Eight Powerful Leadership Techniques from Our 'Lessons from Leaders' Path

Noelle Ihli

Becoming a successful leader takes grit, a growth mindset, and adaptability. It’s about carving your own path while gleaning wisdom from the trailblazers who came before you. 

In this “Lessons from Leaders” series, we’re exploring some of the most influential leadership techniques, tips, and insights that can help inspire and guide your leadership journey. 

These four popular recent releases offer invaluable techniques for anyone looking to lead more effectively: 

Becoming Trader Joe by Joe Coulombe

Trader Joe's has achieved massive success by disrupting the U.S. food industry. But you don’t have to own a grocery business to adopt store founder Joe Coulombe’s top strategies: 

Lesson 1: Keep Your Target Customer in Sight

Joe Coulombe is an expert in tailoring businesses to a niche market. Trader Joe’s has flourished by focusing on customer likes, dislikes, pain points, and needs above all else.   

Get to know everything you can about your target customer. Instead of trying to convince them they want what you’re offering, find out what they want and give it to them. This approach can help you create products and services that deeply resonate with customers, foster loyalty, and drive repeat business.

Takeaway: Regularly assess and adapt to the shifting needs of your target customer. Then, apply their feedback! Surveys, focus groups, and feedback forms are only helpful when you take the time to listen. 

Lesson 2. Treat Your Employees Well

Joe Coulombe agrees with Richard Branson’s quote, “The way you treat your employees is the way they'll treat your customers.” 

Infuse your employees with respect, kindness, fun, and a sense of their value. This investment will trickle down to customer interactions, raising brand loyalty and positive associations with your business.

Takeaway: Seek unique ways to recognize and celebrate employee achievements and company milestones. What do your employees need or want in the workplace to feel valued? Ask them—then listen!

Running with Purpose by James Weber

Weber’s book draws on his experience leading Brooks Running Company to success. It’s a powerful playbook for authentic leadership and purpose-driven branding:

Lesson 3: Grab the First Rung on the Corporate Ladder

Successfully climbing the corporate ladder begins with a solid foothold on that first rung. A stumble here often means that the rest of the ladder remains unclimbed. 

So, what does getting a firm foothold on that first rung entail? According to Weber, it’s crucial to define your professional purpose so that your decisions and actions align with your values. Building genuine connections and mentorships that can help you progress and grow while holding to your values is also essential. 

Takeaway: Define your professional purpose. What are your long-term goals? What values are non-negotiable for you? A clear vision will guide your actions and decisions as you climb the ladder.

Lesson 4: Embrace the Pivot

Weber strategically repositioned Brooks as a premium brand to compete more effectively in a crowded market. This adaptability kept Brooks relevant—and profitable while others dwindled. 

Don’t be afraid to try something new. Change can feel risky, but stagnation, low brand relevance, and reduced customer satisfaction are often the cost of doing nothing. Embracing new ideas can lead to more innovation and growth, higher customer satisfaction, and better market alignment. 

Takeaway: What is one aspect of your business that consistently seems to underperform? Have a brainstorming session to asses why and what could be done to pivot. 

Embracing the Calm in the Chaos by Stacy Igel

With the increasing pace of technology, shifting workplace dynamics, and post-pandemic economic turmoil, Stacy Igel’s strategies act as a guardrail against stress, burnout, and overwhelm.

Lesson 5: Be a Know-It-All

Stacy Igel emphasized the significance of knowing every facet of your business. From operations to marketing, having a holistic view ensures better decision-making that will translate to good results throughout the company.

Igel’s approach isn’t a call to micromanage: it’s a challenge to understand your business inside and out so that you can lead more effectively from the top. 

Takeaway: Dedicate weekly time to learn about a different aspect of your business. Whether spending a day with the sales team or understanding supply chain challenges, this hands-on approach pays dividends in more effective initiatives.

Lesson 6: Remember, You Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends

Balancing authority with approachability can be challenging. Igel’s journey highlights the need to command respect while remaining accessible to your team. Your primary responsibility is the success and sustainability of your business. Not to be liked by everyone. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean throwing anybody under the bus. While it’s always a best practice to lead with integrity, humility, and an open mind, leadership often means making unpopular decisions for the greater good. Leaders who are overly concerned with popularity and likeability may struggle to act in the company's best interests. 

Takeaway: Before making a potentially unpopular decision, provide context to your team about why it's necessary for the company's overall health. Transparency may not make the decision popular, but it will help you earn respect and understanding. Remain open to constructive feedback, showing that while you make firm decisions, you're still approachable and value input.

Sweet Success by Candace Nelson

Candace Nelson is the genius behind the Sprinkles Cupcakes empire, and her book is a recipe for success in entrepreneurship: 

Lesson 7: Guard Your Genius

Every business has its unique spark. For Candace Nelson's brand, Sprinkles, it was the creation of a unique “cupcake ATM” that allowed customers to purchase fresh cupcakes day or night. Unsurprisingly, Sprinkles trademarked the phrase “cupcake ATM.” 

What makes your company unique? What brand proposition or product could you embrace that would separate you from the competition? Identify, hone, and then guard it through copyright, trademark, and creative materials sourcing to protect your advantage.

Takeaway: Regularly audit your intellectual property assets. You may also want to seek legal help with branding and marketing to protect your brand's identity and innovations.

Lesson 8: Test a Business Idea that Fits

Nelson’s systematic approach to validating her business idea proved invaluable for the Sprinkles brand.

Do you have a great idea for a new product, service, or idea? Before diving headfirst into the entrepreneurial waters, test it. Research your market, seek out potential weaknesses in your idea, solicit feedback, and then refine your business plan based on what you learn, 

This process can be laborious, but it gives business leaders the best chance of going to market with ideas and products that resonate with customers and have the best chance of success. 

Takeaway: Conduct thorough market research. Organize pilot runs, focus group discussions, and feedback sessions before any major launch.

Reflect and Apply

As you embrace the leadership techniques in these books, you'll be well on your way to carving your unique leadership path.

Which leadership techniques are you ready to apply to your business more fully? Tell us on X using #LessonsFromLeaders

About the author

Noelle is a content creator, author, and editor. She lives in Idaho with her husband, two sons, and two cats. When she's not writing, she's either reading a good book or scaring herself with true-crime documentaries.

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