I’ve been working with executive coach Steve Arneson to improve my leadership skills. Part of Steve’s coaching style is to have us map out a “Leadership Journey”, which is a map of how we got to where we are as leaders. Below are a few highlights:
Definition of Leadership
Providing a clear picture of WHAT success looks like, an idea of HOW we might get there and most importantly, conviction about WHY it’s important.
I don’t think you get anywhere unless you know what success looks like. When I’ve succeeded as a leader, I’ve ensured there was a clear picture of success available for the team. When I’ve failed, post-mortems have revealed that there wasn’t a clear picture of the win.
I always talk about an idea of how we get there. Not the exact path, because I don’t know the best path. The team will always come up with the best way of getting to success. Again, post-mortems have revealed to me that being overly prescriptive in the path tends to yield lower overall success.
My Leadership Values
I could have taken the easy way out and just given you Colin Powell’s, but decided to put together my own list. In no particular order:
- Leaders eat last — Leaders let the team take the credit and enjoy the fruits of their labor first. Leaders also let the team recharge and refresh first. Show me a leader first on the chow line and I’ll show you someone who’s not a leader.
- Don’t ever ask someone to do something you won’t do yourself — Pretty self-explanatory, but important to remember. You’re never too big, important and highly-paid to do the things you expect your team to do.
- Remain calm. They are not shooting at you. — There’s nothing worth getting overly excited about in the business world. They won’t be armed at the next meeting and, even if you screw up royally, the world will revolve around the sun tomorrow.
- Get there the first with the most — Attributed to Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest, this is a doctrine that’s even more applicable today. When faced with an opportunity or a problem, bring everything you’ve got and in a hurry. You can always send some of the extra back, but once you’re engaged in a business problem it’s sometimes hard to add additional resources to the engagement.
- Manage output, not input — Figure out what you want to accomplish and don’t be prescriptive out how you get there. People are infinitely creative and can figure out many ways–with fewer resources than you might imagine–of achieving the objective.
- Always be the dumbest person on the team — Hire smarter people than you and surround yourself with the smartest people you can. ”If we hire people bigger than ourselves, we will become a company of giants,” said the legendary David Ogilvy.
- Only associate with people with positive attitudes — Life’s too short to hang out with negative people. Spread doom and gloom somewhere else, just not around me.
- Large quantities of failure is the key ingredient to success — The only way to generate big wins is to try hard and a lot. There’s no such thing as guaranteed success. As a direct response marketer, over 99.8% of everything I’ve ever done has failed. I’m OK with it and learned from each failure.
- Make a decision with 70% information, even if it’s the wrong decision — There’s no such thing as 100% certainty and even waiting for Pareto’s 80% may delay you too long. Get enough information and go with your gut.
- Always understand the mission — You have to know what success looks like and the mission objective before going. You can’t plan adequately without knowing what you want to achieve.
- There’s no such thing as stupid questions, only stupid people who don’t ask questions — A saying I learned from my years at International Masters Publishers. So true.
There you have it.