Humility and Leadership Go Hand-in-Hand with Manny Dureja at Airtower

Founders and CEOs understand the relationship between humility and leadership is important. However, for most, it is an afterthought. Humility and leadership must be intentional. It has to be proactive to make an impact. Humility in your culture also starts in the hiring process. My guest for today’s episode is Manny Dureja, Founder of AirTower. AirTower owners and enterprise customers a future-proof 5G wireless services. They also were ranked #415 on the 2019 Inc 5000 List. Manny shares why humility and leadership have contributed to the fast growth of the company. We look at some of the mistakes in the journey of fast-growth leadership. Please tune in to see why humility and leadership are essential and how to apply them to your company.

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Manny Dureja: The Transcript

Target Audience: Manny Dureja is the Founder & President at Airtower Networks an Inc. 500 Company. Airtower Networks (formerly Wave Wireless) Aiming to be the nation’s leading wireless provider that re-defines the economics required for mobile operators to deliver 5G to their subscribers. With a customer-focused approach, we’re creating the next-generation of the cell tower business for 5G and beyond.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Manny Dureja
Humility to me and it’s something that’s certainly been a hard line culture piece to our company, their towers is something that I think builds just the just some of the strongest character and organizations out there just my personal belief and when when I look at this more of the term humility and how I just kind of define it, I think it just boils down to just doing being incredible and doing amazing things and while doing it and after doing it, just keep your head down and keep on keeping on with it. And in many great things form around that and around you if you have that attitude they carry through.

Intro [0:47]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [1:04]
Today we talked about ego. If you ever thought about how your ego gets in the way of your own leadership, it’s a pretty difficult conversation because people don’t think about their ego as much because the ego is something that plays in the subconscious. So let’s take it up a level where we talk about humility, humility and leadership go hand in hand. You probably know this, but I want to talk about it from a new perspective today. Today, our guest is Manny Dureja. He’s the founder of Airtower. They create amazing services in the 5g world. And we’re about to see that happening everywhere, right? Well, this company has been growing fast because he understands what humility and leadership have to do with growing a company. When you think about your humility, your ego, and other things that can get in the way. You’ve got to make sure you stay grounded. Today, we look at some of the different ways that many stay grounded in ways you can do that yourself. And we share a little story along the journey. Some of those are mistakes, some of those things will make you laugh, some of those things will probably make you go. Yep, I’ve been there. So I want to pause for a second here. Make sure that if you haven’t already signed up for the 12 principles, I’ve been looking at analyzing the 12 principles of fast-growth companies just go to genehammett.com/principles. It’ll force you right into an absolutely free resource of us analyzing the 12 principles of fast-growth companies. You guessed it, you can get it for absolutely free. Gene Hammett comm forward-slash principles. And all you have to do is to do it. Now. Here’s the interview with Manny.

Commercial [2:40]
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that you can actually get a tool that I’ve been working with clients with for the last couple of years, I’ve refined this tool has gone through several iterations. Now we have it completely automated, you can actually go online and fill out the leadership quiz to get the leadership quiz. Just go To theleadershipquiz.com that’s pretty easy, right? theleadership.com what you will get when you do that is you will answer a few questions, you will see where you rate based on the core principles of fast-growth companies. If you’re ready to grow your company or you want to see where you are, then make sure you go to theleadershipquiz.com inside it you will get insight into where you are, understand where you want to improve. And you will get them mapped into the 10 areas that are most specific to fast-growth companies. Again, go to theleadership.com and you can get that right now.

Gene Hammett [3:33]
Hey Manny, how are you?

Manny Dureja [3:35]
Great. How are you doing Gene?

Gene Hammett [3:36]
Fantastic. Well, we’re gonna have a great interview here for the podcast. I would love to kick this off with tell us about Airtower.

Manny Dureja [3:45]
Great. Thanks for having us and thank you. Yeah, Airtower is a business it focused in the 5g era 5g space Telecom. We are entirely focused on the indoors in a large commercial buildings for five G. So virtually everything over 50 to really 100,000 square feet of commercial real estate, we target for our 5g systems, which we’re finding and found, you know, from, from quite a bit of build-up with the engineering and evolution of Telecom, that in building systems are a major part of, of how we’re going to be connecting now and in the future because of some of the issues that cell towers are having. So but so air tower been around for a few years now since 2016, we were actually formed and we were just named last year on the Inc 500.

Gene Hammett [4:40]
Well, that’s one reason why we have you here because at the podcast, we focus on companies are growing really fast, much like yours. And you know, what is the core leadership or culture principles that drive that growth? I know you’ve worked with my team to figure out what it is. We’ve kind of centered on humility is one The central features of your business tell us about what humility is to you?

Manny Dureja [5:06]
Humility to, to me and it’s something that’s certainly been, you know, a hard-line culture piece to our company, their towers, it’s something that I think, you know, builds just the just some of the strongest character and organizations out there just my personal belief. And you know, when when I look at this more of the term humility and how, you know how I just kind of define it, I think it just boils down to just, you know, doing being incredible and doing amazing things and, and while doing it, and after doing it, just keep your head down and keep on keeping on with it. And, and many great things for him around that and around you. I think when you have that attitude they carry through.

Gene Hammett [5:54]
Well, I know it’s important for leadership, not to, “get a big head” Is there ever been a moment where you’ve kind of maybe let your ego get more of who you are as a leader?

Manny Dureja [6:09]
Yeah, certainly right Why not? Why not? And you try to it and you regret it afterward like I should have said that or, or shouldn’t have acted like that in the response or even enter that conversation sometimes not just with business people but even with friends you know, that it kind of like you know, hit myself over that actually kind of beat myself over the head more probably with by when I’m that way with friends, you know, joking around, of course. But I mean, I think it can definitely get the best of us and all of us and, and when you have that attitude of just the humility check-in staying humble. I think it’s just as you continue to circle back on that you know, when you do and make sure you try to correct it in the future, right.

Gene Hammett [6:56]
Is there anything that you do personally as a leader to make sure that you’re more grounded or not letting that ego run away with you.

Manny Dureja [7:07]
Yeah, you know, we never, you know a lot of times to the roles and responsibilities from the executive team we have to pass down work and someone to the delegation I never am you know, I’ve never been and don’t really plan on being you know, as much as to be stuff delegate to build a business and scale it that’s absolutely key. You know, I’m never concerned with getting on the front line and getting my own hand you know, rolling up my sleeves get dirty, where were tasks come up that wasn’t expected that you know, sometimes that gets passed down to pass down to some of the team members, but jumping in with them and doing that work alongside with them.

Gene Hammett [8:34]
And when you try to build a team around this, you have about 27 employees now that you’ve built up around this culture, I know there are some other core values behind the company. Are you hiring to that like selecting employees because of their humility and have questions that allow you to tune into that?

Manny Dureja [8:56]
Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s part of that process is making sure that that that that that continues to grow and blossom. And sometimes it can be a bad apple to really ruin it. All right. So making sure that that bad apples actually never show up or never comes is a key part of of my own strategy, you know, with making sure as we as we keep the culture in a good lockdown for the years ahead.

Gene Hammett [9:20]
I want to get specific, is there a question that you use or some technique that you have to be able to tune into someone’s ability to be humble?

Manny Dureja [9:31]
You know, I think you can pick it up a lot of times in demeanor. You know, it’s a body language thing for me, you know, so it’s not so many questions and the responses to it, although that carries through as well. It’s, it’s absolutely my opinion. You know, I’m kind of a body language reader. When it comes to you know,

Gene Hammett [9:51]
Is that then difficult with video calls and maybe you’re not doing that much hiring right now. But have you ever done it through video versus being in person?

Manny Dureja [10:01]
Now, how do you know I mean, the video isn’t compromised at all, unless you do it with eye contact facial or just kind of smiles to know smiles and just kind of, you know, the way that things flow off the tongue, right? So that’s all still very much so caught on the zoom-in team calls and FaceTime more than ever. So if anything, we’re getting closer we get, we get it, we get a closer look at your face, you know, bloated up to the 27-inch screen. So you know, if anything, if you know some ways to even be a little bit more efficient.

Gene Hammett [10:33]
I know that as you’re building a team out one of the rules that you are one of the challenges we all have as leaders is how do we impart these across the company ensure that we stay aligned with it so you’re building a leadership team? Right now? How do you make sure that you they carry that forward across to the frontline employees?

Manny Dureja [11:00]
You know, I think again, it’s always kind of leading from the front line. You know, I think that that’s kind of the attitude that we carry through with our current team and our current management team and leading from the frontline makes the world of a difference whether it’s something you know groups in the armed forces to you know, businesses here on the ground truth in America. I think that you know, it really is an exemplary piece of being a great leader and keeping that humility in check as well. Humility does have a lot to do with that I think you know, if you hear if you’re not humble about it enough, then you know, you won’t you don’t want to jump on the phone line, you like to pass that buck down. But I think it all comes hand in hand.

Gene Hammett [11:39]
You may not know this Manny but I originally titled this whole podcast started over six years ago, Leaders in the Trenches. Because it was that specific moment of really being in the frontlines and I have no problem with leaders that are you know, when to create a team and step off and be serial entrepreneurs and create you know, 10 companies, but I am I have a lot of connection with people that have this focus of being on the front lines. If you’ve seen the value of that across building the culture of the company, making sure that you’re not quote-unquote, in the ivory tower, that quote-unquote, what I’m sorry, in the IV ivory tower of Lido. Yes. Have you seen the benefit across the company?

Manny Dureja [12:24]
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I think you are, you are some of your greatest Intel, you know, as you’re growing and scaling the business is coming from the front lines in the business and what’s operating at that, at that, that the team that works, you know, kind of in the field, if you will, and, and in that, that feedback, having that steady stream and in real-time, I think it’s a it’s a critical part to keeping, keeping the team growing every year.

Gene Hammett [12:53]
So I know that we’ve all as leaders have made some mistakes and I you know, I don’t want you to like era all the time. Dirty Laundry that you’re uncomfortable. But is there been a mistake that you’ve made as a leader that requires you to really change your own beliefs and mindset around leadership?

Manny Dureja [13:11]
Yeah, I mean, obviously plenty, right? Plenty of mistakes along the way. But the best learnings always come from those mistakes. You know, I think in some ways those mistakes are, you know, can come with lack of preparedness. I think that’s really it. You know, it is one of the toughest things with leaders and executives of leading companies that it’s like, you have to have a playbook on the shelf for everything at all times. When you don’t, you don’t want to be caught there without it. And you know, scenarios like COVID-19 come up, and no one had a playbook for that everyone is looking at the shelf that’s leading a company like well, you know, we don’t have anything for this. And that can happen also. But I think even pre COVID-19 there were situations where the preparedness wasn’t there as well as it should have been and something that we do have to work those extra nights and weekends and making sure we have Have the hundreds of different playbooks that we needed any given time. And I think now, you know, speaking to the pandemic, I think most companies across America now have that playbook, you know, and, and even as a nation, we do and have really worked together in the last eight weeks. So I know we have.

Gene Hammett [14:18]
What allows you to keep evolving as a leader. I know that some people read some people take in other aspects of the evolution of a leader but how do you do it personally Manny?

Manny Dureja [14:33]
Yeah, I just I would say that it is a cross-function of between reading keeping up on some good material, material education firm believer in it that it definitely evolves over time and better and better feedback. A lot of times come up over time. So reading up keeping up and then you know, staying in touch with the team and, and making sure that their interests are all or remain in line. With businesses, businesses need change.

Gene Hammett [15:04]
I want to switch gears a little bit. One of the things that I’ve seen companies that grow fast, they have rituals that allow the team to bond together. Sometimes it’s rituals or, or odd or counterintuitive. What comes to mind when I ask you about a ritual that has really moved the needle for your company?

Manny Dureja [15:24]
You know, from a culture outside of the office piece, you know, which is where I would go to, to answer this that we, we have monthly. We have monthly happy hours, which naturally we haven’t had since February at this point is we’re in May 2020. We’re actually hosting our first company virtual happy hour on at the end of this month. And yeah, there are ways to still make some good bonding there happen. I’m going to actually send everyone they don’t know this yet, but I’ll be sending everyone a delivery of their favorite beverage to their door, ours. Before that happy hour kicks off. So we get to kind of arranging a little neat things like that. But outside of that, you know, we do these quarterly hangouts to where it’s a deeper dive, such as hanging out at a bar, but we’ll, you know, do the whole great escape room, if you’ve ever done to get locked in a room, split the team up and, and, you know, charge that at who gets out first, to just go and do a ping pong place and play ping pong and tap golf and other elements that go outside of just the bar scene and we do every quarter.

Commercial [16:29]
I don’t know if you caught that. But I want to bring a spotlight to something that Manny said, he talks about having a happy hour and having everyone’s favorite beverages shipped to them. Are you taking the time to get to know your people so that you know what their favorite beverages are? And are you taking the steps to make sure that they feel connected to the work by maybe spending a little bit of money and actually having a happy hour where everyone gets their own favorite beer, wine or cocktail? Well, I know that might not be your style, but here’s the thing that you can take away from this. Are you really taking time to think about and creative ways, ways to increase your connection with people? plain and simple? Are you doing it? If you’re not, because learn from many in this area back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [17:16]
I want to go back to that, that favorite drink thing. So you’ve taken this not just Oh, it’s easy to get together as a happy hour, but you’ve probably done a little bit of research to figure out what beer someone likes or wine they like or you know, maybe it’s even the harder liquors which is perfectly okay with me. But I love the fact that you’ve taken some time to to be personalized and send it and have it delivered to their door. Did you get that idea of somewhere or just something you wanted to do to take this up a notch?

Manny Dureja [17:47]
You know, Mark Cuban was talking about this a couple of weeks ago, which a lot of people are talking about that he was sending his customers or some of his cup portfolio companies were sending started just that week started to send customers Like this virtual happy hour invites and sent them, you know, gift card or alcohol with it. Because, you know, the whole happy hour thing. It’s just it, you know, we’re doing a lot of that as a country. We were at least before COVID-19. And, and, and, you know, it’s a social thing. And you know, it’s part of building relationships. And, you know, so yeah, I think that that kind of goes hand in hand, it happens to be with the team to that set of customers. So I just, I just took that idea and said, you know, we’ll do a virtual happy hour with our team, which a lot of teams are already doing that ticket the extra mile, and if I was going to pay for the whole round of evening drinks and food there, which I always do on those monthly happy hours, why not just you know, take some of that budget and if you will, and bring it right, everyone’s front door.

Gene Hammett [18:44]
I love the idea and it speaks a lot to the value that you put in your team. I know that we focused on humility and being humble as a leader, but I want to give you a chance to kind of maybe even look at this and take it in another direction. What else is really really made an impact to your company growing fast as it relates to leadership or culture?

Manny Dureja [19:08]
You know, I think head down, keep going not stopping and high fiving over the small celebrations, there are some big celebrations Don’t get me wrong, it’s small celebrations to celebrate, and be thankful for, but you just got to keep ongoing. And you can’t look back. I mean, I think a lot of times when you see businesses slow down, it’s because they, they allowed celebrating maybe too much for some of the milestones that hey if we just keep going we can keep building off of that momentum right now rather than slowing it down. And I think it all just goes hand in hand with keeping I mean, I think we haven’t stopped you know, even we just had our best quarter ever in the first quarter 2020 closed the month of April weird in this environment with not just the best April in the company’s history, but our best month in the company’s history. You know, it’s never there. It’s the attitude of like, yeah, we should be stopping to celebrate that because it’s in the middle of a pandemic. But we’re not. You know, it’s just to keep on keeping on attitude. Yeah, their tower.

Gene Hammett [20:07]
I’m sure you’ll celebrate it at the happy hour.

Manny Dureja [20:09]
We will definitely. Yeah, for sure.

Gene Hammett [20:13]
Manny, I really appreciate you sharing your insight as a leader that the importance of being humble, and having a team that’s also humble as well. Thanks for being on the podcast.

Manny Dureja [20:25]
Thank you.

Gene Hammett [20:25]
I love interviews like this where people get real and talk about some of the things that people aren’t willing to go there. The courage of leaders to talk about their egos. And being humble is really empowering to me. I really love when leaders let it go and share what really is necessary for us to grow as human beings, as leaders. And of course, as people inside of our companies and the world. Your humility and leadership are very important. They go hand in hand. And you probably know that by now if you’ve listened to the entire episode. I really love what I get to do working with leaders that are in the defining moments of their own journey as leaders, they want to go beyond where they are today. They’re not quite sure what it looks like, what it takes to get there. What do they need to let go up? That’s where I come in, and help you understand exactly what you need to do, who you need to be. And what is really holding you back from having the life having the leadership and growing your company exactly the way you want to make sure you reach out to me, [email protected]. When you think about leadership, make sure you think of the growth think tank and the fast growth leaders that we have here. As always lead with courage. Well, see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

 

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