What Does it Take to be a Great Leader?

By Sarah Ryther Francom

March 12, 2014

If you had to describe a successful CEO you know in just one word, what would it be? My one-word description would unquestionably be leadership. Leadership (or lack thereof) can make or break a company. Great leadership means creating a vision and inspiring people to follow it. Great leadership means making tough decisions and taking strategic risks. Great leadership means being accountable for the bad and the ugly, long before taking credit for the good. Great leadership isn’t easy—it takes thoughtful practice, dedication and courage.

In this issue of Utah Business, we honor eight chief executives who exemplify what great leadership means. Each CEO we’re honoring has a unique story, with many ups and downs along the way. But despite those ups and downs, they have maintained unwavering leadership that has equaled success for their companies and employees. From managing complicated acquisitions to launching new products and divisions to building great companies to work for, these execs are shining examples of leadership in our community. The CEOs we’re proud to be honoring are Scott Barlow of Utah Central Clinic, Lance Clark of Spillman Technologies, Mike Falk of Newmark, Sarah Lehman of Enve Composites, Jeff Pedersen of PW Companies, Scott Quist of Security National Financial Company, Jeffrey Smith of Alliance Health and Michael Weinholtz of CHG Healthcare. Read their stories beginning on page 54.

As I interviewed each CEO, I took the opportunity to ask them about their leadership philosophies. Acknowledging that leadership is a special and difficult skill to master, I wanted to know what they think it takes to be a great leader. Here’s a sampling of the advice they offered:

Central Utah Clinic’s Scott Barlow is the first to admit that being a leader isn’t always easy. “When you get into a big organization, the most difficult thing is to communicate and the most important thing is to communicate,” he says. “The challenge of that is [balancing] the sheer demands of your time and resources with keeping everyone informed and aware. They key to that is you have to be willing to go out and be amongst the people and be able to interact with people on a day-to-day basis.”

Sarah Lehman, Enve CEO, says it’s first about hiring the right people and then creating a place where they can succeed. “It’s about creating a culture where failure is OK, but losing isn’t. … I think it also takes someone who’s willing to make hard choices and hard decisions. People need to know that you had to make a hard choice related to people or correction or resources, and they need to trust that you’re going to do it.”

PW Companies CEO Jeff Pedersen says leadership is about passion. “A leader needs to have a vision of what he or she wants to accomplish and then ultimately needs to inspire confidence in those who are working with him or her to be able to accomplish that thing. If you can create passion and energy and a burning desire to succeed with those that are carrying out the vision and are working on the frontlines, that’s when true magic happens.”

It isn’t easy to confine leadership to one narrow definition or thought—the truth is leadership requires ongoing practice of many skills and attributes. But when you’re around a great leader, you know it. We congratulate all of the 2014 CEO of the Year honorees who are true leaders in their companies and our community.

From the Editor

Sarah Ryther Francom

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