No shortcuts to being a great leader

27 11 2007

There are no shortcuts to effective sustained leadership.

It is not easy to be a leader, or to maintain a position of leadership.

There is no book, movie, seminar or short course that will turn one into a leader.

We can learn about certain elements of leadership that we may or may not possess, and incorporate these ideas into our lives and behavior.

But leadership is not about what information we possess, our good intentions, or a business title and corner office.

It’s all about what we show to others.

It’s about what we do.

Day to day actions.

Sustained leadership success comes from; listening, attention to detail, implementing ideas, perseverance in the face of adversity, willingness to embrace innovation, training and mentoring others, planning and risk identification, and the most important factor of all, providing a living example to others.

A true leader provides a model to others.

Leaders will consistently provide examples of; honesty, integrity, ethics, dignity, passion, diligence, capacity to learn, and unwillingness to be defeated.

A true leader will also provide examples of how to lose, how to accept defeat and move on, because leaders are not always winners

Leadership is not a 9 to 5 job, it’s a way of life.

Related Links

Leadership lesson – A Message to Garcia

Leadership, do you want the job, or just the title and benefits?

What defines an exceptional leader

Improve your leadership profile





Improve your leadership profile

19 06 2007

Ever wonder if your leadership style should be less interactive, less personal with your team?

Do you believe that the “cold emotionless leader” approach will bring better results to the organization?

Teresa Amabile in an interview entitled How Team Leaders Show Support-or Not in The Harvard Business School Working Knowledge newsletter, outlines her study published in 2004 in The Leadership Quarterly, and gives insight into leadership characteristics and styles as they impact group performance and creativity in organizations.

She identified 4 key behaviors that will improve the perception of team leader’s support by the team members (and by association improve group attitude and final results).

The groups perception of the leader’s support were positive when:

  • they received on-time feedback and prompt response to problems. On-time decision making
  • they were supported in their decisions on a personal AND professional basis by the leader and a sense of relationship was developed through exchange of personal information. Create personal relationships.
  • they were recognized individually and in public for their achievements. Praise and recognition.
  • they were included and asked for ideas and input about decision making. Inclusion and participation of all team members.

Sound familiar?

They are fundamental characteristics of any leader or manager.

The groups perception of the leader’s support were negative when the leader:

  • Did not manage the work efficiently. Lack of timely decision-making, disinterest, disorganization.
  • Unable to provide clear role definition and objectives. Lack of focus and objectives.
  • Unable to solve problems or avoid them. Lack of strategy and planning.

Becoming a good leader is not all about barking orders or the implementation of revolutionary, new and improved ideas about data management and numbers analysis .

It’s about listening, doing your job and making decisions that affect others on-time.

It’s about dedicating time and applying common sense to create and maintain human relationships.

Related Links

How Team Leaders Show Support-or Not

Leading your team to mediocrity

Are we killing team performance by over-communicating

Step by step beginners guide to project management

Leadership, do you want the job or just the title and benefits

What defines an exceptional leader





Leading your team to mediocrity

15 06 2007

“Too many chiefs and not enough indians ”

Slow Leadership has a post entitled Too Much Leadership that reminded me of a key concept required to effectively lead and manage people, and insure success in our organizations.

The willingness to pitch in and do the work along with the team.

There is no miracle formula to sustained success.

It’s about getting the work done.

It’s incredible important that we raise our hands to volunteer and roll up our sleeves, and not just point our fingers and give orders.

It creates a sense of camaraderie, provides an understanding of what are co-workers are dealing with, and shows a spirit of “doing what it takes” in order to make the business work.

The desire to “be the boss” somehow leads people to think that they are exempt from work, or entitled to give orders instead pitching in.

Being the leader involves identifying and eliminating the bottlenecks that affect your people in their work.

Supervision and coordination of work activities is part of that managerial responsibility.

Assuring that everyone gets their job done efficiently is what will make you a successful manager.

Best way to understand what that takes is to jump into the fray once in a while, listen, learn, work and think how to make it better or more efficient.

Do more and supervise less.

Start using your whole hand at work, and not just your index finger.

Related Links

Successful Managers should be breaking the rules

Slow Leadership:  Too Much Leadership

20 ways to guarantee failure as a manager 





20 ways to guarantee failure as a manager

15 06 2007

A guide for the new leader who wants to alienate all employees and fail as quickly as possible in their new management position

  1. Immediately purchase new office furniture and redecorate your office.  Spend a lot of money and make your office look very different from any other office in the company.
  2. Insist on new computers, cell phones and software for your use only.
  3. Spend several days working on your title, the press release announcing it and how your business cards look.
  4. Insist and “fight over” small insignificant details and decisions in meetings, leaving big decisions and “big picture” items in limbo.
  5. Treat the people in the organization as if they are there for your convenience and well being.  Be as rude as possible in your communications.  Demand, never ask.
  6. When in meetings and conversations, always answer the ringing telephone, type and send Blackberry messages, read and respond to all incoming email and instant messages.  Interrupt frequently and ask people to repeat themselves because you were busy.
  7. Plan company workshops or events aimed at creating a new atmosphere of “community” at work for weekends or after work hours, and preferable with short notice.
  8. Avoid sharing any information about your goals, ideas and strategies about the company with employees.  Always talk about theory, never get specific.  Keep it fuzzy and out of focus.
  9. Don’t listen to any ideas, solutions or complaints from employees or managers who report to you, especially if they have been with the company for a long time.
  10. Make strong permanent opinions about the company and employees, solely on the basis of discussions with top management and the business owners.
  11. Take lots of “business trips”  and attend every professional seminar and conference possible, do not take anyone from the company with you.  This is especially effective if the company is suffering from cash flow problems.
  12. Talk about implementing massive changes, re-inventing methods and strategies, promote innovation and tell everyone that money is not an issue for them to worry about, at the same time focus all your energy on cutting costs, and minimizing the organization.
  13. Immediately terminate some employees because someone told you to do it.
  14. Insist that everyone in the company learns how to work with a new software program that you like.
  15. Request reports and analysis from all managers and department heads, then several days later, repeat the request.  Don’t read or respond to any report and never acknowledge that you have received it.
  16. Schedule many inter-departmental meetings at odd hours, don’t provide an agenda, then cancel them at the last minute, or just don’t show up.
  17. Always refer to customers as if they were something evil and undesirable.
  18. Constantly remind employees that before you came to the company they were primitive and uneducated, without a clue as to what business is all about.
  19. Hire consultants, lots of consultants, expensive consultants are best.
  20. Never make a decision by yourself, always try and find total consensus on all issues.

Related Links

Motivation, not the leaders job

Leadership, do you want the job or just the title and benefits 





Maximize the impact of business conferences, seminars, and special events in your organization

15 06 2007

Attending business conferences, special events, lectures, seminars, classes and courses are part of our professional lives.

Events provide great information, professional tips, up to date industry information, inspirational and motivational ideas, and fantastic opportunities to expand your business network.

Unfortunately not all the events are interesting, useful or entertaining.   At times it is a waste of time and money.

But the occasional great event is inspirational, we leave the room vibrating with ideas, enthusiasm, motivation and the desire to put the words and concepts to work in our own lives and business organization.

Two days later we forgot about what we were going to do, how we were going to do it, and why it was important.

Then we sign up for another event, and the cycle repeats itself.

How can we take full advantage of the ideas, knowledge and opportunities from business events?

To get the most out of these events a bit of planning and follow through will allow you to maximize this knowledge and it’s impact in your professional and personal life.

Before you go

  1. Main reason why are you going to attend?  Write down your reasons for attending; to gain specific business knowledge, exploration (don’t know what to expect, but it might be good), my boss thinks it might be important, seek inspiration or motivation, networking opportunities.
  2. Why do you expect to learn, or who do you expect to meet?
  3. Can you do anything to prepare before you go?  Contact people before you go, read works from the author or about the topic, prepare specific questions?

After the event

  1. Write a brief,  one page, executive summary.
  2. Include the name of the event, place, date.
  3. What was the conference/event about.
  4. Note any reference materials given at the event, where are you going to file or save them?
  5. What did you learn that is applicable to you or your business?  This might be a general concept, or specific information, it’s what you want to bring back and implement.
  6. Who else in the organization should know about the information or is affected by it?
  7. Who did you meet while there, full contact information, how can they be interesting to your business in the future.
  8. What follow-up required (thank you notes, contact specific people, more research, share it with others, file it, forget it).
  9. What should be investigated further, and who should do it.
  10. What does it take to implement or disseminate the idea or knowledge in your business (resources, people, attitude, commitment).
  11. Personal comments or observations, what did you feel.
  12. Retain all these executive summaries in a file titles “Events, Conferences, Seminars, Classes, Lectures” or something similar, organize events by date, subject or month.
  13. Review your summary in 30 days and note progress or lack of progress.   What happened or didn’t happen?

The key to maximizing the impact of a special event in your organization is to take a few moments to reflect upon your objectives before attending and then summarizing your learning, next actions and follow through required after the event.

Simple, focused and effective.

Highly recommended that each attendee from your organization be required or encouraged to keep such a file, and share it with their co-workers or managers.

Related Links

Video: Mind Mapping by Stephen Pierce 

How to systematically analyze any decision for better decision making

9 steps to better decisions





Don’t find a solution, find a way to make it better

12 03 2007

We make a large error in our business and personal lives if we believe that every problem or situation can be solved immediately or in the short term through our decisions and application of resources.

Theoretically it’s possible, but our focus on solution instead of optimizing and making changes to make it better can blindfold us toward evolutionary processes that in the long term provide better, stronger and long lasting solutions.

I’m suggesting that every situation should be initially evaluated based on two basic criteria; can it be solved now, or can it be improved now.

The situations that can be solved now or in the short term, should be. The organization should dedicate the time and resources toward the solution.

An example would be a delivery service that has 3 trucks and cannot cover the current delivery area on-time due to an increase in customers and package volume. A possible swift solution would be the purchase of another vehicle and hiring of a new driver.

A situation that cannot be solved now or ever should be approached by identifying areas where improvement should be made. The time and resources of the company should be focused upon the improvement.

An example would be government’s attempt to eliminate poverty or disease from a population. A perfect solution is not possible or practical, but by focusing on specific areas one can find great opportunities for success or enormous impact (vaccinations for children against polio).

When we look at every situation as a problem that needs to be solved right now we may be missing the best solutions and strategies required to resolve the situation over the long term. Ask yourself:

  • Can we solve the problem quickly and efficiently with simply modification of variables or a shift in technology? If the answer is yes, then set the process and resources in motion.
  • What if the problem is not able to be solved quickly or has no practical or economically viable solution? This is where the approach of resolving and modifying parts of the problem comes into play.

This evolutionary approach to problem solving is not often requested or expected in business (the quick fix is always applauded and sought after), but often the best long term strategy is optimization and gradual modification.

This evolutionary problem solving process will provide new opportunities for change and solutions to be developed in the future.The identification of areas, processes or resources that are the bottlenecks in your organization become areas of opportunity.

Modifying and improving these bottlenecks will automatically create new bottlenecks, in new areas. The focus on identifying and solving these “new” situations leads to a process of continual improvement and a better, stronger organization.

This is one of the fundamental ideas behind the Theory of Constraints (TOC).

Common sense tells us that in a complex world not all solutions are simple, quick or painless. The “quick fix” is a great idea, but not often found in everyday life.

Observation of science, technology, philosophy and business ideas and strategies show us that change occurs through the rare revolution (paradigm shifts and new discoveries) and through the more common evolution (gradual modifications leading to continual change.

What can be changed, fixed or modified today to make the organization, process, product or service incrementally better?

Related Links

Why don’t they?

Starting over

How to systematically analyze any situation for better decision making

AGI Institute – Theory of Constraints

Evolution (Disambiguation)





Leadership lesson – A Message to Garcia

19 12 2006

I have just discovered the piece written by Elbert Hubbard in 1899, A Message to Garcia.

Inspirational and as relevant today as when it was written 107 years ago. A must read.

In 1495 words Elbert Hubbard has captured the essence of what being responsible is all about. A magnificent example of how independence, clear objectives and discipline can generate desired results.

Excerpt: “In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion.

When war broke out between Spain and the United States it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba – no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly. What to do!

Some one said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia.

How “the fellow by the name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia – are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.

The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?”

By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing“Carry a message to Garcia!”…….. Link

The majority of analysis I have found related to this piece focuses upon the employee. How we all wish to have individuals who do the job, who don’t require complex instructions, supervision and followup.

Disciplined individuals who are able to adapt to unfavorable circumstances and maintain their sense of mission. People who get the job done without whining, complaining, negotiating outcomes and deadlines.

Take a look at A Message to Garcia from the point of view of the leader, President McKinley. Faced with the need to notify Garcia in the jungles of Cuba, he trusted one man, Rowan, with the nearly impossible.

McKinley was satisfied that his instructions were clear, and did not give Rowan tips and tricks on how to get the mission completed. He was confident in Rowan’s abilities, or was prepared to accept failure. There were no committee meetings, no majority votes, no back-up army or alternative plans considered.

Here are some questions related to mangement and leadership to reflect upon.

  • Have you surrounded yourself with capable individuals, and trained them?
  • Do you trust that they have the capacity and abilities to do their job?
  • Do your people understand and embrace the mission and objectives of your organization?
  • Do they know you will support their actions and in order to reach that goal?
  • Have you enough confidence in them to let them carry the message to Garcia?

Related Links

Leadership – who do you want to lead

Are we killing team performance by over-communicating

What defines an exceptional leader

Motivation – Heroic Moments

Wikipedia: Elbert Green Hubbard

Quotations by Elbert Green Hubbard

A Message to Garcia