If there is one thing I have learned again and again – through direct experience on the “field of battle” and from the sidelines – it is the importance of leadership in organizations facing significant change.
A book by a former schoolmate I am reading, about a group of dogs suddenly “gifted” with human-like intellect and reasoning, got me thinking more on the subject. A bit of exploring and ruminating led me to draw some conclusions about the essentials of leadership that I think have practical, everyday application.
1. Find your core. Effective leaders know themselves. They are aware of their true values, and what makes them who they are. If you did an honest and objective inventory of your personal values, what would you find?
2. Find a good deputy – or two. A leader can’t be good at everything that matters – nor should you try. The greatest leaders achieve their greatness by having a couple of key people around them that both compliment and supplement the leader’s abilities, and know how to get things done. Take a look around you – what do you see?
3. Be clear about what you want. Clarity is the first step toward decisive action. Any lack of focus on the leader’s part is magnified and multiplied as it moves through the organization. Keep your language simple, direct and to the point.
4. Never coast. Organization change is neither a marathon nor a sprint – it’s a cross-country race. Use the downhill grades to preserve energy and recharge, but keep pressing forward – and be prepared to get wet and climb a fence or two along the way.
5. Meet face to face. There is no effective substitute for “sharing air”. I have yet to see a piece of technology that replaces the close-quarters intimacy of a face-to-face meeting in which important subjects are discussed, decisions are taken, and meaningful commitments are made.
6. Encourage disagreement and debate. Diversity of opinion and solidarity of commitment need to co-exist in an organization. Which means that the time for debate, disagreement and discord is before important decisions are made – not after.
7. Call the shot when you need to. Every leader faces situations where they need to make the decision. When those times come, refer to the points above, and make your mark.