Archive for March, 2009
Being a leader is not easy. It requires discipline, especially if you are in it for the long-haul. The discipline has to extend into all of your activities: marketing, sales, purchasing, operations, and financial, to name a few. It takes a special discipline to seek out and listen to others – and then not take their advice.
I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.
–G. K. Chesterton
We know that Chesterton’s advice works in the stock market: when others are buying, the price is high and it’s time to sell. Those few of us (contrarians) who were smart enough to heed this advice managed to miss the recent precipitous drop in the market. But what about in general?
Can you lead without a vision of what you are trying to accomplish? Certainly, Edison had a vision of what a light bulb would accomplish and some idea of how it should be built. But what about yourself? Do you need a vision to accomplish your goals? Can you build and maintain the trust of a team if you don’t have a vision?
Vision is crucial to setting good goals
For the purposes of leadership, a vision is an image or concept of the future that forms the basis for your plans and actions and which inspires or motivates your followers. Here’s a fact: without a vision, there are no meaningful goals. Since a goal is commonly defined as something that is specific (a future state), measurable and time-targeted, your goals are formed around your vision.
How strong is your brand? Will it lead potential customers to your business or potential members to your club? Will it induce current customers to continue to buy – or current members to renew membership in your club? Whether it will says a lot about your leadership.
Your brand delivers a strong message to your customers and prospects as to what they can expect to find in your products, what they can trust and how it will fulfill their needs and desires. Basically, your brand is your leadership message. It helps your customers and prospects decide whether they want to do what you want done (namely, buy your product or service).
Silos within your organization can destroy your leadership. Even if the silo doesn’t seem to affect you, the fact that others who report to you are affected by the silo means it is undermining trust in your leadership. The silo should be dealt with promptly.
We learned in The Importance of Trust to Your Leadership that trust takes time to build and can be easily damaged. When you allow a silo to form under your leadership, you will typically find that all of your followers divert their attention toward the silo, lose some trust in you and - sometimes - your boss also loses some trust in you. Recognizing and eliminating silos are key leadership skills. Let’s review an early real-life example from someone whose later efforts won rave reviews from Hammer and Champy, authors of Re-engineering the Corporation.
What you say and what you do affect whether people see you as a leader. In fact, how you state your goals can determine your success or failure as a leader. Some words excite your potential followers, others turn them off. Using the right words at the right time is a key leadership skill. It is very important that your actions be consistent with your words, but if your words don’t attract and motivate your followers, you will have few opportunities to demonstrate your leadership.
When you are the leader, it’s easy to lose sight of why people trust you to lead them. Just ask a CEO who was suddenly deposed - or former President George W. Bush, who seemed surprised near the end of his presidency that the Republicans in Congress no longer followed his leadership.
Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. – Will Rogers
As presented in the last post, Experts: What Type are Needed Now?, we face an economy in which we can’t be certain that we can recognize the right track. Just sitting there is, consequently, even more risky. We are passing through a major economic storm, possibly the largest of our lives. We need to remain vigilant, aware of the risks and taking all reasonable precautions against possible disruptive events.
Difficult times like these can stress the skills of the most experienced leader. It’s tempting to look to experts for guidance in creating a path to safety and prosperity for our companies and our families. Yet there are so many experts, how to chose among them – and how useful will their advice be? Can we be our own best expert in prospering in our current economic environment?