Daring to Care

It’s no secret. Successful companies have great leadership. But what makes a great leader? What qualities do they possess? Unfortunately, leadership doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all definition. We all have our own ideas about what it means to be an inspiring leader. For example, some people think leadership means guiding others to complete a particular task, while others believe it means motivating the members of your team to be their best selves. But while the definitions may vary, the general sentiments remain the same: leaders are people who know how to achieve goals and inspire people along the way. Melissa Reiff, president and COO of The Container Store and a “power player” on The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future, has been fostering a corporate environment that consistently leads to growth and success and an increased productivity from happy, motivated employees throughout her career.
At the heart of her philosophy is…heart.

Prior to joining The Container Store, Reiff wrote down 15 characteristics for her two young children that make a heartfelt leader and put it in her safety deposit box to share with them when they were older. Two decades later, those tenets are central to the philosophy of the company she runs — a company that has been named 16 times on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list.

Reiff recently shared more about her unique philosophy with National Retail Federation, “you can be sweet, you can be secure, you can be firm and you can be kind all at the same time.” While many in positions of power believe you have to be tough, hard-hitting and guarded to be effective, Reiff’s style is quite the opposite. “I just don’t feel that’s the right approach,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the right environment to keep people happy and motivated and inspired. You’ve got one life. Let’s live it and be happy with it. That doesn’t mean you don’t address things that are tough, but you can do so in the right way.”

Melissa Reiff’s 15 Characteristics of a Heartfelt Leader:

  1. Security: Have security in yourself and always assume the best of others.
  2. Confidence: Dig deep, don’t get intimidated and do it with warmth.
  3. Positive Attitude: A positive attitude is a choice and it makes the people around you better.
  4. Maturity: We can control how we react to people, things and circumstances.
  5. Focus: Truly zero in, focus with excellence, shut out distractions and prioritize accurately.
  6. Courage: Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and work hard to understand others and bring them along with you.
  7. Sweet: Be sincere, thoughtful and generous at heart. Put others first. Care enough to connect with different personalities.
  8. Communication: Care enough to communicate.
  9. Tenacity: Never give up. Take responsibility and initiative whenever the opportunity arises.
  10. Humor: Laugh often.
  11. Agility: Be alert and nimble. Be the one to beat.
  12. Creativity: Ignite imaginations.
  13. Commitment: Commit and the universe conspires to assist you.
  14. Inspiration: Give the gift of inspiration to yourself and others.
  15. Passion: Have passion for life and in everything you do.

Based on your experiences, what do you feel makes a great leader? Can you see yourself incorporating some of these heartfelt qualities into your business world?

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