Home Advice For The Young At Heart 3 Low-Cost, High-Impact Tips For Aspiring Business Leaders

3 Low-Cost, High-Impact Tips For Aspiring Business Leaders


by Donald Thompson, co-founder/CEO of The Diversity Movement, author of “Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success

I have grown companies, sold companies, and coached global business leaders. By most standards, I’ve done well, but my success was built on years of working hard, learning from poor decisions, and understanding how to dream big (and win big), even when I was underestimated based on someone else’s vision of “success,” usually defined by pedigree or pigmentation.

My backstory is filled with twists and turns, but centered on hustling and working smartly to achieve my aspirations. I have seen firsthand how young leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs feel pressured into expensive training programs, MBAs, or bootcamps in hopes of advancing based on an outside vision of what it takes to be accomplished.

While these are fine paths for some people, I also know growing your business knowledge and gaining leadership skills is a lot easier and less costly than you think. The following high-impact, low-cost leadership practices helped me reach my leadership goals and I think they will benefit you too.

1. Network as if your life depended on it.

Your success in business depends on your network; take time to cultivate meaningful relationships. To carefully curate a winning network, be proactive and selective as you build it. Work on building your network before you need it. Connect with successful business people who can relate to your hustle and dreams. Your hunger for success reflects their younger selves and adds to their desire to help you.

Don’t be afraid to direct-message a few questions or send an invite for a coffee chat.  Many successful executives want to help, but they do not have time to waste on small talk. Prepare for meetings by writing down worthwhile questions about their decision-making process. Then, ask thoughtful questions about lessons they’ve learned, pathways to success, and their core qualities. The more you know about their personal and professional growth journeys, the more you can apply those lessons in your own career. Leaders feel valued and important when they can share their knowledge and experiences.

Also, seek out peers on a similar leadership path. From sharing knowledge gleaned from mentors to sharing business opportunities, like-minded peers provide a unique support system and valuable resources. The connections you build with other aspiring leaders and successful leaders will carry you throughout your leadership journey.

2. Always be learning and improving.

As a leader, it can be easy to fall back on the old “tried and true.” However, that can block you from embracing new ideas, trends, and strategies. Be open-minded and adaptable. Approaching problems in a different way takes deliberate effort. Lots of people remember the comedic approach to this in Seinfeld, when George did the opposite in every instance. It was funny on TV, but can actually be beneficial as a way to break out of rigid thinking.

As leaders get more experience, they realize that success is really about the collective effort of teams, not the greatness of individuals. One way to build unity is to seek input from teammates. Create an environment of mutual trust where those around you feel comfortable voicing their viewpoint or suggesting a new approach. You’ve selected this team, empower them to use their skills.

A consistent trait among highly-accomplished executives is voracious reading. This is a characteristic that you can mimic by reading books by leaders in your field. Then, add knowledge to what you’re learning by listening to podcasts and signing up for newsletters that address industry and marketplace trends.

3. Empower your team and be a good teammate.

Strong interpersonal skills are key to getting great people in your corner. Inclusive leaders lead from a “we” perspective. Ask your team, “How will ‘we’ take on this challenge together?” You win collectively in an environment where all voices are heard and valued, not just the loudest or most outspoken.

After you define objectives, give your team ownership over planning and execution. This is how you empower and engage workers to be their most productive.

As a rising leader, become efficient enough that you can handle your workload in 85% of your time. Use the other 15% of your time to help your team. Stretch yourself and take a task off your boss’ plate. Efficiency and selflessness goes a long way when it comes to promotions.

Always try to be the team member who goes above and beyond to help. Being selfless helps create connections, motivates, and increases productivity. When the need arises, your team will be willing to take on challenging tasks based on how you role modeled what you expect from them.

Let’s be realistic, not everyone can afford the costs associated with education programs and other pricey options. There is always room, however, for you to seek out alternatives, especially if you are willing to put specific practices into your daily and weekly journey. I guarantee you will see benefits. And, if you aren’t convinced, connect with me on LinkedIn and drop me a note if you’d like more information.


Donald Thompson

Donald Thompson founded The Diversity Movement to literally change the world. TDM’s global recognition centers on tying DEI initiatives to business objectives. He is the author of “Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success and hosts the podcast “High Octane Leadership in an Empathetic World”. As a leadership and executive coach, Thompson has created a culture-centric ethos for winning in the marketplace by balancing empathy and economics.