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August 10, 2023 1 Min Read

Confluent Leadership Principle #4: Inspire Excellence


Leaders play a critical role in setting the bar for the pace, quality, and output that teams deliver. This is something you can do better or worse:

  • The worst leaders are often unaware of their roles and tolerate low-quality output and spotty execution

  • Good leaders play an active role in setting high but achievable expectations and helping their team clear distractions and improve execution to hit them

  • The best leaders take this a step further and help build a culture in which great execution is something team members want and expect of each other, not just something imposed on them


This last bit, getting a team to want to be great, is the state every leader should strive towards. Leaders can help to encourage this by finding the most critical initiatives and lending them a sense of urgency and rigor on output. They ask themselves and their teams questions like:

  •  “What would have to change for us to be able to move faster here?”

  • “What would be the best version of this?” and “what prevents us from having that best version?”


They take it as their own failing if their team delivers mediocre results or executes poorly because they deeply care about this work.


One way this is visible is in the rigor around setting goals. They work out ambitious goals for their team and then stay close to execution against these goals so they know if they are on track. If they fall short they take responsibility and use it as an opportunity to learn and improve.


Principles 3 and 4 work together. Think of this as a kind of ongoing cycle of optimizing the investment of time and energy. You start by helping your teams ruthlessly prioritize the key things that matter most and cut distractions that are sucking time and energy. There is always resistance to stopping anything, even failing projects, so this takes work! Then you invest that additional capacity in raising the bar on what is expected in terms of quality and outcomes or by helping to address bottlenecks that can accelerate execution.


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Reprinted with permission from Confluent, 2023

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