Recognizing that helping their organization achieve its goals is a means of improving personal success, leaders should have one fundamental question in mind, “How can I increase my value to the organization?” Volumes of literature exists to support thinking about this question. This article provides you five simple, time-tested Dos and Don’ts.
- gain self-awareness
- think and act strategically
- project optimism, especially during difficult times
- constantly develop yourself and team
- know your value
- get mired in the “weeds” of everyday activities
- think success begins and ends with your own team
- do everything yourself
- fear telling people the truth
- forget who you work for
Identifying and understanding your strengths in leadership, communication, and planning is indispensable for the simple reason that you know what you are good at. More importantly, however, you become cognizant of what you are not comfortable with, or proficient in. This knowledge help you avoid unnecessary risk-taking.
“Why” is the most important word you that you can pronounce in a leadership position. By identifying the purpose of a task, goal or objective, you are in a better position to link it to higher goals in the organization; likewise, you can rightfully dismiss them if no link exists. Overall, asking “why” is the means of ensuring the efficacious allocation of time and resources.
Nothing can kill progress more than a defeatist attitude. An overt pessimism is contagious, and will ultimately act to rationalize setbacks or poor performance. You must project confidence no matter what. Peers and colleagues will recall your steadfastness, especially during challenges when they felt overwhelmed or panicked.
Learn from other’s mistakes. Educate yourself in order to make life easier. Make every team activity a learning lesson. After a team assignment, sit everyone down and walk through the previous planning and implementation phases. Ask questions about decision-making. Enable the team to learn from their successes as well as their failures.
Anyone can push buttons, pull levers, or accomplish tasks; not everywhere, however, can consciously create value. Look for the 2nd or 3rd order of effects from your accomplishments. What did the organization gain in the long run from your previous assignment? Who else benefited from your success? This type of personal worth assessment will help boost your rational self-confidence as a leader. It is this type of positive expression that acts as a model for others in the organization to emulate.
Every time you lose sight of the bigger picture you reduce your return on investment to the organization. Differentiate between what is essential in your sphere of control and what is not. Delegate your non-essentials to leaders who should be responsible for them in the first place.
Organizations are like a ships out to sea, each slowly progressing toward its ultimate destination. If challenges arise (and they always does) one person’s success coupled with others’ failures inevitably produce the same outcome: everyone goes down with the ship. Do your best to reach out and support your colleagues, especially across different functions. This type of cross-functional support will not only bolster your reputation but your business competency as well.
Consciously develop the discipline of “trust, but verify.” A very bad precedent is set once you give the impression that nothing can work effectively without you. There is no better way to kill personal initiative and to poison the culture than to treat employees like children. You’ll help to decrease your personal and your team’s effectiveness, all the while decreasing everyone’s probability of long-term success.
The most direct remark I ever heard was when a senior executive said to his new, underperforming director, “If this is your best how do I get my money back?” Too many young leaders today don’t seem to understand that organizations have limited means, i.e., their capital is finite. Hard truths sting a lot less than firings and unemployment.
You work for the shareholders, or the people who have invested their money, time and their life’s security into your organization. A loyalty to ensure the best decisions for the organization is far more important than any personal loyalty. Your credibility as a leader will manifest itself by producing value and not by protecting personalities or agendas.
By supporting the organization in achieving its goals, the leader simultaneously improves his own personal and professional worth. It is not an easy task given all the alternative techniques and methods available in modern leadership studies. The Dos and Don’ts provided above are simple, time-tested and true. Grasping them will help all other questions of nuance simply fall into place.