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Monday, November 30, 2009

Why Every Leader Needs a Coach

In the world of sports there is a natural tendency to respect those who have succeeded on their own. These are the Olympians who have climbed to the summit by sheer strength of will, and raw talent. They have shown us all how to win. They have made it look easy. These are the heroes of the press, and the public. We look at a Sir Chris Hoy or a Rebecca Adlington and marvel at their success.

But, what makes Sir Chris Hoy or Rebecca Adlington so good?

Each has extraordinary talent. Each has tenacity, focus, and perseverance. Even if they did nothing more, each would be considered good athletes in their respective sport. However, each has taken an additional step, a step that has helped them achieve their well earned reputation. Each has a coach.

Why would someone as talented as these players use a coach?

The answer is actually relatively simple. In the heat of the event, neither can be an unbiased judge of how he or she is performing.

The same is true in business and government. In the heat of the boardroom, when the future is clouded by the fog of war, sagging economies, and a need to change the organisation, leaders are not always the best critics of their own performance, or the best judge of how their behaviour is affecting the organisation. A coach who can view the play from the sidelines can be an invaluable ally.

The role of coaching in the business and government world has changed over time. According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR):

'Ten years ago, most companies engaged a coach to help fix toxic behaviour at the top. Today, most coaching is about developing the capabilities of high-potential performers.' (Harvard Business Review, January 2009, "What Coaches Can Do for You", Diane Coutu and Carol Kauffman)

In the business and government world, about half of the coaches employed today are focused on the positive side of coaching, developing high-potential talent to assure top corporate performance. Another quarter of all coaches are focusing on strategic issues and organisational dynamics.

For the potential leader or manager seeking to improve and grow, a coach can provide insight into how behaviours are affecting the organisation, an independent assessment of the extent to which change efforts are achieving the desired results, or insight into which new behaviours are or are not working.

However, as the HBR pointed out in an article in 2007, learning and growing takes a significant amount of effort:

'The development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, often painful self-assessment. There are no shortcuts. It will take you at least a decade to achieve expertise, and you will need to invest that time wisely, by engaging in “deliberate” practice—practice that focuses on tasks beyond your current level of competence and comfort. You will need a well-informed coach not only to guide you through deliberate practice but also to help you learn how to coach yourself.' (Harvard Business Review, July-August 2007, "The Making of an Expert", K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, and Edward T. Cokely)

(Much of Ericsson's research is based on the world of athletic and artistic high performance - see for example, this 1994 New York Times article - http://www.nytimes.com/1994/10/11/science/peak-performance-why-records-fall.html?pagewanted=all ).

Don't expect instant success, and at the same time, expect constant progress. True mastery of of any trade or profession takes time.

Finally, you might find the following very short video of Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, interesting. If Eric Schmidt can benefit from having a coach, so can you.

For further information on the business coaching and mentoring services provided by Positive Leadership, please contact Gavin Hastings (gavin.hastings@positiveleadership.co.uk ).

Why Connectors are the New Influencers

Here is some fascinating insight from Havard Professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter on how social networking is changing the concept of leadership influence in the 21st century:

'In the world according to Twitter, giving away access to information rewards the giver by building followers. The more followers, the more information comes to the giver to distribute, which in turn builds more followers. The process cannot be commanded or controlled; followers opt in and out as they choose. The results are transparent and purely quantitative; network size is all that matters. Networks of this sort are self-organizing and democratic but without any collective interaction.

The significance of Twitter is yet to be determined; it is a simple, impersonal, and transient application of technology. But very real network effects are a new source of power in and around organizations.

America in the 20th century was called a "society of organizations." Formal hierarchies with clear reporting relationships gave people their position and their power. In the 21st century, America is rapidly becoming a society of networks, even within organizations. Maintenance of organizations as structures is less important than assembling resources to get results, even if the assemblage itself is loose and perishable.

Today, people with power and influence derive their power from their centrality within self-organizing networks that might or might not correspond to any plan on the part of designated leaders. Organization structure in vanguard companies involves multi-directional responsibilities, with an increasing emphasis on horizontal relationships rather than vertical reporting as the center of action that shapes daily tasks and one's portfolio of projects, in order to focus on serving customers and society. Circles of influence replace chains of command, as in the councils and boards at Cisco which draw from many levels to drive new strategies.

Distributed leadership — consisting of many ears to the ground in many places — is more effective than centralized or concentrated leadership.

Fewer people act as power-holders monopolizing information or decision-making, and more people serve as integrators using relationships and persuasion to get things done.

This changes the nature of career success. It is not enough to be technically adept or even to be interpersonally pleasant. Power goes to the "connectors": those people who actively seek relationships and then serve as bridges between and among groups. Their personal contacts are often as important as their formal assignment. In essence, "She who has the best network wins."

Connectors have always been more promotable, even in traditional hierarchies. In my early research in a rigid industrial conglomerate (that has since gone out of business), I saw that women tended to be excluded from top ranks because there were so few women already in top ranks, and being part of peer groups mattered for career advancement. Wherever teamwork across positions is desirable, natural connectors who instinctively reach across divides to form relationships get the plum jobs, on small sports teams as well as in large companies. For example, on the North Carolina women's soccer team, a perennial winner among college teams, Jordan Walker was a team leader because she was a connector who helped other players work together, even though Coach Anson Dorrance called her one of the least athletic players he had ever seen. As for big business, during the Seagate turnaround, Joan Motsinger was asked to head a technical area even though she wasn't a technical expert, because of her business card collection, which made her a network star.

Network stars have social capital — a stockpile of personal relationships with many people whom they regularly connect to one another. Though technology tools are increasingly common to help people find connections, from LinkedIn to Facebook, I find that even the most technology-savvy leaders rely on their own personal networks to find the best resources quickly. The technology is so democratic that the information is considered less reliable. The human networks are what count. In SuperCorp companies with far-flung global operations, personal networks of people that managers have met or worked with are often better sources for key assignments than data bases of resumes. One manager in a high-tech company called this "the old-fashioned way, the knowing people type thing: I know a person who might know a person..."

To be known is to be in the know. This is why connectors with big networks have so much power. They don't need to be the formal boss if they have the connections. Nick Donofrio, former IBM executive vice president, encouraged 90,000 technical people to think of themselves as working for him, even though they did not work directly for him in any formal or official way. He answered hundreds of daily emails personally, counting on this as a major bottom-up source of information about issues and opportunities.

Social capital is often, but not entirely, correlated with length of organizational experience. The other factor is whether the nature of the job encourages getting to know large numbers of people — that is, whether the job involves mobility, a portfolio of varied projects, and participation in initiatives that call for communication across groups.

In short, giving people work that spans boundaries is a way to grow the potential for more connectors, in a nice multiplier effect. But ultimately the power of connectors lies in themselves, not in the stars. It comes from their own willingness to continue making relationships, passing on information, and introducing people to one another.'

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What It Takes to Be a Remarkable Leader

If you want to uderstand the success of Silicon Valley and the leadership that Valley VC's provide to the world of technology, please watch this fascinating lecture from one of the doyens of the venture capital world, John Doerr:


How a Leader's Emotions Affect Workplace Performance

What if you could change the behaviour of your team or workgroup just by changing how you feel during the day? How about if as a leader, you could actually improve your team’s performance merely by shifting your emotions?

There is evidence that a leader’s emotions can influence others’ emotions. Now, research indicates the effect of a leader’s emotions go one step further. How you feel can impact workgroup performance, for good or ill.

A recent article in the Academy of Management Journal noted that a leader’s emotional tone interacts with the workgroup environment in specific ways which either improve or inhibit team performance.

The key to how your emotional attitudes will affect others lies in what type of environment you are working in. Angry leaders in low stress environments tend to see a positive performance result when they display anger. Workgroup members are most often able to identify the source of the anger as relating to poor performance and become motivated to work harder.

An interesting thing happens when deadlines loom, or the environment becomes stressful. Under such conditions, team members are much less likely to be able to differentiate the angry response as independent of the environment. They end up taking offense at the display of anger and become less motivated to perform for the manager’s or team’s benefit.

This is tricky stuff. Why? Because it means that managers must be able to read the environment accurately, and manage their own emotional displays intentionally - not always an easy thing to do, especially when stakes are high. When to be hard-nosed and when to be supportive become important factors influencing how well your team does.

Note that this doesn’t mean you have to display a happy attitude all the time. In fact, in situations where the stakes are low, sometimes your display of frustration will motivate folks to work harder. If you are going to display displeasure though, you need to be careful and intentional. Here are some guidelines.

Check your emotions at the door. Easier said than done, right? The first step to effectively managing your emotions is to become aware of them. Are you angry, frustrated, sad? Or are you excited and happy? The key is to identify these before the team interaction so you don’t need to act on them.

Read the environment. A key contributing factor to the performance variation regarding a leader’s emotional display is the environmental influence. Is your team having a light day and relaxing even though there is a project on the table? Or is there an immediate deadline essential to success? Is the team relaxed or stressed?

As best you can, act intentionally. Emotions can be highly influential of our behaviour. However, if you have paused to consider your own emotional state, and then taken the time to consider the environment, you can then make an intentional emotional shift. The team that is relaxing may respond to a stern lecture. The team under stress will likely respond better to a happy, supportive chat.

While this appears to be a simple three step process, it is considerably more difficult than it seems. This type of behaviour requires a high degree of emotional and social intelligence - and some good learning, training and practice.

This research isn’t condoning angry outbursts in a work setting. We need to be respectful and considerate with our colleagues. However, in our view, a positive leadership style will trump punishment and consequences over the long term in any organisation.

Knowing your own emotional state and the emotional environment of your team provide useful data you have about how your team is likely to respond and perform at different times. Teams are powerful precisely because they are interactive and interdependent, not only in their work but in their emotional and social domains as well. As a leader, you have a great opportunity - and responsibility - to guide these interactions for the benefit of your organisation.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why Ants Are Great Team Players

“Ants don’t worry, they operate like a fantastic team, they accept obstacles and deal with them in a positive manner, they don’t complain and remain positive. An ant doesn’t work on emotion, is proactive and always chooses the ant role.”  Dave Brailsford, Team Sky

For more on how Team Sky is building a winning team, see - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/more_sport/cycling/article6922458.ece

Making Tough Decisions

Leaders often need to make hard decisions.

As one client said “by the time something reaches my desk, that means it’s really hard. Because if it were easy, somebody else would have made the decision and somebody else would have solved it. So typically, if something’s in my folder, it means that you’ve got some very big, difficult, sticky, contradictory issues to be wrestled with.”

Yes, it can be lonely at the top. But it doesn’t always have to be. There are times when a leader may want to involve others in the decision making process.

There are five ways a leader can do this. None of them are “right” or “wrong” – it all depends on the degree of involvement required and how quick the decision needs to be made:

1. Tell

“I want to inform you of a decision I’ve made and give you an opportunity to ask any questions.”

2. Test

“I’m thinking of choosing option A to solve the problem – what do you think?”

3. Sell

“I’m thinking of choosing option A to solve our problem – let me convince you why I think it’s a good option.”

4. Consult

“I need to select an option, and would like your input on which to choose.”

5. Consensus

“We need to make a decision, and I’d like us to make the decision together.”

If a decision needs to be made right away – and little involvement is needed, then the “Tell” method is perfectly appropriate. Examples of when this method might be used include emergencies or trivial matters, where the leader does not want to waste everyone’s time.

Generally though, the more buy-in needed, the more time it usually takes to make a decision.

There are pros and cons for each option. Obviously, the ones requiring less involvement are faster. However, with little involvement, there is little buy-in and commitment, and a missed opportunity to incorporate multiple perspectives.

Again, each of these options has it’s time and place. The important thing is for a leader to be clear with the group which option is being used. This helps set the right expectations and informs people how they need to prepare. When a leader bounces back and forth between options and doesn’t tell the group, it confuses and frustrates the team – as well as the leader.

Consensus will provide the highest degree of involvement, collaboration, and commitment. However, if mismanaged, attempting to reach a consensus decision can turn into the meeting from hell.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Are Leaders Made or Born: Hard Work vs Talent


What do M&S and Chelsea Have in Common?

What do M&S and Chelsea have in common?

Jeff Randall gives you the answer in his piece in today's Daily Telegraph -


Here's how he concludes his commentary on why, if Britain's got talent, we are now being run by foreigners!

'But here's a thought. If, contrary to jingoistic intuition, an influx of foreign management is really a boon to Britain, why stop there? Why not clear out the muppets who are running British politics and replace them, too, with imported talent? The Canadians have done an impressive job in cutting massive deficits, how about their poaching their leader? Just imagine – we could trade Gordon Brown for Stephen Harper. It seems like a good deal to me.'

Building a 'Leaderful' Team

Dr. Richard Ian "Ric" Charlesworth, M.D., was on the Australian hockey team for five Olympic Games, two of them as captain. He was also part of the team that won the World Cup in 1986. For more than a decade, many considered him the world's best hockey player. After his playing career ended, he went on to be head coach of the Australian women's hockey team, which under him won almost every top hockey contest in the world, including the Champion's Trophy, the World Cup, the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.

As a coach he has been a revolutionary in his way of building winning organisations, by developing what he calls the "leaderful team," in which every player is prepared, technically and psychologically, to step up to lead--or to step back to support, as needed. The idea is to maximise the potential contribution of every team member in a way never before attempted in sport.

Forbes magazine recently interviewed Ric Charlesworth in two sessions: "How Hierarchies Do Harm" and "How You Can Develop A Leaderful Team" :




The articles are well worth reading.

Links Between the Lack of Positive Leadership and Stress in the Workplace

A recent study (2009) into 'The Impact of Managerial Leadership on Stress and Health Amongst Employees' by Anna Nyberg of the Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm) reported that:

“… significant associations were found between Dictatorial leadership and lack of Positive leadership on the one hand, and long-lasting stress, emotional exhaustion, deteriorated SRH [self-reported general health], and the risk of leaving the workplace due to poor health or for unemployment on the other hand.”

For more, see - http://diss.kib.ki.se/2009/978-91-7409-614-9/thesis.pdf

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Thank You's

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we would like to share with you the benefits and power of two simple words. THANK YOU.

They are two words that have the power to transform our health, happiness, athletic performance and success. Research shows that grateful people are happier and more likely to maintain good friendships. A state of gratitude, according to research by the Institute of HeartMath, also improves the heart's rhythmic functioning, which helps us to reduce stress, think more clearly under pressure and heal physically. It's actually physiologically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time. When you are grateful you flood your body and brain with emotions and endorphins that uplift and energise you rather than the stress hormones that drain you.

Gratitude and appreciation are also essential for a healthy work environment. In fact, the number one reason why people leave their jobs is because they don't feel appreciated. A simple thank you and a show of appreciation can make all the difference.

Gratitude is like muscle. The more we do with it the stronger it gets.

In this spirit here are 4 ways to practice Thanksgiving every day of the year.

1. Take a Daily Thank You Walk - Take a simple 10-minute walk each day and say out loud what you are thankful for. This will set you up for a positive day.

2. Meal Time Thank You's - On Thanksgiving, or just at dinner with your friends and family, go around the table and have each person, including the children, say what they are thankful for.

3. Gratitude Visit - Martin Seligman, Ph.D., the father of positive psychology, suggests that we write a letter expressing our gratitude to someone. Then we visit this person and read them the letter. His research shows that people who do this are measurably happier and less depressed a month later.

4. Say Thank You at Work - Doug Conant, the CEO of Campbell Soup, has written over 16,000 thank you notes to his employees and energised the company in the process. Energise and engage your colleagues and team by letting them know you are grateful for them and their work. And don’t forget to say thank you to your clients and customers too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Expressing Gratitude for Your Colleagues

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on those things for which we are most grateful. And as a leader you know that it is important to express your gratitude - not only on key holidays - but regularly when the situation warrants. Although a simple “Thank You” can go a long way, you should always be on the lookout for additional opportunities to show your colleagues just how much you appreciate them and their daily contributions.

Here are a few suggestions of practical ways that you can express your gratitude for your colleagues:

Provide public praise for a job well done. Whenever a colleague performs exceptionally well, you should always acknowledge their accomplishments and celebrate their successes in front of their colleagues. To do so shows just how extraordinary the performance was and how much you appreciate the outstanding effort.

Offer to cover when a day off is needed. Do you have a colleague who has been working at maximum capacity? Show your appreciation (and your compassion) by offering to cover while he/she takes a much-needed break.

Lend a helping hand in return. Whenever a colleague helps you with an assigned project or lightens your administrative load by taking on additional tasks, thank them and then take action to find a way to reciprocate.

Give your undivided time and attention. Individuals feel most appreciated when their thoughts and opinions are heard and acknowledged. Show your gratitude by carving time out of your schedule to get to know your colleagues and provide them with your full focus and attention.

Present opportunities for growth and development. Show your colleagues that you appreciate and care about them by seeking out ways to help them learn and grow. Can you delegate an assignment that would provide a new learning experience? Do you know of a training programme that would expand their technical knowledge? A great way to show gratitude to your colleagues is to personally invest in their success.

As you look forward to Thanksgiving, take a look around you and ask yourself what you can do to express your gratitude to your colleagues. Seize the moment and show your colleagues how much you appreciate them and their continuous contributions.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Leadership Lessons from the past 18 months

The economic crisis and the entanglement of so many trusted financial-services firms have shaken our confidence in business leadership. The failure of expectations has been widespread, severe, and rapid. That discredits past leadership practices — but what will replace them?

The quickest impact on leadership in business will probably be felt at the board of directors level. Driven by fear of the risks that have been exposed, board leaders will start by changing their own behaviours. Directors want more visibility into corporate practices and risks, and more data to directly verify more dimensions of corporate performance. They feel their positions are much more on the line, and they are starting to ask for the staff and capabilities to do more checking up, probing more deeply even in areas historically left to management.

Boards will revise formal governance structures, adjust team composition, and reconsider the personality and skills of the people placed in top positions. As always, they will respond to prevailing interpretations of recent history. In seeking a new form of leadership, boards will start with the oldest truths: Those in authority must have foresight, and they must lead by example. They must motivate and inspire on a moral basis, through aspiration as well as rewards and punishments. It is precisely this calm, considered, and ethical leadership, required to lead large numbers of people when the economy is tough, that seems to have been in such short supply recently.

Guided by their boards, many institutions will recommit to public responsibility. Trust and simplicity will become major selling points. Enterprises in banking or in business in general industry that can command greater trust or offer closer connections with their customers will enjoy substantial opportunities.

Many companies will also need to find structures and processes, both formal and informal, that challenge thinking and retain productive dissent. The leadership team form will be left intact, but its potential will be tapped in new ways. Teams will be populated with more diverse personalities, whose challenge will be to work together to set some new directions and renew moral leadership while paying closer attention to day-to-day execution.

These leadership team members will have to learn to recognise the power of the unknowable. We have found out the hard way that conceptual financial models, which seemed for a time to provide a new means of rapid growth, can actually obscure the underlying realities of the economic system. We now have some catching up to do as we recognise the failure of these models to comprehend and control the complexity and interdependence of our world. Leaders in financial services might do better if they understood that we human beings are all limited, that our best course is to accept that we are intrinsically prone to get things wrong, that we need to keep our wits about us, and that to succeed in the arcane world of finance, we need most of all to stay grounded in day-to-day reality.

We must promote leaders for whom doubt and uncertainty are simply a part of the human condition, not the enemy of action or a sign of weakness. They must tolerate questioning and doubt within their own organisations, and apply it productively themselves. We must make it an organisational habit to regularly challenge even what seems to be most obviously true, to remain open to different types of data, especially including direct experiential and “feet on the street” observations.

The makeup and management of executive teams may have to change. The evidence is clear that the most productive teams contain diverse people. Teams composed of people from a range of backgrounds outperform teams composed entirely of the so-called best and brightest, for example. And those who shrink from conflict or believe that only harmonious teams can be effective will also disapprove of the kind of open dissent that encourages better leadership and decision making. That is a different definition of productive teamwork than has been applied in the past.

If people recognise this, we should see improvements in the organisation and management of executive teams and boards. In composing teams, boards will tend to favour a diversity of characteristics, and they should guard against the drift toward homogenisation.

This type of governance structure is made even more necessary by the fact that only 25 percent of new ceo's today come from outside the company. Consequently, the outsider’s perspective is not coming from top executives. Many corporate leaders will thus need organisational innovations that provide visibility and challenge to management at quite detailed levels. The financial control function at most companies is an excellent and well-established example; this oversight arrangement can be extended to other corporate functions.

The most successful leaders of these newly transformed organisations will do one more thing distinctively well. They will set the overall purpose and mission of the organisation, not just its strategy. Indeed, they will often concentrate on corporate purpose or mission, leaving strategies to the executive team. We already know that companies with an articulated purpose that goes beyond simply the expediency of “making more money” have fared much better in the downturn. They will also fare better in the recovery. But this will depend on the temperament of leadership. If we are fortunate, the leaders who emerge this time will be honest, robust, and farsighted enough that their prevailing style will last for some time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Leadership Study Focuses on People-Led Economy

The demands of our new economy and opportunities to succeed will be much greater for business leaders who understand and foster a "people-led approach" in their organisations, according to a new study by the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement.

The study, 'Leadership and the Performance of People in Organizations: Enriching Employees and Connecting People', points out that today's leaders must take into account the erosion of trust in management over the last few years and the changes in a workforce that is using technology to form personal connections both beyond - and within - the workplace.

"These enhanced connections should result in what the study's researchers call a 'constituent-based approach to leadership,'" says Michelle M. Smith, Forum president. "This approach successfully balances the needs of employees, consumers, shareholders and the community at large and ensures that their needs are met in an authentic and transparent manner."

Practicing a people-centred management and leadership style can pay off handsomely. According to the Forum study, companies practicing this approach have seen positive bottom line results in which value emerges for every constituent. They refer to this as the Human Value Connection.

The Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement (http://www.performanceforum.org/ ) is a research center within the Medill Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program at Northwestern University. A central objective of the Forum is to develop and disseminate knowledge about communications, motivation and management so that businesses can better design, implement and manage Employee Engagement initiatives inside and outside the organisation.

5 Ways to Manage Like a CEO

1.Focus on critical, trouble areas and leave everything else alone. Successful CEOs have learned to rapidly determine when a direct report or functional area is in trouble. Then, with laser-like precision, they go to work on determining what’s wrong and resolving the issue with all due haste. Because of the focus required, too many problem areas can spell trouble, which leads us to the next point.

2.Hire functional experts who are also solid, upcoming managers. The order and choice of words is critical here. You can mentor capable, upcoming managers, but you probably can’t teach them a functional expertise, nor should you or will you have the time. If they’re not eminently capable, you can end up with multiple critical simultaneous problems, which could be job or even career-ending.

3.Business comes first. Business and customers always, always, always come first. Now, that doesn’t mean you let morale get out of control or internal processes fall apart, but you must recognise that the primary function of the business is business, and that means customers and sales. Any manager who doesn’t get that is doomed to mediocrity and stagnation.

4.Manage up. A critical function of any manager is to provide his boss with what she needs to succeed, and in a manner that fosters a compatible and mutually beneficial relationship. And frankly, that goes for peers, too. If you sense your boss and peers are not getting what they need from you, meet one-on-one and ask. Successful CEOs work with their boards and other key stakeholders the same way.

5.Help to “manage the company.” This is a critical mindset that can make all the difference in your career. If you have a strong silo mentality - my group is all that matters - you will never move up. But if you always remember that one of your priorities is to help “manage the company,” then your chances are great increased. Why? That mindset gives you a broader perspective that will indeed help the company and be positively perceived by peers and executive management.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Leadership Lessons from the Military - For Women

1.Lead as you are. Some women think they have to act macho or talk in a deep voice. Forget it. The troops will appreciate it more if you behave like yourself.

2.Avoid emotional outbursts. As one drill instructor put it: “Save the drama for yo’ mama.” Never, ever cry at work.

3.Set higher standards for yourself than for others.

4.Don’t apologise for something that’s not your fault. Example: Never say “I’m sorry” when you interrupt a meeting. Say “Excuse me.” And when you do screw up, say you’re sorry once.

So Whatever Happened to Command-and-Control Leadership?

One former RBS employee said the previous ceo had 'created a culture of fear.' New ceo Stephen Hester has a different and clear vision for the bank: "I have set out to drive very clearly a spirit of openness, transparency, disclosure, of blunt-speaking, thoughtfulness, and empowerment.."  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8218043.stm

Is it any wonder that the RBS (pre October 2008) has become a seminal case study in poor leadership?

Fear is not a motivating factor. You might be able to get a little bit more out of someone in the short term, but you will completely erode your business and your culture in the long term. You’re going to lose all your good people. You’re not going to have people tell you the truth, and it becomes the tradition.

Command and control leadership is not culturally relevant anymore. Even if you look at generations who are coming up, the idea that you need somebody to tell you what to do and not think for yourself — that’s not today's culture. With that sort of manager or ceo, you’re not going to keep intelligent, inspired talent, because they want some form of entrepreneurial environment to be able to exercise their talent. Leaders need to challenge colleagues to be able to do that, not tell them to do something 'my way', especially when they might be able to do it better! Also, all organisations are significantly diverse today. Command-and-control isn’t the kind of corporate culture people want to be in anymore.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

68 Rules? No, Just 3 Are Enough

William D. Green, chairman and ceo of Accenture explains:

'I once sat through a three-day training session in our company, and this was for new managers, very capable people who were ready for a big step up. I counted, over three days, 68 things that we told them they needed to do to be successful, everything from how you coach and mentor, your annual reviews, filling out these forms, all this stuff.

And I got up to close the session, and I’m thinking about how it isn’t possible for these people to remember all this. So I said there are three things that matter. The first is competence — just being good at what you do, whatever it is, and focusing on the job you have, not on the job you think you want to have.

The second one is confidence. People want to know what you think. So you have to have enough desirable self-confidence to articulate a point of view.

The third thing is caring. Nothing today is about one individual. This is all about the team, and in the end, this is about giving a damn about your customers, your company, the people around you, and recognising that the people around you are the ones who make you look good.

When young people are looking for clarity — this is a huge, complex global company, and they wonder how to navigate their way through it — I just tell them that.'

For more, see - http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/business/22corner.html?pagewanted=1&ref=business

What is the CEO's Role in Driving Performance Culture?

The CEO is responsible using her leadership qualities to inspire her direct reports and the organisation on how to look for ways to do things better. This aspect of corporate culture is fundamental to a performance culture.

All levels of the company need to understand that from the top of the company down, everyone is committed to addressing issues that hold people back from greater job satisfaction and higher levels of job performance. The CEO must guide the leadership team to remove artificial barriers that hold down performance such as misunderstandings, poor vision or direction and limited or no access to facts that drive the business.

Few people intentionally perform poorly when provided with reasonable training, equipment, work environment and motivation.

The CEO leader must be conscious of the whole picture and look beyond the traditional boundaries to see that her business (or department) is successful and that employees are excited about what they are doing and are onboard with the direction of the business.

Effective Internal Communications Help Engage and Retain Top Talent.

Effectice employee communication is a practice that remains elusive for many businesses today. Yet getting it right goes far in keeping employees engaged and holding on to key talent.

As the economy continues to shift, keeping employees up-to-date on how the company is responding, and how they are affected, will help insure against their becoming demoralised and disconnected. Effective communication helps engage employees, and that has positive implications for productivity and the bottom line.

Here are the best practices of companies that are highly effective communicators, based on the 2009/2010 Watson Wyatt Communication ROI Study:

Communicate how business changes will affect employees. Sixty-two percent of highly effective communicators have clearly defined employee value propositions, which tell employees what to expect from the company and what the company expects from them.

Trust and train leaders to talk about change. Some 73% of highly effective communicators say managers are effective at supporting the executive management vision through their actions. Face to-face communications, such as town hall meetings or staff meetings, are preferred over social media or printed material when the conversation is about business change.

Use measures and metrics. Effective communicators are twice to three times more likely to have a documented communications strategy. A little more than half of the highly effective communicators are including more communication outcome metrics in their strategies. However, 43% of all respondents said they had no formal measures or assessments.

Generally, the best-performing companies plan communication strategically, like any other business area.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Top Companies for Leadership - 2009

These are the global businesses that are top of the 2009 Fortune Rankings in attracting, retaining and nurturing talent:

2 Procter & Gamble
3 General Mills
4 McKinsey
5 ICICI Bank
6 McDonald's
7 General Electric
8 Titan Cement
9 China Mobile Communications Corp.
10 Hindustan Unilever
11 Natura Cosm├ęticos
12 Colgate Palmolive
13 TNT Hoofddrop
14 Deere & Company
15 Whirlpool
16 3M
17 Cargill 
18 Olam
19 Eli Lilly
20 PepsiCo
21 American Express
22 Lockheed Martin
23 Intel
24 Infosys
25 Fedex
For more, see - http://money.cnn.com/2009/11/19/news/companies/top_leadership_companies.fortune/index.htm

The Race for Top Talent

"Our board of directors spends an entire day on how we're developing our top leaders," says J. Randall MacDonald, HR chief at IBM. Despite working for the company most successful at leadership development -- and spending almost $700 million a year on it -- he knows the race never ends: "My lead over the competition is probably one-half of an inch."

Friday, November 20, 2009

What Business Can Learn From Elite Athletes

Have you ever wondered why some executives thrive under pressure while others wilt?

Peak performance in business is often thought of in terms of sheer intellectual capacity. However, in the same way that athletes achieve high performance in a holistic way, so business should veiw sustained high achievement by executives as a staircase of capacity building:

Physical Capacity - building endurance, promoting mental and emotional recovery.
Emotional Capacity - creating an internal climate that drives the high performance state.
Mental Capacity - focusing physical and emotional energy on the task at hand.
Spiritual Capacity - providing a powerful source of motivation, determination and endurance.

So if executives are to perform at high levels over the long haul, they have to train in the same systematic, multi-level way that elite athletes do. Companies cannot afford to address their employees' cognitive capacities while ignoring their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

For more information, please contact Gavin Hastings at Positive Leadership - gavin.hastings@positiveleadership.co.uk


Becoming a Better Listener

Do you ever feel like other people are not on the same "wavelength" as you? Just being aware that every communication contains both "factual content" and "feeling content" can make a world of difference when it comes to getting the most out of your conversations with your team members.

Here are four easy steps to becoming a better listener:

1. Look for situations to practice not speaking. Try just listening to others and notice how often you have to stop yourself from speaking. The less you find yourself wanting to interrupt, the better listener you will become.

2. To improve your listening flexibility when another person is speaking, in addition to listening to the factual content ask yourself, 'What is this person feeling'?

3. Look for non-verbal messages such as body language, facial expressions and tone of voice to get in tune with the feelings behind the message. Try reflecting back what you are picking up with; You seem to be concerned about that. Or, You must be really pleased about that.

4. Restating in your own words what you have heard from your team members demonstrates that you really were listening, and when you add the feeling content, it shows that you care about them as well.

You hear what you listen for...what you are focused on. Focus on listening to understand—both the facts and the feelings. Your team members will notice your efforts to be a better listener and this will open up healthier interpersonal communication in your workplace.

How to Lead in a Recession

Here are some simple but highly effective tools from Geoff Colvin of Fortune magazine:

1. Stand up and be seen. It's a simple yet powerful way for leaders to be effective. Warren Buffett raised his profile in this recession, reassuring investors and even helping to calm markets.

2. Steer the culture with stories. Southwest Airlines has always understood this, celebrating stories of employees who perform heroically for customers. Make sure the stories you repeat embody the culture you're aiming for as the economy recovers.

3. Upgrade your people standards. With high unemployment, you have an opportunity to raise the bar on whom you hire and promote.

For more, see - http://money.cnn.com/2009/11/09/news/economy/recession_leadership.fortune/index.htm?section=magazines_fortune

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Passion Matters

People running organisations often make a distinction between management and leadership - the former being mathematical and scientific; the latter being more artful and magical. While management can conjure compliance in a work force, it takes real leadership to drum up passion and enthusiasm. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, does not claim to have all of the answers to effective leadership, but she believes trust and respect are necessities. Real vision needs purpose to elicit that kind of passion, and it must be able to transcend into the foreseeable future.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why Leadership 'Purpose' is a Bottom Line Issue

Leadership Purpose is a top line issue because your customers and employees need to understand clearly why your business should matter to them. The fact that you want to make a profit is not good enough to inspire the type of loyalty from both customers and employees that ensures you will be able to sustain growth through excellence over time.

Purpose is also a bottom line issue because of its ability to drive the personal and work outcomes in employees that allow you to operate your business efficiently. If you are doing a poor job on the personal and work outcomes you will be incurring excessive costs (e.g. poor quality products, waste, absenteeism, turnover) and squandering profit.

The key to these enhanced work outcomes and the coveted profits that accompany them lies between the ears of your employees. Experienced meaningfulness, or 'why work matters', is the critical psychological state most closely associated with purpose. Your mission and even your vision are most often meaningless to your employees (have you asked them lately?).

Purpose, why we do what we do, has the potential to make work meaningful for your employees, and that makes purpose a bottom line issue. Make sure you understand why your business matters to your employees.

As Colin Powell says in this speech, the role of a leader is to put people in the best possible position to achieve the 'purpose' of the organisation. The best leaders are those who can convey this purpose throughout the organisation.


What Skills Will It Take To Lead Successfully In The Future?

New research from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) which surveyed 2,200 leaders from 15 organisations, in three countries between 2006 and 2008 produced some interesting findings.

The research project was designed to answer the following questions:
  • What leadership skills and perspectives are critical for success now and in the future?
  • How strong are current leaders in these critical skills and perspectives?
  • How aligned is today’s leadership strength with what will be the most important skills and perspectives in the future?
A comparison of the leadership strength from the research contrasts existing leadership skill levels with what skill would be required in the future the results are illustrated below:

The research identified the following seven competencies as most critical for success, now and in the future:

Leading people: directing and motivating people.

Strategic planning: translating vision into realistic business strategies, including long-term objectives.

Managing change: using effective strategies to facilitate organisational change.

Inspiring commitment: recognizing and rewarding employees’ achievements.

Resourcefulness: working effectively with top management.

Doing whatever it takes: persevering under adverse conditions.

Being a quick learner: quickly learning new technical or business knowledge.

The interesting thing to note from this research is that only three of the ten required skills for the future are current top ten skills.

All the others rated as important for success in the study are not skills that leaders have mastered today. This means that today’s leaders are not meeting the demands of their organisations. The CLL call this the “Leadership Gap”, referring to the huge gap that exists between the leadership skills organisations have today and the skills they will require in five years time.

Given these findings we need to take personal responsibility and ask ourselves:

What are we doing personally to improve our leadership skills?

What are we doing to help others improve their leadership skills?

If we are taking action, are we doing enough?

The Attributes of Successful Leaders

1 Set Direction - Vision, Customers, Future

2 Demonstrate Personal Character - Habits, Integrity, Trust, Analytical Thinking

3 Mobilise Individual Commitment - Engage Others, Share Power

4 Engender Organisational Capability - Build Teams, Manage Change

Lessons from Five Decades in Business

John C. Portman, Jr., an architect and artist (now 85), whose projects include Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, Shanghai Centre in Shanghai, Renaissance Center in Detroit and Peachtree Center in Atlanta, is chairman of the board of Portman Holdings and John Portman & Associates.

In a recent Forbes article he describes what five decades in business have taught him:
  • Be positive.
  • Shut out the noise.
  • Understand people.
  • Balance vision and pragmatism.
  • Think about the long term and the greater good.
For more, see - http://www.forbes.com/2009/10/30/john-portman-lessons-leadership-managing-architect.html?partner=leadership_newsletter

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Moving Beyond Survive to Thrive and Win at Work

According to Randstad’s 2009 World of Work survey, 83% of workers surveyed  feel fortunate to have a job.

While this sentiment might simply be an expression of gratitude for some, it is just as likely that this response reflects a distinct undertone of survival mentality – just grateful, just thankful, just fortunate. This is probably not too surprising a conclusion after the economic turmoil of the past 18 months.

However, it is important to undertsand the impact of survival mentality on a business. Survival mentality tends to put people into a defensive mode – a reactive and protective stance. When employees are in survival mode, they are constantly looking over their shoulders or in the proverbial rearview mirror for the other shoe to drop. The impact is lower productivity and less focus on the job.

Adding to the premiss of a survival mentality is fear. The same survey also revealed that 52 percent fear for their economic well-being! This response alone provides a clear picture of the roller coaster of emotions that employees bring into the workplace. Couple fear with a steady diet of predominately negative news – job losses, dwindling consumer confidence, institutions in financial turmoil, recession – and the recipe is the same: lower productivity and less focus on the job at hand.

So, in anticipation of a steady recovery out of recession, albeit into an even more competitive business environment, how do leaders help employees get from 'survive' to 'thrive and win' with the swirling of negativity all around? What can leaders do to encourage the language of an environment that thrives and wins? How can leaders facilitate or create a workforce that has a forward-looking, windshield outlook instead of a rearview mirror viewpoint? The answer is communicate, communicate and communicate some more!

  • Tell them all that you can tell them. Paranoia is a killer! During a tough time at work, silence is NOT golden and no news is NOT good news! When employers leave ‘dead air’ in the workplace instead of open communication lines, paranoia will set in; and with paranoia comes the survival mentality. There is always something that can be communicated to the workforce even if it is ‘no decisions have been made, but we are working on it’. While there will always be information and news that cannot be shared, make sure to share what you can. This communication helps to keep employees from wondering what just happened and what might happen next. Over communicate during a tough time and be as transparent as possible to keep your employees informed.

  • Pay close attention to your top performers. Often times, we assume that our best employees already know that they are the best and that they must know how important they are to the company. Wrong. How many times has your company been surprised by the exit of a key performer after it was too late to convince him or her to stay? Even the most confident performers can have doubtful moments during a tough economic time. Sales, results, growth and profit can all be down for even the best performers so it’s critical for your most important employees to know (for sure) that they are valued and why they are valued. This can be as simple as a personal conversation that discusses the employee’s value and seeks to discover what is most important to them at the moment. Bottom line: make sure the employees you value most know that they are valued.

  • Be clear about why some are gone and why some are still here. Honesty is the best policy. You may think that you are saving face for those who have been let go, but while you may soften the blow (very temporarily, by the way) of those who exit, you could be doing damage to the perceptions of those who are left. If every layoff brings a company line of ‘it was just a business necessity’, those who survive the layoff may NOT know why they are still around. You know what comes next…they are ‘just grateful’ to have a job. Consider instead communicating specifics around why decisions were made and what impact those decisions will have on those who remain. Of course you can customise the reasons for your situation, but the key is telling employees why they are still here and why they are valuable to the company. That alone can encourage employees to look forward for the next goal without feeling a sense of guilt or speculating as to why some are gone.

  • Avoid credibility killers. When talking with employees, you are representing the company as a leader. Avoid using phrases like ‘the company’ or ‘upper management’ – they are surefire credibility killers. Another quick credibility killer is ‘the boss and I really think you need to get your game together’. Every time you bring someone else into the room for a tough conversation (literally or figuratively), it may make the conversation easier for you, and you may even think it softens the blow, but consider how you instantly demote yourself when you relegate the decision to someone higher up. You may even inadvertently communicate that you are not the leader your position suggests you should be.

  • Focus on the goals and be clear about the role. Find a common destination or a shared goal that is guaranteed to get employees looking forward, through the windshield. Then get all employees moving in the same direction toward the goal by establishing clear roles and expectations for each employee. Again, this focus will get your employees looking forward and help each employee be clear about what they bring to the table.

For more, see - http://www.us.randstad.com/documents/2009WorldofWork.pdf

What is Mental Toughness?


Some Thoughts On How To Be Mentally Tough under Pressure

  • When you face a setback, think of it as a defining moment that will lead to a future accomplishment.
  • When you encounter adversity, remember, the best don’t just face adversity; they embrace it, knowing it’s not a dead end but a detour to something greater and better.
  • When you face negative people, know that the key to life is to stay positive in the face of negativity, not in the absence of it. After all, everyone will have to overcome negativity to define themselves and create their success.
  • When you face the naysayer’s, remember the people who believed in you and spoke positive words to you.
  • When you face critics, remember to tune them out and focus only on being the best you can be.
  • When you fear, trust. Let your faith be greater than your doubt.
  • When you fail, find the lesson in it, and then recall a time when you have succeeded.
  • When you head into battle, visualise success.
  • When you are thinking about the past or worrying about the future, instead focus your energy on the present moment. The now is where your power is the greatest.
  • When you want to complain, instead identify a solution.
  • When you are tired and drained, remember to never, never, never give up. Finish strong in everything you do.
  • Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t.
  • When you’re in a high-pressure situation and the game is on the line, and everyone is watching you, remember to smile, have fun, and enjoy it. Life is short; you only live once. You have nothing to lose. Seize the moment.


Losing Touch - Power Diminishes Perception and Perspective

Thinking about recent problems in the banking sector, research just published by Kellogg School of Management suggests that people in power are prone to dismiss or, at the very least, misunderstand the viewpoints of those who lack authority. Such individuals anchor too heavily on their own perspectives and demonstrate a diminished ability to correctly perceive others’ perspectives.

The researchers offer the metaphor of driving a car to understand how power can be transformed into effective leadership. The agency of power is akin to pressing the accelerator pedal. Without acceleration, one is left standing still, unable to move forward. But one also needs a steering wheel to avoid crashing into obstacles along the way. Perspective-taking without agency is ineffective, and agency without perspective-taking is dangerous and irresponsible. Effective leaders require acceleration and prudent steering—power coupled with perspective-taking. The springboard of power combined with perspective-taking may be a particularly constructive force to develop socially responsible leaders.

For more, see - http://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/index.php/Kellogg/article/losing_touch

Four Things You Can Do to Become a Better Leader

Research clearly shows that transformational leaders - leaders who are positive, inspiring, and who empower and develop followers - are better leaders. They are more valued by followers and have higher performing teams. By working on the 4 key components of transformational leadership, we can all become better leaders (and better persons, in general).

1. Be a Positive Role Model. Set a positive example and don't ask others to do what you yourself are unwilling to do. Alexander the Great was a successful military leader who was adored by his troops, because Alexander was out in front leading the charge into battle.

2. Be Optimistic and Inspirational. Have a "can do" attitude, and use that attitude to motivate. Let followers know your positive vision for the work team or company and inspire them to achieve it.

3. Challenge, but Support. Transformational leaders challenge followers to be creative, innovative, and to take risks, and this is how they together achieve extraordinary results. But, it is critical to support innovation and risk-taking. Don't blame. Instead, use setbacks as positive learning experiences.

4. Listen to Followers and Be Genuinely Concerned. Research shows this may be most important. You can't be the type of leader who empowers and develops followers if you don't have genuine positive regard for your team members. You need to focus on their positive assets, be "in tune" with each member, and demonstrate that you care about each individual's performance and personal development.

OK, here's the "extra" factor: Be Honest and "Authentic" The truly exceptional leaders are straightforward, honest, and don't "play games." They don't use followers to achieve personal gains, but work together for mutually beneficial outcomes.

Being a great leader isn't easy, but we do know that these characteristics are the "recipe" for success.

The Qualities of an Influencer

Leadership is all about influence, not position. Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit. What are the qualities of an influencer?

INTEGRITY - builds relationships on trust.

NURTURING - cares about people as individuals.

FAITH - believes in people.

LISTENING - values what others have to say.

UNDERSTANDING - sees from their point of view.

ENLARGING - helps others become bigger.

NAVIGATING - assists others through difficulties.

CONNECTING - initiates positive relationships.

EMPOWERING - gives them the power to lead.

Inspiring Confidence - The Role of Visualisation

How do you inspire confidence in your team and yourself when you are facing challenges and things aren’t going well? How do you lift yourself and others up when you’ve been knocked down? And what do you do when self doubt rears its ugly head again and again?

Watch and listen to what basketball superstar, Michael Jordan has to say about mentally preparing for success:

As many elite athletes would attest to, one of the best ways to regain confidence is to recall past accomplishments and visualise success. Instead of focusing on your failures, you and your team can refocus on your successes. This breeds confidence, inspires hope and creates an expectation that you will once again be successful. After all, if you did it once then you can do it again.

This approach is not just for athletes. You can also do this at your school, in your business office, during a sales conference call or in any workplace. Inspire confidence in your team today. They need it more than you know.

Are You a Transformational Leader?

One of the most popular theories of leadership today is transformational leadership. What is a transformational leader? Originally focused on leaders who "transform" groups or organisations, transformational leaders focus on followers, motivating them to high levels of performance, and in the process, help followers develop their own leadership potential.

There are 4 components to transformational leadership, sometimes referred to as the 4 I's:
  • Idealized Influence (II) - the leader serves as an ideal role model for followers; the leader "walks the talk," and is admired for this.
  • Inspirational Motivation (IM) - Transformational leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate followers. Combined these first two I's are what constitute the transformational leader's charisma.
  • Individualized Consideration (IC) - Transformational leaders demonstrate genuine concern for the needs and feelings of followers. This personal attention to each follower is a key element in bringing out their very best efforts.
  • Intellectual Stimulation (IS) - the leader challenges followers to be innovative and creative. A common misunderstanding is that transformational leaders are "soft," but the truth is that they constantly challenge followers to higher levels of performance.
Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders.

Why? Because transformational leaders hold positive expectations for followers, believing that they can do their best. As a result, they inspire, empower, and stimulate followers to exceed normal levels of performance and, transformational leaders focus on and care about followers and their personal needs and development.

See if you have transformational leadership qualities (Agree or Disagree).
  • 1. I would never require a follower to do something that I wouldn't do myself.
  • 2. My followers would say that they know what I stand for.
  • 3. Inspiring others has always come easy to me.
  • 4. My followers have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy are infectious.
  • 5. My followers would say that I am very attentive to their needs and concerns.
  • 6. Even though I could easily do a task myself, I delegate it to expand my followers' skills.
  • 7. Team creativity and innovation are the keys to success.. I encourage my followers to question their most basic way of thinking.
(Items 1 & 2 = II; 3 & 4 = IM; 5 & 6 = IC; 7 & 8 = IS)

To learn more about transformational leadership, read: Transformational Leadership

Monday, November 16, 2009


An important lesson to learn in business is to treat everyone with respect. The business world is a small world, and one is likely to interact with the same people many times. It is very important to be respectful of those senior and junior to you. Take a listen to this story from The Stanford Technology Ventures Program  Entrepreneurship Corner:


Why Failure leads to Success

'I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot ...... and missed. And I have failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.'
Michael Jordan (by acclamation, the greatest basketball player of all time)

Why Would People Want to be Led By You?

In the book, Lessons from the Top: The Search for America's Best Business Leaders, Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, made the following observation:

"I think it's very difficult to lead today when people are not really truly participating in the decision. You won't be able to attract and retain great people if they don't feel like they are part of the authorship of the strategy and the authorship of the really critical issues. If you don't give people an opportunity to really be engaged, they won't stay."

Here are five key traits that will help you become the kind of leader people love working for:

Key Trait #1: You must have a vision. We've all heard the saying "You must stand for something, or you'll fall for everything." But what does that really mean? Standing firm when it comes to your company's policies and procedures is all well and good, but it doesn't speak to having a vision. As a leader, you have to learn to communicate your vision or the vision of your company to the people you want to follow you. But how can you do that?
  • Learn to paint a picture with words. Speak it, write it, draw it, touch it. Whatever methods you can use to create a picture, do it. As they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words."
  • Ask each of the other managers in your company to tell you, in their own words, about the vision of the company. How close is it to what you thought they understood? Is your team on the same page as you?
  • As you work, your company's vision should be in your mind every day, and you should reevaluate it occasionally so that it stays current with the changing times in which we live. And remember, your staff needs to be just as involved as you in keeping it up to date if you truly want them to buy in on the vision. Be sure to keep your key players involved.
Key Trait #2: You must have passion. Your employees want passion; in fact, they'll go to the ends of earth because of it, live and die for it. Think of the sailors who traveled with Christopher Columbus or Leif Ericsson to explore uncharted territory. Their leaders' passion inspired them to take on new and very dangerous challenges.

To build an extraordinary management team, you've got to light the "fire in their bellies," to get them to feel passion about the company and connect to the leader's vision. Passion is such a key part of being a great leader that if you don't have it, you simply can't be a great leader. Think of all the great leaders throughout the ages and try to name one that did not have passion.

And passion is infectious: When you talk about your vision for the company, let your passion for your vision shine through. Others will feel it and want to get on board with you. If you don't have passion for your vision, you need to recreate your vision or reframe your description of your vision so it's connected to your passion.

Key Trait #3: You must learn to be a great decision maker. How are major decisions made in your company? What is your process for making them? For instance, do you talk to your management team and create a list of pros and cons to help you make the best decision? Maybe you conduct a cost analysis. Or do you create a timeline for the implementation strategy, process and timing?

Some leaders have a set process, and others fly by the seat of their pants. But you don't want to be one of those leaders who consults no one before making a decision, announces the change the next day and then gets frustrated when no one follows it.

In fact, here's a system you can use to become a better decision maker. It's called the Q-CAT:
  • Q = Quick. Be quick but not hasty.
  • C = Committed. Be committed to your decision but not rigid.
  • A = Analytical. Be analytical, but don't over-analyze (Too much analysis can cause paralysis.)
  • T = Thoughtful. Be thoughtful about all concerned, but don't be obsessive.
When you use the Q-CAT, it'll help you to decide when to bring others into the process and what steps need to be taken to help you make better decisions.

Key Trait #4: You must be a team builder. To become a great leader, you must develop a great team or, one might say, a well-oiled machine. But how do you do that? You can start by handing off responsibility to your team and letting your team to run with it. Don't breathe down their necks and don't micromanage, but make yourself available if questions or problems come up. Teach your team to use the Q-CAT decision-making system and give them the freedom to work through their own decisions.

When projects aren't on track or your team is falling behind on deadline, it serves no one if you start pointing fingers. This is when you need to rise to the occasion and inspire confidence in your employees, to let them know you support them and ready to help. Be ready to alter plans and make new ones. Don't forget to use humour to keep your team's spirits up during a crisis. When an emergency hits, your team will look to you to be a tower of strength and endurance.

Key Trait #5: You must have character. Without character, all the other "keys" are for naught. That's because your innate character strengths and limitations play a critical role in your leadership style. The real question is, are you aware of just what role they play? All great leaders have taken steps to learn about their individual personality and what part it plays in their leadership style.

So are you a great leader? Or do you have the desire to become one?

Remember, a great leader is someone who has a clear vision and can turn that vision into a vivid picture that others can see. When you speak about your vision, it should be with a passion you feel in your heart, a passion that creates so much enthusiasm that your team will want to jump on board. When major decisions need to be made, you should encourage everyone to use the Q-CAT system and be responsible for his or her own actions. And you should be continually assessing your own character and never stop growing, personally or professionally. If you can apply the five keys to great leadership, you'll be well on your way to becoming a great leader surrounded by great employees!