We’re in an era where platform companies have achieved outsized success. In fact, many venture capitalists won’t even consider an investment unless entrepreneurs pitch them a vision of a ‘platform’ or ‘ecosystem’ rather than a product.
From Apple and Facebook to Google and Microsoft, a lot of praise has been written about these thriving platforms and what makes them so successful. So what can leaders at all levels learn from them?
Here are 5 traits that great leaders have in common with successful platforms.
1) They demonstrate consistent humility.
Great platforms aren’t solely focused on what partners can do for them. They know they will only succeed if they bring real value to all participants, not the other way around. The best platforms build a stage where they put their partners and users first.
Great leaders operate similarly, demonstrating what Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, calls Level 5 Leadership — which combines modesty with fearlessness. They boldly pursue the vision of their organization by elevating employees and customers.
Many great leaders also embody Robert Greenleaf’s concept of servant leadership. Just as with great platforms, leadership is about creating and offering an operating system for the success of others.
2) They always seek to connect and extend.
Successful platforms make it easy for their partners to extend their technologies’ capabilities, features, and experience. Whether it happens through plugins, adapters, or other methods, the best platforms are gestalt. They fundamentally understand that bringing apps or capabilities together will always exceed the sum of one-off integrations.
Great leaders help employees make connections that foster their growth.
Following a similar pattern, great leaders help employees make connections that foster their growth. They ensure there are free and clear pathways between people and knowledge and help their teams navigate those pathways.
Like great platforms, successful leaders help people use their knowledge in effective, non-political ways for the collective benefit. Ultimately, a great leader helps their team accelerate career growth by helping them plug into new connections that extend their own personal capabilities.
3) They empower others with tools and building blocks.
Platforms aren’t prescriptive. They encourage partners to create new solutions or offerings in uniquely individual ways with simple yet effective methods. They are squarely focused on enabling developers with objective details, codes, and guidelines, which are documented in a neutral way with the sole purpose of helping participants build something valuable and usable.
Great leaders empower people to align themselves with their goals and ambitions — not a template of someone else’s formula for success.
Similarly, great leaders empower people to align themselves with their goals and ambitions — not a template of someone else’s formula for success. They create a workplace to which their teams can bring their whole selves and contribute by creating newer better ways of working.
4) They never play favorites.
Great platforms are equitable to all. They do the right thing by partnering with a diverse set of other apps or ecosystems that will create more and better value for customers. By avoiding favoritism, great platforms allow new ideas to thrive based on merit.
Great leaders are similarly fair. There’s no dogma, no scripture, no cult of personality. The emphasis is on building a balanced high-performing team and objectively evaluating talent within the greater context of the company’s mission, values, and goals.
5) They hold you accountable.
Great platforms do an impeccable job of filtering out shady types of apps and integrations. There is no malware. That is because the best platforms are selective about who they work with and hold their partners accountable to high standards at all times. Their vigilance fosters trust and security, which is essential for the greater good of the ecosystem.
Similarly, great leaders hold their teams accountable for their commitments and behavior. They keep their teams honest in areas from how they perform to how they interact with colleagues. This helps the greater good — it’s better for the team and in the case of the platform it’s better for the ecosystem. Success is ultimately a function of trust, equity, and a healthy environment.
Originally published on LinkedIn.