The Critical Elements of Leadership

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CHICAGO — Before I begin, I would like to thank you for all of your encouraging phone calls, letters and e-mails for more than a year now. I encourage you to please place your remarks — positive or negative — in the comments section at the bottom of this article.
As I sat and watched our President give his State of the Union address, I became amazed at the arrogance and lack of respect demonstrated by those we have elected. Yes, we can agree or disagree on certain issues, but such behavior, in my opinion, is just uncalled for. This issue, and others, further demonstrates that there are challenges for those who call themselves leaders or those who may be in leadership positions, no matter who or where you are.
Supervisors, the boss, the vice president, the company commander, the chief executive officer, the chairman of the board and even the head of the household must understand some key points before they can view themselves as leaders. It’s a fact that leaders are made, not born.
In the past, I’ve asked that those in responsible positions take a hard look at where they’ve been, where they’re going and whom they’re taking with them. My only hope is that anyone in a leadership role will take the time to read and digest these remarks.
If you’re in a leadership position, or if you plan to be in a leadership position, you must encourage your management team to give you honest feedback. Include all members of your team in the process — don’t go it alone or make it appear that way. You must listen to and comprehend this feedback.
Once you have digested this feedback, you need to respond in an honest fashion. If you don’t understand the situation, don’t respond until you’re confident that you have all the facts.
If you are playing favorites, discontinue this inappropriate behavior. Your team’s perception can vary in many directions.
When you meet with your management team, encourage honesty.
You must single out management potential throughout your organization, even though these folks may have your job someday. Think of your organization in lieu of yourself.
If you are in a mid-level management position, assert your management expertise and leadership model so that others at higher levels will recognize your capability.
If you think you’re a leader, have a retreat with your management team — include all levels, from CEO to president to chairman of the board. Ask these folks what they think of you as a manager, leader, etc. Don’t lead this initiative — have someone external to your organization manage this process. You’re going to get a real wakeup call, but if you listen carefully and react accordingly, you can become a much more effective leader.
If you think you’re not performing up to expectations, you’re letting your organization down, so it may be time to step down or move to another area. This is tough to do, but it happens every day.
Try and set an example by understanding all issues for which you’re responsible. Examples are set by showing compassion and fairness, and by letting others perform.
If you’re a new manager, remember where you came from and who taught you the rules of the road. If you’re in a new management position and someone has your previous job, don’t try to go back and manage that part of the business as well — it sends bad vibes.
If your managers need help, give them some support. Be careful here to spread resources where they’re needed. Understand that it’s difficult to ascertain the needs of all components. Carefully examine the workloads for which you’re responsible.
Think about what you say and how you say it, and how others around you talk. For example, take a no-tolerance position on sexual harassment.
Examine new ideas by trying them out with those who will be most affected. Don’t make a decision until you’ve covered all your bases, and, again, listen to all the members of your management team.
In your office setting, think about how others perceive your actions. Are you professional or not? For example, do you spend a major portion of your day surfing the web and looking busy, while others go above and beyond to make your organization a good one, or are you out there trying to make things happen without getting in the way?
In the beginning of this article, I mentioned the President’s State of the Union address. Ask yourself this question: How would you act if your team of managers only partially acknowledged your direction, and how would you resolve those differences? It takes a lot of work and true communication.


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