Written by Joe Driscoll

November 25, 2009

“Who Needs a Boss” read the title to the story. The article went on to extol the virtues of team management. “The team”, as it has been called, has been dubbed the competitive weapon of the 1990’s.

While teamwork is essential to the accomplishment of most objectives, the success of any team is dependent on the quality of its leadership. Even the most talented team will not reach its potential without effective leadership.

While today’s management scholars hail the emergence of the “management team” as the productivity breakthrough of the 1990’s, they perhaps overlook the importance of leadership. A famous military leader understood the impact and importance of leadership on the performance of the team. General Pershing said, “A competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops; while on the contrary, an incapable leader can demoralize the best troops.”

One need not look any further than current events to learn several valuable lessons about leadership. Events will eventually require that leaders make necessary, but sometimes unpopular decisions. The mantel of leadership can be a lonely burden to bear. It’s comforting to see the support that the President has received in recent weeks, but what would have happened if the first few days of the war hadn’t gone well?

One can look again to current events to see the impact of leadership styles on communications. News reports indicate that the Iraqi leadership is inclined to “kill the messenger” when the messenger brings bad news. This quickly contributes to an environment in which the boss hears only what he wants to hear, a situation not unique to middle eastern dictators. The impact on decision making is obvious and regrettable.

Effective leaders apply their skills with such apparent ease that they are often referred to as “born leaders”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leaders become leaders through experience and hard work.

You acquire the ability to lead by taking a honest look at yourself. Hold yourself up to the standards that you admire in an effective leader. Examine your performance against those standards. Set objectives for your conduct in those areas that are important to your development as a leader. Begin by looking at some of the traditionally respected character traits of good leaders.

INTEGRITY. When you give your word, make sure you keep it. Your people are depending on you, don’t let them down. All your statements, official or casual, are considered to be true. Make sure they are. If you have made a mistake or created a false impression, don’t overlook it or be too proud to correct it. Credibility takes a long time to establish, but it can be erased in seconds, never to be regained.

KNOWLEDGE. Know your job. The charismatic school of leadership doesn’t get the job done over the long run. Most of us become reasonably expert at recognizing a phony, don’t be one. If you don’t know something, admit it. If it is important, go and find it out. Dis information and disillusionment are often distributed by well meaning individuals that “fake it” when they should have known better.

DECISIVENESS. When making decisions, get all the information that is available to you. Weigh all the facts and then issue your decision in clear and confident terms. We all need direction from our leaders. Don’t quibble over minor points and create ambiguities that will transfer responsibility to those who need direction. When you are wrong, say so. Everybody makes a mistake. The trick is not to make the same one twice.

FAIRNESS. Create an even playing field for those that work for you. Don’t play favorites. Keep anger and emotion out of your decisions. Give credit where credit is due. Recognize the hard work and good ideas of your employees and be grateful that you are associated with quality people. A lot has been recently written about executive perks from parking places to lunch rooms. True leaders get their satisfaction from a job well done and not by first feathering their own nest.

ENTHUSIASM. It is contagious. Put all that you have into the achievement of your objectives and others will follow. Display indifference and you will lead in the wrong direction. Your knowledge, interest and enthusiasm will inspire others more than any other single factor.

Your leadership will enable your team to reach its full potential.

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