The most important thing a leader can do, according to the chief executive of one of America’s leading software companies

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The most important thing a leader can do, according to the chief executive of one of America’s leading software companies

Empowering employees should be a chief executive’s number one priority, according to Brad Smith, the chief executive of US software firm Intuit.

In a blog post published on LinkedIn, Smith says the best leaders are the ones who make sure their employees feel like they are able to do their best work.

Listening and holding regular one-on-one chats are key to achieving this goal.

“People naturally defer to ideas that come from the CEO or other executives, but it’s essential for people to know that their ideas really matter,” Smith writes.

“To set the tone, leaders should begin by listening first, asking people what they think and giving them the opportunity to speak before you share your own ideas. Then hold all ideas to the same scrutiny.”

Read more: Four ways to create a great workplace culture

Smith says a great company culture is also fostered when leaders create action-orientated environments where the focus is on doing rather than just talking.

However, he also points out that holding regular chats with employees is important because it allows leaders to find out whether or not people are feeling empowered in the workplace.

Effective questions to ask during these talks are: what has been getting better over the past six months and why, along with what has been getting worse, according to Smith.

“To create a strong company culture is to create something people want to be part of and encourage their friends to join,” he says.

“The cornerstone to creating such a culture begins with an aspirational purpose, backed by an environment where employees’ ideas matter as much as yours, and where people can get things done. Then keep yourself honest along the way, constantly diagnosing your progress – or lack of progress – by conducting frontline employee chats.”

“If you do all these well, your culture will speak for itself.” 

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Broede Carmody is SmartCompany's senior reporter. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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