Adaptability: Effective leaders are able to adapt to changing circumstances and needs, and are able to adjust their approach as needed to achieve their goals. For example, a leader at a startup might be highly adaptable, able to pivot and change course quickly in response to changing market conditions or customer needs.
We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Garett Polanco.
Garett Polanco is a seasoned entrepreneur with a diverse background in finance and investments. As an Angel investor he has played a pivotal role as a lead investor in numerous projects, and has a track record of identifying and capitalizing on new opportunities at the early stages of development. His expertise in finance and investments, combined with his entrepreneurial mindset, have allowed him to effectively navigate the complexities of building and growing businesses. As a result, he has consistently demonstrated a capacity for driving innovation and achieving success in diverse industries.
Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?
Over the past year, I have dedicated a significant portion of my time and energy to impact investing. This approach to investing aims to generate both financial return and positive societal or environmental impact. As someone who has always been passionate about helping others and making a positive difference in the world, impact investing provides a powerful means of achieving this goal.
Much of my efforts in impact investing have focused on supporting initiatives that provide food, water, and education to underserved and vulnerable communities. Whether through impact investing or pure philanthropy, I believe that these resources are crucial for promoting stability, security, and opportunity in these areas.
By focusing on impact investing, I have been able to align my personal values and passions with my financial goals, and to use my resources to make a tangible and lasting difference in the world. I am committed to continuing to explore and support impact investing opportunities that have the potential to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others.
We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?
There have been several individuals in my life who have influenced my character and my leadership style, but the person who truly ignited my passion for leadership was Winston Churchill. Churchill was known for his ability to inspire and motivate others through his powerful and motivating speeches, which helped to rally the British people during the difficult times of World War II. He was skilled at communicating his ideas and expectations clearly and effectively to his team and the public. Churchill was known for his strong sense of purpose and vision, and was able to inspire and motivate others to work towards that vision. Churchill’s legacy as a leader is indelibly etched in history. I hope to leave a similar impact on others through my leadership, inspiring and driving them forward in difficult times.
Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?
One of my biggest mistakes as a leader has been failing to delegate tasks and responsibilities to my team. As a leader, it is essential to focus on the bigger picture and work on developing and growing the business, rather than getting caught up in the day-to-day operations. To achieve this, it is crucial to hire intelligent and capable team members and entrust them with the responsibility of handling the details and routine tasks. By doing so, a leader can better utilize their own skills and expertise to focus on the broader goals and objectives of the organization. In this way, effective delegation can lead to improved efficiency and productivity, as well as the development and growth of team members.
How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?
Leadership involves the ability to influence and guide others towards a common goal or vision.
Over time the definition of leadership, a centuries old concept, has evolved to reflect the changing needs and expectations of society. For example, in the past, leaders were often expected to be authoritarian and directive, with a focus on providing clear direction and maintaining control over their followers. However, in more recent years, there has been a shift towards more collaborative and participatory styles of leadership, with a greater emphasis on empowering and enabling team members to take ownership of their work and contribute to decision-making.
Today, effective leadership involves a combination of qualities such as vision, communication, emotional intelligence, adaptability, and the ability to build and maintain relationships. It is also increasingly important for leaders to be able to navigate complex and dynamic environments, and to be able to inspire and motivate others to work towards a common goal. Ultimately, the qualities and characteristics that define effective leadership will depend on the specific goals and needs of the group being led.
Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?
As I navigated the landscape of different industries, I often came across leaders using the “command and control” model of leadership which involves a top-down, hierarchical structure with a focus on providing clear directive and maintaining control over their team. This approach is based on the idea that leaders set specific goals and expectations for their team, and that team members should follow a set directive to achieve those goals without question (or alternative ideas).
This leadership style was prevalent in the past, particularly in military and industrial settings, where it was believed to be necessary to ensure efficiency and discipline. However, in more recent years, there has been a shift towards more collaborative and participatory styles of leadership, with a greater emphasis on empowering and enabling team members to take ownership of their work and contribute to decision-making.
I learned the “command and control” model can have negative consequences, such as reducing creativity and innovation, lowering morale, and decreasing team engagement. It’s more effective for leaders to adopt a flexible and adaptable leadership style, in which they are able to adjust their approach based on the specific needs and goals of the team.
What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?
As a leader, I find it beneficial to use tools such as Myers-Briggs, CliftonStrengths, and even the Love Language assessments to get to know the personality types and strengths of my team members. These tools can provide valuable insights into how team members think, work, and prefer to be recognized and rewarded.
Using these tools can help a leader to tailor their communication and appreciation efforts to the specific needs and preferences of each team member. For instance, if a team member values “words of affirmation” as their primary love language, it would be more effective to show appreciation through verbal praise or written feedback, rather than through a team outing or other activity that primarily emphasizes “quality time”. This can help to ensure that appreciation and recognition are received in the way that is most meaningful and impactful for each team member.
Effective communication and appreciation, tailored to the individual needs and preferences of team members, can be a key factor in building a happy and engaged team. By taking the time to understand and appreciate the unique characteristics and strengths of each team member, a leader can create a positive and supportive work environment that fosters collaboration and success.
What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?
It can be challenging for leaders to let go of the dated approaches and strategies that have worked for them in the past. However, it’s important for leaders to recognize that the business landscape is constantly changing, and that what has worked in the past may not be as effective in the present or the future.
Here are a few pieces of advice that I would offer to leaders who are having a hard time letting go of past playbooks and patterns:
- Embrace a growth mindset. Instead of focusing on the risks and challenges of change, try to view change as an opportunity for growth and development. This can help you to be more open to new ideas and approaches, and to be more resilient in the face of challenges.
- Seek out new perspectives and ideas. Engage with others who have different experiences and viewpoints, and seek out new sources of information and inspiration. This can help you to expand your thinking and to consider new approaches and strategies.
- Reflect on the reasons behind your reluctance to change. Are you afraid of failing or being perceived as ineffective or weak if you change your approach? Understanding the root causes of your resistance to change can help you to overcome them.
- Be open to learning and experimentation. Don’t be afraid to try out new approaches and strategies, even if they are outside of your comfort zone. Be willing to learn from your mistakes and to iterate and adjust your approach as needed.
By being open to change and learning, leaders can stay relevant and effective in today’s rapidly evolving business environment.
Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?
Communicate clearly and effectively: Good communication is essential for effective leadership. Make sure to clearly and concisely convey your expectations to your team, and be open and transparent in your communication.
Set clear goals and expectations: Clearly defined goals and expectations are essential for effective leadership. Make sure to set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for your team, and provide the support and resources needed to help them achieve those goals.
Be adaptable and resilient: The business landscape is constantly changing and effective leaders need to be able to adapt and be resilient in the face of challenges. Be open to learning and experimentation, and be willing to adjust your approach as needed.
Be flexible open-minded: As the business landscape is constantly changing, so are the individuals we lead. Effective leaders must be able to connect with and direct multiple personalities and learning styles.
Build strong relationships: Strong relationships are the foundation of effective leadership. Take the time to get to know your team members and build trust and rapport with them.
Delegate tasks and responsibilities: Delegating tasks and responsibilities to your team members can help to build their skills and confidence, and can also help you to focus on the bigger picture of the business.
Empower and enable your team: As a leader, it’s important to empower and enable your team to take ownership of their work and to contribute to decision-making. This can help to foster a sense of purpose and engagement within the team.
By following these basic principles, new leaders can set a strong foundation for their leadership journey and build the skills and capabilities needed to be effective in their roles.
Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.
Effective leaders possess a variety of qualities and characteristics that enable them to influence and guide others towards a common goal or vision. Here are five traits I believe are often associated with effective leaders:
- Vision: Effective leaders have a clear vision of what they want to achieve and are able to communicate that vision in a way that inspires and motivates others to work towards it. For example, a leader at a non-profit organization might have a vision of creating a more equitable and sustainable society, and be able to inspire their team to work towards that vision by sharing stories and examples of how their work is making a positive difference in the world.
- Communication: Good communication is essential for effective leadership. Leaders who are able to clearly and effectively communicate their expectations and goals, and who are open and transparent in their communication, are better able to build trust and engagement within their team. For example, a leader at a technology company might hold regular team meetings to provide updates on the company’s progress and solicit feedback and ideas from team members.
- Emotional intelligence: Effective leaders have high levels of emotional intelligence, which enables them to understand and manage their own emotions and the emotions of others. This can help them to build strong relationships, resolve conflicts, and create positive and collaborative team cultures. For example, a leader at a healthcare organization might have high levels of emotional intelligence, which enables them to effectively manage the emotions of their team members, who are likely to be dealing with difficult and stressful situations on a daily basis.
- Adaptability: Effective leaders are able to adapt to changing circumstances and needs, and are able to adjust their approach as needed to achieve their goals. For example, a leader at a startup might be highly adaptable, able to pivot and change course quickly in response to changing market conditions or customer needs.
- Relationship-building: Effective leaders are able to build and maintain strong relationships with their team members, as well as with stakeholders and partners outside of their organization. For example, a leader at a consulting firm might be skilled at building relationships with clients and partners, which enables them to create long-term partnerships and to effectively navigate complex and dynamic environments.
Ultimately, the specific traits and characteristics that define effective leadership will depend on the specific needs of the group being led. As a leader, you will always be learning and adapting.
American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.
The quote “Make each day your masterpiece” implies that we should strive to make the most of each day and to do our best in all that we do, but it’s important to recognize that mistakes and setbacks are a natural part of learning and growing. We will all make mistakes and encounter challenges along the way, but there is nothing that can’t be fixed or made into a masterpiece. The key is to approach these mistakes and challenges with a positive mindset, viewing each obstacle as opportunities to learn and improve rather than as failures or losses. By embracing a positive mindset, we can be more resilient in the face of setbacks, and be more open to learning and experimentation. This helps us to continually improve and grow as individuals as well as leaders.
Mistakes and setbacks are a normal and inevitable part of life, and it’s how we respond to them that ultimately determines our success and happiness. By taking responsibility for our mistakes, learning from them, and moving forward with a positive attitude, we can turn even the most difficult challenges into opportunities for growth and improvement.
As a survivor of a traumatic accident, I initially struggled with feelings of survivor’s guilt, wondering why my life had been spared while others were not as fortunate. However, through personal growth and learning, I came to recognize that we all experience moments of impact that alter the course of our lives and steer us in different directions. Despite these challenges, life is a precious and fleeting gift, and it is up to us to make the most of it. By striving to create something meaningful and impactful each day, we can craft our lives into a masterpiece.
What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?
As a leader, the legacy I aspire to leave is one of honesty, integrity, and a commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of others.
In particular, I hope to use my leadership skills and experiences to inspire and support others in breaking out of poverty and achieving financial stability. Growing up in poverty myself, I understand firsthand the challenges and obstacles that individuals and families face when trying to escape poverty and build a better future for themselves.
I hope to use my skills and resources to fund and create programs and initiatives that provide education, food, water and other support to those in need. I believe that everyone has the potential to succeed and thrive, and I want to be a leader who helps to empower others to reach their full potential and build a better life for themselves and their communities.
How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?
I am pleased to connect with readers and welcome the opportunity to engage in thoughtful discussions about various industries. My contact information can be found on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/ambidextrousmind).
In addition, I have recently published a number of guides on Amazon that offer valuable insights and practical guidance. I would be delighted to receive feedback from readers and continue the conversation about these topics. Thank you for considering me as a knowledgeable and reliable resource.
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.