Real Leaders

12 Leadership Lessons I Learned from 12 Years as CEO

Rob Waldron, Chief Executive Officer, Curriculum Associates

Rob Waldron, CEO at education technology company Curriculum Associates, just celebrated 12 years as CEO. He shares the 12 best leadership lessons he learned during his time with the company.

1. It’s much more important to be an outstanding recruiter than an outstanding manager. 
It’s much better to be involved in choosing those people. Outstanding talent wins the day, and Curriculum Associates’ success has come from choosing those people.

2. Good questions drive good answers.
Great leaders ask great questions. I try to have 2x as many questions as answers because it promotes dialogue, community, and critical thinking.

3. Paranoia promotes performance.
We’re always trying to think about what could go wrong, what could happen with competitors, etc. which allows you to be better prepared for the future.

4. If you fire leaders who lie, everyone else will believe you.
There’s no room for lying in great organizations, and trust is paramount. Don’t keep anyone who lies in your business; it will only hurt you.

5. High-performance teams have a culture of grace.
A high-stress culture organization like Amazon won’t lead to long-term high performance. It’s just temporary because people will burn out. A culture of grace, respect, and realistic expectations will result in the highest performance from employees long-term.

6. Cross words cross paths. Kind deeds plant seeds.
The industry is small and never burn bridges. If you do/say something bad to someone, it will come back to bite you. Alternatively, if you do something kind, people will remember it down the road.

7. The most important person in the room is the one who can tell the best story.
It’s essential to be a storyteller, and our success comes from telling these stories. Great stories motivate others.

8. Equity requires proximity.
You need to be near people to serve them properly. If you want equity, we need to learn to treat people based on their unique needs. You need to pay attention to these unique needs instead of rubber-stamping everything.

9. The most successful organizations talk about their goals first, then everything else second.
The most successful districts talk about student achievement first and everything else second because student achievement is most important for our customers. This laser-focus is how they succeed in improving achievement.

10. Products don’t solve problems. Their great implementations do.
Great service leads to success. Without fantastic service, even the greatest product isn’t helpful.

11. Sleep. Move. Read.
It’s important to separate yourself from work. Rest, exercise, and stay healthy. Reading and learning things outside of work promotes better leadership.

12. Long-term thinking often drives the best short-term results.
I have a 20-year employment agreement. This has provided me with a long-term view, which has enabled us to be more successful in the short-term.

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