Best Ways to Lead

man standing in front of a group talking

January 5, 2024

In addition to being an award-winning company, Interstates focuses on teaching their employees to be the best leaders possible. Scott Peterson, Interstates’ CEO, recently joined Tim Spiker on the Be Worth Following podcast and talked about how he leads his team.


Company. During this interview, Peterson shared that Interstates’ mission is “to grow and make Interstates stronger with vitality so that we can pass things on to the next generation.” It is our goal to remain an enduring company that can get through difficult times and thrive during the good times by building and developing leaders from within through various learning programs and innovative strategies. Interstates is proud of the culture we have built because our leaders know the kind of work that went into establishing it. That culture has cascaded to new hires and interns as well. Team members ensure that everyone feels valued and has the opportunity to learn and grow.

Finding Solutions and Like-Minded People.

In addition to being an enduring company, it is important to understand how to find solutions and where to turn when you might run stuck. In this leadership tip, Peterson reflects on his own background because it helped shape him into the husband, father, man, and leader he is today. From the time he was in Boy Scouts, he made sure to surround himself with like-minded people who wanted to push themselves to be successful. He carried this mindset through the following stages of his life, including college and beyond. Peterson shared some of the leaders that were part of his life and a few key lessons he learned from each one. For example, one of his professors at the University of South Dakota told his students that it was his main job to “teach them how to think,” not just relay content and lessons. If they could tap into a perspective where they were not only looking for the correct answer but also looking for ways to find a solution, they would be able to apply this skill in almost any situation.

Looking for solutions can be challenging, but as a leader, it is necessary. It may require leaders to be vulnerable and admit they are unsure how to proceed. Being confident about finding a solution allows that leader to be secure and settled in their ability and their team's ability. “If you talk about the storm, you own the storm. If you don’t talk about the storm, the storm owns you,” Peterson often goes back to this quote. Recognizing a problem or issue gives you a chance to get ahead of it and correct it. However, if you avoid the problem and let it brew, then that problem will only become bigger. One way Peterson suggests to prevent this is by getting input and feedback from others.


At Interstates, we have three different kinds of feedback that we ask our team members to provide on a regular basis. “Plus” feedback focuses on encouragement and positive reinforcement, “Delta” feedback focuses on providing an opportunity to change or improve, and “Corrective” feedback is stepping in and preventing a major problem from occurring. Feedback (especially delta or corrective) can be humbling, but it gives people an opportunity to step back, reset, refocus, and pivot. Successful leaders understand they must provide and request feedback.

Extending Trust

Trust is established when leaders provide consistent, clear direction to their teams. Leaders must extend trust first if buy-in is needed about an idea or philosophy. This often leads to a significant improvement in understanding and alignment. Interstates provides a ‘why’ in all the work they do, which also increases trust. Empowering your team members and extending trust to them helps them to grow as leaders and reduces complacency. Encouragement breeds confidence, and that makes employees want to continue to do good work.

Servant Leadership

At Interstates, we have a servant leadership philosophy, which means that part of a leader’s role is to serve others. This is the cornerstone of our culture, but it didn’t happen overnight. It has been more than 25 years in the making. That is approximately when EIL (Excellence in Leadership) began. Based on our desire to develop leaders from within, Interstates leaders developed this internal training course where we invite team members to take the next step in their leadership journey. It includes classroom sessions and experiential learning about various topics. Like any new initiative, it took time to establish EIL, but now we have a consistent waiting list of team members who want to leverage this opportunity for their personal development and to impact the overall growth of the company.

Peterson believes anyone can be a leader. It’s not just for people with a particular title or in a certain position. At Interstates, we want our employees to take ownership of their development and to learn and grow from a variety of teachers who all bring in unique talents, skills, and experiences. If you have a team or a group that you are trying to lead, consider trying these tips, as Interstates has seen countless members grow within themselves personally and professionally because they adopted these strategies.

If leaders give team members basic tools – then they can build a great culture.

Listen to the original podcast.