As a leader, it’s your job to empower someone to be as successful as possible and contribute in a meaningful way. If it’s not at your company, that’s okay.

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 Mike Vitek.

Mike Vitek, CEO of ShiftKey, believes in building and empowering teams to scale, innovate and lead. With 20+ years of experience in technology, recruitment, healthcare, revenue and team management, Vitek is committed to investing in people, teams and ideas to make a real impact.

In his current role as CEO of ShiftKey, Vitek’s vision is to leverage technology to transform how healthcare leaders and licensed professionals show up to work, equipping facilities with the data, insights and network to power strategic, scalable workforce decisions.

In his previous role as chief revenue officer, Vitek led a rapidly growing team of more than 125 people to identify and connect facilities with the right talent to meet unique patient needs in the moment and expand access to quality, affordable care. As a result, facilities have posted more than 50 million hours of shifts on ShiftKey, interacting with hundreds of thousands of licensed professionals looking for flexible work.

Vitek is also deeply committed to family and the Dallas community, serving as a member of the Dallas Mavericks’ Advisory Council to drive philanthropic efforts and hold leaders and businesses accountable to contribute and invest in local communities to make them better.

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?

You know, it’s a really pivotal point in our journey as a company — what we have in store for our customers, partners, and broader community is a really extraordinary representation of our story, our passion to transform the workforce through technology in a way that puts people at the center, and where we’re headed with scaling our technology to empower more people. The way ShiftKey has shown up historically from a visual and brand perspective has been very functional — but if you get in the room with our team and see the work that’s being done day-to-day, there’s a level of grit, spirit, and commitment that’s just really compelling and unmatched. I can’t wait for the world to see that reflected in our brand and storytelling.

Personally, what always excites me the most is community. We’re headed into the second year of our partnership with the Dallas Mavericks as the largest community sponsor in the history of their organization. I’m also excited to continue collaborating with other community leaders on the Dallas Mavericks Advisory Council on how we can be accountable to leverage our platforms and resources to support, empower, and love on our community.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

Speaking of the Dallas Mavericks, Cynt Marshall’s leadership is just unparalleled and continues to astound and challenge me. She’s brought community values to the forefront of that organization and — while wildly successful — makes everyone and anyone in the room feel seen and like their heart matters. At an event with the team last fall, there were all these VIPs, players, etc. wandering around, and she’s hanging out with my kids, having a little dance party with them. It was important to her that they felt comfortable and had a memorable night. She’s no-airs, no BS, smart, strong, genuinely loves people. When she talks, people listen; her presence is felt; her spirit is contagious and inspires the best in everyone around her.

Throughout my career, Joe Caldwell has been a consistent mentor who has modeled timeless leadership principles, embodying the intersection of integrity and innovation. It might sound simple or cliché — but before it was trendy to say, Joe taught me that if everyone on your team looks and thinks the same, the organization will fail. I’ve seen that proved out time and time again, and at ShiftKey, we’ve built our team to be successful with the lens that “one perspective never solves a problem” — you need multiple perspectives. Some other nuggets that Joe has left me with over the years include:

  • When people show you who they are, believe them. Don’t try to change them.
  • Make decisions quickly based on the facts in front of you. You’ll learn and adapt faster that way.
  • Hire blind, fire for a reason.
  • As a leader, it’s your job to empower someone to be as successful as possible and contribute in a meaningful way. If it’s not at your company, that’s okay.
  • LISTEN, and give people the benefit of the doubt. You never know what someone’s reasoning was behind a decision, and you never know what people are going through.
  • Acknowledge and embrace that peoples’ goals and priorities are different — leverage those motivations.
  • Create an environment where people can show up and be their true selves — that’s when they’re going to flourish.
  • Adjust your style to the players on your team, but keep your values consistent.
  • Never make decisions based on fear.

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?

When I was younger and inexperienced, the biggest trap I fell into was making decisions without listening because I felt the need to prove myself in some way.

Two lessons learned: (1) If someone is speaking to you, they want to be heard — and need to be, for their sake and yours. (2) Don’t act out of pride, act with confidence that’s legitimate.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

I’ve had incredible mentors in my life, but transparently, the journey and relationship that’s taught me the most about leadership and how to build something that lasts is my marriage. My wife and I just celebrated 16 years of marriage and — damn — we’re different in so many ways, but she knows me, she sees me, she’s patient with me, she’s cultivated the trust to call me out when I’ve got something wrong, and she’s never satisfied with letting me live less than my potential.

If I’m being honest, most people who gravitate towards leadership have a tendency towards ego. What I’ve discovered through marriage — and parenting and decades of working — is that ego doesn’t help. It crowds the space and just gets in the way. It leaves you feeling defeated, even when you’re telling everyone else you’re not. No ego. No person is the smartest person in the room — and you definitely aren’t. Invite new people, new perspectives to the table any chance you get. Recognize and celebrate that intelligence takes so many different forms.

At the end of the day as business leaders, yes, we want to see our business succeed. But as people who are business leaders, we want to see lots of people succeed so that our communities thrive, our families are safe, and the people we care about feel supported and loved. Business is the practical means to all of those ends.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

Creating a culture that’s competitive yet collaborative. At the end of the day, this isn’t just smooth talk, holding hands in a circle, with no concern for ROI. At the end of the day, whether you’re leading a business, a campaign, or a movement, you’re looking for results.

ShiftKey is a business, and we’ve experienced incredible growth over the last several years. We’re seeing real results, doing things the right away, treating our people with respect and lifting others up.

Here’s how we do it: Everyone starts off on equal footing — pay, title, benefits, defined responsibilities. The track to leadership is made clear from Day 1. We keep all of our VPs fully in the loop on team goals, individual goals and company goals, so they’re empowered and motivated to work towards these in unison. We hold everyone accountable for the team’s success — folks know their work will be celebrated, but they also know it contributes to the broader, collective goal.

One of the greatest proof points of this for me is that we never have to tell the team to clap or cheer for one another. We haven’t invented a mechanism for forced praise. They do it themselves because they care about one another and they care about the work we’re doing. When there’s a win, they celebrate it, unprompted and unscripted.

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’s worth the risk and you’ll see dividends immediately. Or, to put it more succinctly, you can’t afford not to. We’re in an age where people are empowered to tell their story and there are limitless resources out there coaching people on how to know their worth, fight for their value, or walk away. You don’t want to be the company they’re walking away from — you want to lean in and understand their motivations.

Also, to be frank, we have a responsibility as leaders to build more inclusive, equitable workforces and communities. Trainings, books, and other tactics help, but people know when you’re just checking a box vs. when you’re genuinely investing in them, their story, and perspective. As a generation, we’ve largely failed at this so far, but our time’s not up yet. We still have time to partner across generations and groups, and use our influence and resources to make a real impact.

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?

Leadership is lonely. It’s absolutely vital to have people in your circle who will be direct with you and give you honest feedback, without fear of offending you, and from a place of “I care about you and know you and you can do better.” I’ve got a group of guys I’ve known since I was 14 — about 10 of them — who knew me before I was “successful” at anything. I know at any point, I can pick up the phone to talk to any one of them and they’re going to shoot straight with me. It’s an incredible gift, and the long tenure of our friendship also reminds me that investment in people is never a waste of time.

The second would be don’t do any of this because it’s the trendy thing to do, or because it sounds nice on LinkedIn or from a PR perspective. Treat people with kindness, lead with integrity, and lean into other peoples’ stories because it’s the right thing to do as a human — and it’s truly how your business is going to thrive on a whole new level.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

I want my colleagues to say things like: “I could call Mike whenever and he was ready to listen. I could walk into his office and he’d never wave me away. He knew and cared about my story.”

I hope everyone I’ve worked with feels like they have an advocate in their corner because of me. That there was another voice besides their own ready to speak up for them. That I challenged them to do hard work — and their best work — but gave them the tools, support, feedback, and encouragement they needed to do it.

These reflections might sound simple, but to earn them, you’ve got to be intentional, consistent and humble as a leader. It’s something I practice at every day. I don’t expect passionate, committed work from my team without giving it myself. There’s not a day when I’m checked out — my goal is to keep pushing myself to be the leader they need and deserve.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

The best way to find me is on LinkedIn at my profile @Mike Vitek. You can also follow along with ShiftKey’s journey, leadership and impact on our website, and ShiftKey’s LinkedIn, Facebook & Instagram channels, depending on which social media channels you use.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!