Leadership Discovery Class Learns Bryan Derreberry's Iron Laws of Leadership

Written by Trevor Funderburk, Marketing Manager at Smithey Ironware and Spring 2021 Leadership Discovery participant, after hearing from Bryan Derreberry, President and CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber.

Bryan Derreberry is a leader amongst leaders. With an extensive and established record of leadership across the country, Bryan’s presence is felt when he engages a room. Through decades of experience, relationships forged and lessons learned from both success and failure, Bryan’s leadership style and command for excellence has led to a resurgence in the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce in his ten years as the CEO and President.

Bryan’s core philosophy and the first of his Iron Laws of Leadership is to invest in coaching your team. Developing your team’s talent through coaching is the biggest responsibility of being a leader. When you as the leader see an individual’s full potential, it’s your responsibility to leverage this through coaching to yield results which will only benefit the rest of the team and your organization. 

When you as the leader of your team day after day invests in coaching, understanding and encouraging members of your team this naturally leads to a strong culture. Bank on this trust and watch it manifest and grow over time. When you invest in coaching your team, people trust in one another to do things the right way, yielding a culture of excellence.    

When you’ve made the investment in coaching your team, you’ve got a great culture built, there is only one way to continue to achieve greatness and that’s through hard work. A great leader will have natural traits of energy, courage and belief that rub off on each member of your team. Have the expectation that your team’s work ethic must equate if not exceed your own. Lead with a sense of selflessness.

Bryan’s fourth Iron Law of Leadership is that you are the difference between a team culture of fear and a team culture of belief. A leader who develops and envisions what is possible (investment and belief in an individual’s inherent greatness) embodies a culture of belief. Abandon the idea of win or lose, and embrace a culture of win or learn. Failure (or learning in this instance) can be a good thing as long as your team learns from it and enacts change moving forward. 

One of the things that stuck with me the most from Bryan’s session with our Leadership Discovery class is trust is earned by the repeated behavior you engage in with each individual on your team, not because of your title. Equate building trust to a bank account – you need to be making trust deposits with each of your team members over time, and this balance will grow. However, one major trust withdrawal and this can bankrupt your entire relationship with your team. Your team is a human system, see it for that first and make those daily trust deposits.

As a leader, you have the privilege of being an elite 1:1 skill developer. You win with people, not strategy. Know that each member of your team is capable of getting better, and constantly evaluate them to make sure their skills and interests are in the right role.  Every team member is capable of building skills for a talent they don’t currently possess regardless of the point that they are in their career or age. 

Bryan’s time with our class was drawing to a close as we approached the 7th and 8th of his Iron Laws of Leadership. We quickly went over the fact that a leader who continually berates their team is telling everyone they have no idea what they’re doing and are clueless in how to lead and if a team member is in conflict, they can’t focus on what they need to do to execute their job. While both of these naturally resonated with our class, it’s good for us to think about them out loud to build upon these natural assumptions. As a leader, you need to prioritize in helping your team members when they are in conflict with personal and professional challenges. 

On behalf of the entire 2021 Spring Leadership Discovery class, I want to thank Bryan Derreberry for his time and for sharing his wisdom and leadership philosophy. 

Trevor Funderburk, Marketing Manager at Smithey Ironware
Participant in the 2021 Spring Leadership Discovery class

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