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12 Disciplines of LEADERSHIP EXCELLENCE
How Leaders Achieve Sustainable High Performance
By BRIAN TRACY, PETER CHEE
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Brian Tracy and Peter Chee
All rights reserved.
THE DISCIPLINE OF LEADERSHIP EXCELLENCE
"Leadership consists not in degrees of technique but in traits of character; it requires moral rather than athletic or intellectual effort, and it imposes on both leader and follower alike the burdens of self-restraint."
The great Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, once said that there are three types of people: the people who make things happen, the people who watch what's happening, and the people who haven't the slightest idea of what's happening. In this chapter, we will talk about leadership in action and about the people who make things happen.
Today, as never before, our society is experiencing a pressing need for leadership. This need for leadership can be felt in our homes, in our business organizations, in our private and public associations, and in our government. We need leadership more than ever before. And we especially need leadership to take us into the future. We need people who have vision, who have courage, people with the ability to chart new seas and break new ground.
We need two types of leaders. The first type of leader that we need is the transformational leader. This leader is a pathfinder, a visionary. This leader motivates, uplifts, inspires, and empowers people to perform at levels far beyond anything they've ever done before.
The second type of leader we need is perhaps the most important or foundational; what is called the transactional leader. The transactional leader is the person who gets things done with and through others.
The World Has Changed
We need leadership badly in our organizations because of the type of people in these organizations. People today are far more difficult and demanding, far more impatient and selfish than they have ever been before.
It's no longer enough just to give a person a job and to tell them what to do. People want to participate. They want to discuss their jobs. They want regular feedback on their performance. They want to know, "What's in it for me?" Today, more and more, when people go out to look for a job, especially talented people, and members of Generation Y, instead of them approaching their job search politely and obsequiously, their attitude is, "Why should I work for you?"
One of the major reasons that people go to work for any organization is because of the leadership. So what exactly is leadership? Two excellent definitions of leadership apply especially to business organizations. The first one is:
Leadership is the ability to elicit extraordinary performance from ordinary people.
Another definition is:
Leadership is the ability to get followers.
Today we find that the only lasting kind of leadership is not leadership that comes from position, or from money or authority. It is what we call ascribed leadership, which occurs when people decide for themselves that they are going to follow the direction, the guidance, and the vision of someone else. In other words, it is a voluntary form of following that marks our best leaders today.
Leaders Are Made, Not Born
Leaders are made, not born. Nobody comes into the world as a natural leader. A person becomes a leader by, first of all, deciding to become a leader, and second of all, by learning the skills necessary to "elicit extraordinary performance from ordinary people."
Along a continuum of personalities at the very bottom are people who haven't the slightest idea what is going on, and who couldn't care less. Then at the very top are those 1 or 2 percent of people in our society who really are the spark plugs in the engines of change. Every one of us is on that scale somewhere, moving up or down depending upon the things that we are doing and saying on a daily basis.
You are what you think you are. Your self-concept determines your performance. You can become a much more effective leader by changing your self-concept, by changing the way you think about yourself as a leader.
Select Leaders to Emulate
The starting point of becoming a better leader is to begin thinking about the leaders you know, who you admire, and then to think about how you could emulate their behaviors. Think about how you could be more like them. In no time at all, you will actually begin to imitate their qualities and behaviors, and become a better leader yourself.
All great leaders were at one time good followers. All great leaders at one time worked closely with other successful leaders and learned from them and emulated their behaviors.
The study of great leaders of the past and present is one of the fastest and surest ways to develop leadership qualities. The more you study what constitutes effective leadership, the more likely you will be to internalize the same values and behaviors. These values and behaviors will then be externalized in your actions and in your results.
Alexander the Great
The story of Alexander the Great is instructive for anyone who aspires to a high leadership position. By the age of 15, Alexander was convinced that it was his destiny to conquer the entire known world. He had a vision of uniting all mankind in a common brotherhood. With Aristotle as his teacher, he studied and prepared himself for many years. He learned the military arts from his father and his father's best generals. He saw himself as a great king and had an unshakable belief in his ability to achieve any goal he ever set for himself.
Alexander was brilliant at both administration and execution. He showed great judgment in delegating, and appointed the right officers in the right positions at the right time. He was able to plan, organize, think through, and execute brilliantly.
At the Battle of Arbela, he led his 50,000 men in a full frontal assault on the 1 million–strong Persian army and routed them. He never entertained the possibility of defeat. He trusted completely in himself, in his men, and in their ability to overcome any difficulty, no matter how great the odds against them.
Alexander, like all great leaders, had the ability to organize his men and inspire them to exceed anything they had ever done before. He had the ability to concentrate on his strengths and to focus on the critical areas that were essential for victory. His life and history are an example of the blending together of all the great leadership qualities that have been identified in almost every study on the subject.
A Sense of Mission
Leaders have a vision and a sense of mission that lifts up and inspires men and women to achieve that mission. In almost every person is that desire to commit to something bigger than one's self. Leaders have the ability to tap into that root source of motivation, drive, and enthusiasm that enables people to commit themselves to achieving that vision.
As a leader, you must have a goal that excites and inspires others to perform at levels higher than ever before. And the only goals that excite and inspire are goals that are qualitative. Nobody gets permanently excited or inspired about raising the share price or making more money or getting a raise. But we do get inspired and excited about bringing a product or service to people who need it, about being the best, and winning great success in a competitive field. Just look at the thousands of people who get caught up in an election, working long hours for little or no pay!
We need to feel that we are good at what we do, or moving in that direction. Nobody feels great or as good as they could be, nor are they capable of extraordinary performance, unless they are aligned with the best people in their field and are doing the best job they are capable of.
A big goal or inspiring mission gives a clear sense of direction not only to the organization but to every person in the organization. A desirable goal unifies everyone in a common cause. As an example, IBM is one of the greatest industrial leaders in business history. One of their goals is to give the best customer service of any company in their industry in the entire world. Everyone in the company is dedicated to this goal in every area of activity.
Apple is dedicated to producing products that people love. Zappos is committed to making their customers happier than any of their competitors. These goals are qualitative and emotional. They excite and inspire people throughout the company. People think about them and talk about them all the time. The people in top companies believe they're the best and that nobody does a better job than they do. Everyone in the company knows that their job, one way or another, is related to taking care of customers. This mission unifies everyone in a common cause.
If you are going to be a business leader, or a leader of a department or any organization, you have to sit down and think through what is going to be the mission or the overarching purpose or goal in your area of responsibility. Your determination in a mission to be the best at something that helps your customers and clients is the starting point of your rise to the top levels of leadership.
Take Continuous Action
When you study the life of Napoleon or Florence Nightingale or Mother Teresa or Alexander the Great, you find that they were incredibly active men and women. They were not contemplative persons who waited for things to happen. They were people who got an idea, a concept, a mission and then launched strongly and forcefully into it.
Leaders are both entrepreneurial and innovative. The word entrepreneurial comes from the French word meaning to undertake or to do. Entrepreneurs continually try new things. They fail fast, learn quickly, and keep moving forward. They don't analyze things to death.
They are also forward thinking. Most leaders focus their thoughts on the future—what it will be and how to create it. Most nonleaders focus on the present and the past, and who is to blame for what went wrong.
The motto of the business leader of today: "Do it, fix it, try it." Top leaders and companies tend to try more things, make more mistakes, and learn more lessons than others. They don't hesitate by spending months and years on analysis; they get out and do something.
The Quality of Courage
Courage is one of the most important qualities of leadership. Courage enables the leader to launch into new endeavors with no guarantee of success. It inspires people to rally around the banner of the leader. Courage is a habit that is learned by acting courageously whenever the quality of courage is required.
Develop Your Courage
Here are some keys to developing the quality of courage: The first is boldness. Whenever you feel like hesitating or backing away from a challenge, you instead force yourself to go forward. To further develop courage, practice boldness, even when you don't feel like it.
One of my favorite quotations is, "Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid." I have worked with many men and women who had limited talents, abilities, and resources, but who achieved great success in business because they overcame their fears and launched themselves forward boldly whenever they got an opportunity.
Somehow, when you continually launch yourself toward your goals, all kinds of things seem to work for you. Forces and people and circumstances conspire together to help you accomplish your goals in ways that you cannot now imagine or anticipate.
The demonstration of courage in a leader can be seen in the willingness to initiate action. Leaders don't wait for someone else to do something. Like a military general, leaders do not allow the enemy to determine when an attack should take place. Leaders continually take the offensive, continually move forward, continually attack. They "ride toward the sounds of the guns."
Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great of Prussia united all the smaller kingdoms of Germany for the first time. He was one of only a few people to be known as "the Great" in his lifetime. His strategy was simple: Whenever he met the enemy, no matter how great their numbers, he attacked. If you were an enemy force facing Frederick of Prussia when he discovered you, he would attack. If he had 10,000 men and you had 70,000, he would attack you. His motto was, "L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace,"—Audacity, audacity, always audacity.
Of course, he lost many battles, but he won the critical ones. He created the powerful kingdom of Prussia and was one of the fore-most rulers of his day. Other leaders knew that if they challenged him, he would always attack with all his forces to defeat them. As a result, no rival king or general would challenge him in his later years.
Stay the Course
One mark of courage is the ability to stay the course, often called courageous patience. It is what Margaret Thatcher as prime minister of Britain was famous for. She was brave and tenacious, taking on the entire political establishment of her time to bring Britain back to pride and prosperity.
No matter how tough it gets, no matter how much tension or stress you face, stay the course and hang in there. If you refuse to give up, the sun will eventually break through the clouds and good things will happen for you.
Remember that the future belongs to the risk takers. Life holds no greatness for those who avoid taking risks. Of course, it doesn't mean that you take foolish risks or risks where you cannot afford the costs of a loss. It simply means that you must continually take calculated risks in the direction of your most important goals.
Smart risk takers do everything possible to minimize risks. They get all the information they can, which enables them to make informed decisions. They consider the worst possible thing that may occur before they commit and take action, but then they dare to go forward. Perhaps no other quality distinguishes leaders from nonleaders more than their willingness and their daring to push forward, and to keep pushing.
The Leader as Strategist
Leaders are good strategists and planners. Successful men and women in business seem to be especially good at considering all the factors involved in a course of action. They have learned how to do strategic thinking.
Strategic thinking means taking the long view. It means engaging in "big picture thinking." It requires carefully considering what you are doing and the different things that could potentially occur. Leaders continually ask: "If we do this, what is likely to happen? How will my competition respond? What will the market do?"
Part of strategic thinking requires the practice of teleological thinking. This type of thinking involves projecting forward and assessing the different possible outcomes and results of your actions before acting. It was said that Napoleon won most of his battles in his tent. He would look at the plan of battle and his maps and consider the various things that could go wrong. He would then think through what he would do in response to each of those events, should they occur. In the heat of the battle, when the enemy acted unexpectedly or the battle started to go against him, he remained calm and in command. He had already thought through each contingency and was able to respond quickly with new orders to redeploy men, artillery, and cavalry to counter the threat or take advantage of the opportunity.
People who think strategically always have an advantage over those who fail to think through the possible consequences of their actions in advance.
Concentrate Your Forces
A key element of strategic thinking is to concentrate your forces. Identify clearly the strengths of yourself, your people, and your organization and focus them where they can make a major difference, where you can win market in the market. You focus your strengths on the greatest opportunities in the marketplace where you can gain significant competitive advantage.
It is rather pointless to go head to head with strong and entrenched competition. But numerous opportunities can be found in the marketplace for a company to maximize its unique qualities, differentiate its products and services, and go after a specific market segment where its competitors are weak and where you can develop superiority, where you can win battles.
You must also give thought to what we call the WPO—the worst possible outcome. What's the WPO that could occur in terms of problems or setbacks? What's the WPO that could occur in terms of changes in market demand, interest rates, staff makeup, and the actions of your competitors? Think these things through so that if conditions change dramatically and unexpectedly, you will be prepared with a backup plan.
Strategic thinkers and leaders have the ability to react quickly because they have thought through what is likely to happen and prepared for it. They're not shaken or knocked off balance by negative events. They have the ability to see clearly, to take in the situation and make decisions to redeploy assets and people, to back off in some areas and move forward in others. In many cases your ability to react quickly to an adverse circumstance is the key to success in leadership.
Look for Opportunities
Much leadership is situational. Many leaders rise to the top because a situation created a great opportunity, and they recognized it as such. Many men and women have worked for many years in average positions, and then, because they acted quickly and effectively in a period of turbulence or adversity, have suddenly been promoted into a leadership position.
Excerpted from 12 Disciplines of LEADERSHIP EXCELLENCE by BRIAN TRACY. Copyright © 2013 by Brian Tracy and Peter Chee. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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