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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Let People Do Things

Judith Jamison is about to begin her 20th year as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Here she answers some questions on leadership in a recent article which appeared in the New York Times:

'Q. What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?

A. Let people do things. If they do it better than you, let them do it. You have to recognise that in order for this plane to fly, I need co-pilots, I need engineers, I need passengers.

Q. How did you learn that?

A. There’s no formula. It’s kind of the natural thing to do. I’ve been in a competitive situation almost all my life. I’ve been having a competition with myself and trying to be the best I could be. I did a lot of praying. I did a lot of preparation. But then, I also learned how to release, how to let go. That’s a constant learning process — how to let go and let somebody else do it who knows how to do it better than you do it. If it keeps the plane in the air, fine.

Q. What else have you learned?

A. I want to know who you are as a person, and then I want you to develop as a whole human being. One thing I cannot stand is when people say, “Hi, how are you?” and they don’t wait to hear how I am. They’re just going through the motions. I say to people: “Keep it human. Keep it alive. Don’t turn into a robot.” You have to hear what the other person is saying clearly. You have to listen, and really care, because we’re all the same under the skin. I’ve danced all over the world, and people are people. We cannot cut off from each other in life. In order to lead, you can’t do that. '

For more, see - http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/business/29corner.html?_r=1&ref=business

Leadership Lessons From Peter Drucker

In his new book, Drucker on Leadership: New Lessons from the Father of Modern Management , Bill Cohen, a student and colleague of Peter Drucker, extracts the leadership lessons that he learned from this great thought leader.

Here are the lessons that Cohen uncovered:

1. Strategic planning is the first priority of the leader. Drucker believed that the leader's job was to create the desired future for the company or the organisation. The leader needed to be intimately involved with the strategic direction.

2. Ethics and integrity are critical for leader effectiveness. Character and ethical behaviour are of central importance for the leader. According to Drucker, followers might forgive leaders for mistakes, but will not forgive a lack of integrity.

3. Model the military. Peter Drucker had great respect for how the military developed leadership, with an emphasis on character and leaders as positive role models. The military's emphasis on commitment and "taking care of your people" are examples of what Drucker admired about military leadership.

4. Motivation: Treat employees like volunteers. Drucker greatly admired nonprofit organisations, and he extracted leadership lessons from them. If a leader treats employees as if they were volunteers - free to leave at any time - the leader pays greater attention to the non-monetary needs of workers, and moves from transactional motivation to transformational motivation.

5. Leaders should be marketers. This surprising lesson really means that leaders should be focused on the customer, and be concerned about how customers view the organisation and its products or services. The leader must set the tone for how the organisation is viewed, and be its best representative.

Although little of Peter Drucker's writings focused on leadership, there are many lessons for leaders in his work. Our thanks to William Cohen for highlighting them.