if everyone in your time is chummy and gets along. As he puts it, “there’s no constructive tension.”

If everyone produces or brings the same traits to a team, their skills become redundant. Positive tension is good because it helps everyone bring something different to the table. When reflecting on positive pressure’s impact on his employees, Moore states, “I need something different from you. I need you to bring a different perspective, a different experience. Set different ideas out. We need this challenge.”

However, creating such a diverse team can create negative tension. As a leader, it’s your job to ensure that this tension is positive and not undesirably impacting your employees.

Don’t underestimate anyone

As a leader, you should not underestimate anyone’s intelligence because it will affect your expectations. If you think that people are dumb or slow, your expectations will change, and so will the effort they put in. They will be more driven if you have a high opinion of your team. Furthermore, everyone brings something different to their team and thinks differently. This diversity can be what makes you successful.

You’ll have to get into their minds to get them to that level and know what makes them tick. Ask for their opinions and see what they have to say. You might be surprised by their suggestions; their input might be exactly what you need to move your plan forward. Furthermore, you will learn something new based on what they say. You never know what knowledge and expertise someone has unless you ask. Moore states, “Everyone has different perspectives, experiences, and something to offer. As a leader, you’ve just got to know how to get that out of them.”

Don’t be stagnant

As Moore has illustrated, he believes in enabling a learning culture. If you strictly run everything based on the knowledge that someone has, it’s easy to become stagnant and hinder your business’ growth. Pushing yourself and expanding your knowledge will help you be more successful. It’s important to understand that no one has all the answers, and there is always a new way of thinking about something. As a business leader, if you don’t keep trying to understand new things and try new tactics, you’ll never truly be able to push your business forward.

Moore states, “I try to be open and look for things that challenge my thinking and push me to places I wouldn’t normally go because that’s where value comes from.”

With your employees, you should always look out for those willing to push themselves forward and learn. These employees can show great potential and give you a new perspective on your methods and challenges. Moore also suggests looking for employees willing to debate and discuss your ideas. If you notice that an employee is not actively participating in the discussion, ask them what they think and pull out their opinions. Moore states, “I expect you to contribute to forums. So, you’ll have to learn how to do it. And if you’re not doing it, I’ll help you.”

When you express your ideas, you must understand that sometimes, they’re not the best. However, you can’t be afraid to contribute your ideas because you’ll eventually learn to refine everything and create something great.

Accountability and empowerment are key

Moore believes that for any business to succeed, accountability is essential. If you’re not holding yourself responsible for your actions and decisions, you’re projecting those same values onto your employees. To be a great leader, you and your team must hold yourselves liable for your actions.

You must be able to admit that you’re wrong and understand why it’s okay to fail. If you want to try something new and it doesn’t work, that’s okay if you learn from it and grow from it. However, if you don’t take accountability for your decisions and actions, no one else will either. Moore states, “Everything you do must have a name next to it. Who’s accountable for that thing being delivered to the right level of quality? To the right budget? At the right time? That’s the person that I want to talk to if something goes wrong.”

By making everyone accountable for their role in a project, you avoid having employees that dodge responsibility or blame others for their task’s shortcomings.

Once you have established accountability, you must empower your employees to do their job. Enable them to be able to do what they must do. Provide them with the resources and environment that they need so that they can develop autonomy. Moore suggests, most importantly, allowing your employees to make their own decisions. “They have the be able to make decisions concerning the thing they’re accountable for. The minute you step in and start making decisions, you’ve disempowered them and started to share their accountability.”

If you cross this line as an entrepreneur, you completely alter the project’s original destination. Once you do this, take note, and try not to do so on the next project. When someone asks you for help, Moore suggests saying, “I don’t know, what do you think?” This enables your employees to work through their thought processes and figure out how to solve issues independently. It also keeps them accountable for their decision without any misdirection and confusion.

Tailor your roles to the individual

Moore is a firm believer in creating a role to fit your employees. Since everyone is different, they bring other talents you need to utilize. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, as every person functions differently. To achieve optimal results from your employees, you must ensure they are happy and talented in their roles. Give them the safe space they need to be successful. Doing this allows them to take the initiative and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Moving forward

You must hold yourself accountable as a leader and continue growing to achieve optimal results.  For your employees to be happy and excel in their roles, you must empower them to be themselves. They will feel comfortable trying new things by enabling them to take the initiative. Also, understand that everyone is unique, and if you want to have a team of talented individuals, their roles must fit their personalities. By following this formula, you make your company a success and create opportunities for the future.


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