Solid leadership is a combination of instinct and education. It is born of the inherent versus environment precept. It is never all of one and none of another, but a balance. Great leaders carry a charisma: some of it inborn, some of it through the development of skills that bring with them confidence. That charisma, or as we call it, that “It” encompasses more than sheer charisma. “It” is the magic that causes people to follow when it doesn't make logical sense to do so. “It” enables groups of followers to weather storms, fight uphill battles, stretch their own limits beyond what was once thought possible, and live on long after the leader is gone. (By studying the greatest leaders in history, such as Ganghis Kahn, Atilla the Hun and Winston Churchill, we can get an education in the secrets of “It.”)
Any great leader has an “It” checklist that looks like this:
1. There is a difference between leaders and managers. Managers make sure that things are running smoothly, leaders create change and followings through vision.
2. Leaders create visions in which others can believe. Leaders enable followers to buy in to decisions by giving them clear objectives and expectations and them leaving them to use their talents and strengths to do the work.
3. Leaders understand and honor the words autonomy and empowerment. Leaders know not to do too much, but to supply their people with the resources and guidance they need to follow through on their own. Outstanding leaders lead the charge, riding on their horses with the troops, but they allow each soldier to draw their “bayonettes” as conditions necessitate.
4. Leaders see the totality of their company. Their cross-functional teams know how to work as a whole enterprise. The best of leaders teach their teams how they are interwoven, and how each team carries a vital purpose to the whole, and how they fit into the interwoven mesh of the corporate blanket.
5. Leaders understand the necessity of key subordinate leaders. They know how to hire based on unique valuable talents and remember to let those talents work for the group. They know that it is the weak leader who allows his own fears about loss of control to cloud his memory in regard to why those special talents were brought on board to begin with.
6. Leaders have followers who not only believe in the mission of the organization, but have followers who are accustomed to winning. Winners believe that goals and objectives can actually be captured. Leaders hire people who know how to win and thrive on the energy generated by winning.
7. Leaders are curious. Usually they are curious by nature. They want to know why and how things are done. They ask questions and aren't afraid to probe into unknown areas to find solutions.
8. Leaders are instinctual. They follow their gut. Their curiosity drives them to accumulate the necessary information they need so that when decision time comes, it is the gut that has the final say.
9.Leaders understand the saying that a rolling stone carries no moss. Their organizations are not mossy. They know that the key to success is continual momentum. Momentum breeds momentum. They carry this forward from product development and reward programs that boost morale, to customer satisfaction efforts.
10. Leaders reside in the moment of today and tomorrow simultaneously. They are not short sighted, developing systems and institutionalizing their best strengths in order to succeed today and in the future.
11. Leaders plan. They know that 90% of their time is best spent planning and 10% is spent on administrative work.
12. Leaders form partnerships. They don't pretend to be lone rangers. They know that their success hinges upon their ability to use other people strategically. The partnerships of successful leaders are win-win partnerships. They ally themselves with anyone from customers, competitors, vendors and whatever sources bring the results their organizations need.
13. Leaders are not incremental. They transform. They welcome change and use change to keep on top of their industries.
14. Leaders admit their mistakes. They know how blame casts a fatal blow to morale and trust. They do not, however, gravel and seek pity. They acknowledge, learn, and move on.
15. Leaders are masters of observation. They listen, watch, and detect what others overlook. They use the subtle cues or observations to give them the upper hand when needed.
16. Leaders institutionalize their values, visions, accomplishments and strengths. They know how, through procedures and systems, to filter their strengths through the organization.
17. Leaders may leave physically, but not spiritually. Their legacies live on long after they have exited their employment.
18. Leaders don't hold hands, they shape their organizations through shaping minds. They provide direction and guide. They do not believe in making decisions for their key subordinate right hands.
19. Leaders give credit where credit is due. They acknowledge and reward achievement and use the momentum from the accomplishments to fuel further success in their followers.
20. Leaders don't provide positions out of the goodness of their hearts. They create positions and fill them based on the objectives and the vision of the company.
21. Leaders remain focused on the company missions and lead their followers to do the same.
22. Leaders are global thinkers. They don't underestimate the power of the global economy. They constantly search for ways in which they can expand or benefit upon the global and they are keenly aware of the pitfalls of turning a blind eye to the global business markets.
23. Leaders know communication. They're savvy interpersonal and technological communicators. They know the ins and outs of dealing with various personalities as well as they know how e-mail connects them to their front line staff.
24. Leaders think outside the box, inside the box and all around the box.
25. Leaders are not afraid to take an unorthodox approach. You'll never hear one say, “We don't/can't do it that way.” They go beyond the “That's the way we always do it” mentality to the “That's the best way to do it.”
26. Leaders learn from leaders. They look to history, competitors and mentors. They are not too proud to always learn from those they admire.
27. Leaders know that there is always something more to learn. They are constantly feeding their minds. They know that the key to progressive transformation is found in ideas. They realize that success isn't going to happen. They have to seek new ways in which to make it happen.
28. Leaders give ownership when it is strategically advantageous to do so. They give rewards and incentives, such as stock options, in order to keep key employees. They understand that rewards give birth to new successes.
29. Leaders create teams to achieve goals. They know that the meeting of two minds can develop opportunities that only one mind may miss. They successfully manage the interactions of their teams in order to meet desired ends.
30. Leaders develop creative ways to cut through unnecessary bureaucracy or eliminate hindering bureaucratic practices in order to expedite vital activities.
31. Leaders know that in order to keep pace and be innovative, they need to educate and empower their staffs. They provide training, education, and workshops to keep the minds they lead in top, competitive shape.
32. Leaders focus their people's efforts on the customer.
33. Leaders understand that key employees are assets. They are careful about who is hired and appointed, understanding the ripple effects of putting the wrong people in the wrong places. Gary DiCamillo, Polaroid's Chief Executive since 1995, has suffered the woes of poor employee retention, losing key people in sales and product development. It's reported that most of these human resource assets were lost when DiCamillo filled his executive vice-president position with Judith Boynton, previous controller for Amoco. Key employees were baffled by the appointment and lost faith in DiCamillo for putting, what they thought, was an unqualified sub-leader in such a high-ranking position. Polaroid steadily lost $166 million since DiCamillo's reign, from 1995 through 2000. [Source: Forbes 1-22-01 p. 69.]
34. Leaders know how to eliminate the wrong people.
35. Leaders are decisive.
36. Leaders have the courage to live with their decisions. *
37. Leaders work it out when things go wrong. They face problems head on and deal with the issues at hand quickly and effectively.
38. Leaders charge forward with urgency.
39. Leaders guard all assets that give them an edge. They are careful to set in place confidentiality systems and to properly license and trademark intellectual property, inventions and groundbreaking concepts.
40. Leaders know that even the greatest product is not enough. Often criticized for not acting quickly enough to develop spin-off products from its PT Cruiser, DaimlerChrysler recently revealed concept cars based on the blockbuster success of the PT Cruiser. Why? The market will always demand something new, better, more versatile, etc. The GT Cruiser Concept has a larger engine, the PT Cruiser Convertible Concept offers a sporty, fun twist, and the Panel Cruiser Concept is offered as a light cargo vehicle with its 119.8 cubic feet and wood base floor. The original PT Cruiser is one of the most sought out vehicles by buyers today; it's sold at full list price and backordered for months at a time. DaimlerChrysler's possibilities are endless. What are they doing with the product to renew it, to increase demand, and to prepare to fill that demand?
Look at the list again. How can you better motivate your staff to perform at higher levels? Do you see what might be slowing down progress? What might you need to improve upon in your quest to run uphill and seize the flags of victory? Chances are you're doing a good job already. The question becomes, what can you do to convert from good to great? Prosper and enjoy!
© David and Lorrie Goldsmith