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Mike Ionita on Being an Effective Leader in the World of Business
What does a leader look like? Mike Ionita explains that most people equate leadership with seniority or someone’s position in the hierarchy of a company; however, for Mike and countless other entrepreneurs, leadership is so much more than that. Effective leadership refers to genuinely motivating and inspiring a group of people towards a common goal or mission. As the Founder and Creative Director of Crux Video Game Design, Mike Ionita has almost a decade of experience managing teams and motivating people under his belt and wants to help others achieve their leadership goals. He is here to outline the top five skills that everyone needs to become an effective leader in the world of business.
When you think of a top performer in an industry, what is their greatest asset? Knowledge and expertise. You have to know what you are doing to lead and inspire others to do the same. Mike Ionita spent years cultivating his skills before founding his game design studio; Mike started sketching, moved onto digital painting, which turned into animation, and evolved into business development. He explains that leaders need to be strategists and to be a strategist, you need to have an in-depth understanding of how your industry works. Mike explains that when you are working long hours, self-improvement, growth, and skill development can easily fall by the wayside. He states that putting on an audio book while you are driving to a meeting, listening to a podcast when you are exercising, or reading a book on your lunch break can help you invest in yourself that you know you need to make. The more you invest in building your knowledge, the more agile you will be in business.
Portrayals of leadership often focus on exuding strength, power, and force. However, Mike Ionita claims that vulnerability is one of the strongest attributes of effective leadership. As the Creative Director of Crux Video Game Design, he defines vulnerability as a superpower. As Mike Ionita explains, “Even when you don’t want your team to see your weaknesses, they do, so be open with them.” The best corporate cultures are those where employees are allowed to make mistakes, explore, innovate, and are given the space to try new things. Self-awareness requires being open to criticism from your team in the same way you expect them to be open to criticism from you. If you are unable to listen to the people you trusted enough to hire, you will never be able to grow and scale your business. Mike Ionita suggests scheduling team-building exercises to improve vulnerability. You can do an exercise where everyone shares something their colleagues do well and something they need to improve upon. You will be surprised at the impact this will have on team morale.
When something goes wrong—which it always does—you need to be able to make quick, decisive, and level-headed decisions. Remaining calm during periods of high stress and anxiety is crucial if you want to be an effective leader. Your team looks to you for guidance, and if you are openly panicking, you are not thinking clearly or guiding your team towards a solution. The high levels of cortisone are associated with stress or the ‘fight-or-flight’ response, disengage neurons in the prefrontal cortex linked to decision-making. When you are acting out of fear and panic, you are unlikely to make the right decision. Mike Ionita explains that having a level-head will help you understand that there is no wrong decision. Leaders often find themselves with decision paralysis, where they are so afraid of making the wrong decision that they make no-decision. Learn to stay calm in stressful situations, and you will often make the most well-informed choice possible.
As Mike Ionita mentioned, being an effective leader is more than just a title, it is the respect you earn from your peers, co-workers, and employees. An effective leader is able to act in integrity, which not only means doing the right thing, but doing what you say you are going to do. Earning the trust of your employees is easily one of best ways to lead a team. Not only does it allow you to motivate them, but it allows them to see you as someone they can be open with.
There are two types of people: people who see problems and people who see solutions—which one are you? Mike Ionita explains that when a leader remains open-minded, they are far more likely to move towards innovative solutions than their close-minded counterparts. As an innovator in his industry, Mike states that every brainstorm has one rule: no bad ideas. Closing yourself off to any idea big or small can be a lost opportunity. This spirit of curiosity not only strengthens teams but inspires them to continue to think outside of the box, no matter how unpractical or unreasonable it might seem at first. Being open-minded will allow your team to feel safe enough to innovate—which is crucial when you are looking to grow your business.
Lastly, Mike Ionita believes in the power of positive re-enforcement. Building an effective team requires more than putting together task lists, it involves empowering people and making them understand that they can achieve anything. He explains that in his experience, everyone is insecure about something. Micro-managing your team can only further exacerbate these insecurities, rather than pushing them to grow beyond them.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes