Read an Excerpt
Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way
In This Chapter
- Comparing leadership and management
- Becoming a leader
- Zeroing in on key leadership traits
- Adapting your leadership style
What makes a leader? Countless books have been written, endless videos have been produced, and interminable seminars have been taught on the topic of leadership. Still, leadership is a quality that eludes many who seek it.
Studies show that the main traits that all effective leaders have in common are optimism and confidence. That is, they have a positive outlook and are sure of themselves and their ability to influence others and impact the future. Although similar, leadership and management are different; leadership goes far above and beyond management. A manager can be organized and efficient at getting things done without being a leader -- someone who inspires others to achieve their best. According to management visionary Peter Drucker, leadership is the most basic and scarcest resource in any business enterprise. According to our informal research on this topic, we concur wholeheartedly.
Everyone in an organization wants to work for leaders. Workers want the men and women they work for to exhibit leadership. I wish that my boss would just make a decision -- I'm just spinning my wheels until she does. I guess I'll just wait here until she lets me know what she wants me to do. And wait they do -- until the boss finally notices that the project is two months behind. Top executives want the men and women who work for them to exhibit leadership. You need to take responsibility for your department and pull the numbers into the black before the end of the fiscal year! And employees want their peers to show leadership. If he's not going to straighten out that billing process, then I'll just have to work around it myself!
A leader is many things to many people. In this chapter, we discuss the key skills and attributes that make good managers into great leaders. As this chapter explains, leadership requires the application of a wide variety of skills -- no single trait, when mastered, suddenly makes you an effective leader. You mean that I can't become a great leader just from watching this video? However, you may notice that some leadership skills that follow are also key functions of management for the '90s -- ones that we review in Chapter 1. This is no coincidence.
The Differences between Management and Leadership
Being a good manager is quite an accomplishment. Management is by no means an easy task, and mastering the wide range of varied skills that are required can take many years. The best managers get their jobs done efficiently and effectively -- with a minimum of muss and fuss. Like the person behind the scenes of a great performance in sports or the theater, the best managers are often those whom you notice the least.
Great managers are experts at taking their current organizations and optimizing them to accomplish their goals and get their jobs done. By necessity, they focus on the here and now -- not on the tremendous potential of what the future can bring. Managers are expected to make things happen now -- not at some indefinite, fuzzy point in the future. Smeed! Don't tell me what you're going to do for me next year or the year after that! I want results, and I want them now! Having good managers in an organization, however, is not enough.
Great organizations need great management. However, great management does not necessarily make a great organization. For an organization to be great, it must also have great leadership.
Leaders have vision. They look beyond the here and now to see the vast potential of their organizations. And while great leaders are also effective at getting things done in their organizations, they accomplish their goals in a way different from managers.
Managers use policies, procedures, schedules, milestones, incentives, discipline, and other mechanisms to push their employees to achieve the goals of the organization. What? You missed the March project milestone? You know that we can't afford to be late -- the marketing campaign has already started. Please review this schedule and have a detailed report explaining how you're going to get back on track on my desk first thing in the morning. And if another milestone is missed, the threat of discipline or termination is always a very real tool in a skilled manager's bag of tricks.
Leaders, on the other hand, challenge their employees to achieve the goals of the organization by creating a compelling vision of the future and then unlocking their employees' potential. Think about great leaders of recent times. President John F. Kennedy challenged the American people to land a man on the moon. We did. Lee Iacocca challenged the management and workers of the Chrysler Corporation to bring their company out of the clutches of financial disaster and to build a new corporation that would lead the way in product innovation and profitability. They did. Jack Welch of General Electric challenges his workers to help the company attain first or second place in every business that it owns. They do.
All these leaders share a common trait. They all painted compelling visions that grabbed the imagination of their followers and then challenged them to achieve these visions. Without the vision that leaders provide and without the contributions of their followers' hard work, energy, and innovation, the United States would never have landed a man on the moon, the name Chrysler would have slipped quietly into history, and General Electric wouldn't be the hugely successful firm that it is today.
What Leaders Do
The skills required to be a leader are no secret; it's just that some managers have learned to use them and others haven't. And while some people seem to be born leaders, anyone can learn what leaders do and how to apply these skills themselves.
Despite what some managers believe, there are few workers who don't want to feel pride for their organization and who, given the chance, wouldn't give their all to a cause they believe in. A tremendous well of creativity and energy is just waiting to be tapped in every organization. Leaders use this knowledge to inspire their employees to take action and to achieve great things.
Leaders know the value of employees and their critical importance in achieving the goals of a company. Do the managers in your company know the importance of their employees?
- Chairman and CEO of the Ford Motor Company Harold A. Poling says, "One of the stepping stones to a world-class operation is to tap into the creative and intellectual power of each and every employee."
- According to Paul M. Cook, founder and CEO of Raychem Corporation, "Most people, whether they're engineers, business managers, or machine operators, want to be creative. They want to identify with the success of their profession and their organization. They want to contribute to giving society more comfort, better health, [and] more excitement."
- Hewlett-Packard cofounder and leader Bill Hewlett says, "Men and women want to do a good job, a creative job, and if they are provided the proper environment, they will do so."
(Source: Bob Nelson, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, Workman Publishing, 1994.)
Unfortunately, few managers reward their employees for being creative or for going beyond the boundaries set by their job descriptions. Too many managers search for workers who do exactly what they are told -- and little else. This practice is a tremendous waste of worker creativity, ideas, and motivation.
Use your influence as a manager to help your employees create energy in their jobs instead of draining it from them with bureaucracy, red tape, policies, and an emphasis on avoiding mistakes.
Leaders are different. Instead of draining energy from their employees, leaders unleash the natural energy within all employees. They do so by clearing the roadblocks to creativity and pride from the paths of their workers and by creating a compelling vision for their employees to strive for. They help employees to tap into energy and initiative that they didn't know they had.
Create a compelling vision for your employees and then clear away the roadblocks to creativity and pride. Your vision must be a stretch to achieve, but not so much of a stretch that the vision is impossible to achieve.
Leaders make a commitment to communicate with their employees and to keep them informed about the organization. Employees want to be an integral part of their organizations and want their opinions and suggestions to be heard. Great leaders earn the commitment of their workers by building communication links throughout the organization -- from the top to the bottom, from the bottom to the top, and from side to side.
So how do you build communication links in your organization? Consider the experiences of the following business leaders:
- According to Donald Petersen, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, "When I started visiting the plants and meeting with employees, what was reassuring was the tremendous, positive energy in our conversations. One man said he'd been with Ford for twenty-five years and hated every minute of it -- until he was asked for his opinion. He said that question transformed his job."
- Andrea Nieman, Administrative Assistant with the Rolm Corporation, summarizes her company's commitment to communication like this: "Rolm recognizes that people are the greatest asset. There is no 'us' and 'them' attitude here; everyone is important. Upper management is visible and accessible. There is always time to talk, to find solutions and to implement changes."
- Says Robert Hauptfuhrer, Chairman and CEO of Oryx Energy, "Give people a chance not just to do a job but to have some impact, and they'll really respond, get on their roller skates, and race around to make sure it happens."
(Source: Nelson, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees.)
When Bob became a department manager at Blanchard Training and Development, he made a commitment to his team of employees to communicate with them. To make his commitment real, Bob added specifics: He promised that he would report the results of every executive team meeting within 24 hours. Bob's department valued his team briefings because, through this communication, he treated all individuals as colleagues -- not as underlings.
Great leaders know that leadership is not a one-way street. Leadership in the '90s is a two-way interchange of ideas where leaders create a vision and workers throughout an organization develop and communicate ideas of how best to reach the vision. The old one-way, command-and-control model of management doesn't work anymore. Commanding workers may work all right in the Army, but as a daily means of managing a company, it doesn't work well at all. Most employees are not willing to simply take orders and be directed all day long. If you think that they are, you are only fooling yourself.
Support and facilitate
Great leaders create environments in which employees are safe to speak up, to tell the truth, and to take risks. It's incredible how many managers punish their employees for pointing out problems that they encounter, disagreeing with the conventional wisdom of management, or merely saying what is on their minds. It's even more incredible that many managers punish their employees for taking risks and losing, instead of helping their employees win the next time around.
Great leaders support their employees and facilitate their ability to get things done. The head of an organization where Peter once worked did just the opposite. Instead of leading his employees by force of vision and inspiration, he pushed them with the twin cattle prods (120 volts DC!) of fear and intimidation. The management team members lived in constant fear of his temper, which could explode without warning and seemingly without reason. More than a few managers wore the psychological bruises and scars of his often public outbursts. Instead of contributing to the good of the organization, some managers simply withdrew into their shells and said as little as possible in this leader's presence.
- Catherine Meek, president of compensation consulting firm Meek and Associates, says, "In the twenty years I have been doing this and the thousands of employees I have interviewed in hundreds of companies, if I had to pick one thing that comes through loud and clear it is that organizations do a lousy job of recognizing people's contributions. That is the number one thing employees say to us. 'We don't even care about the money; if my boss would just acknowledge that I exist. The only time I ever hear anything is when I screw up. I never hear when I do a good job.'"
- According to Lonnie Blittle, an assembly line worker for Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation U.S.A., "There was none of the hush-hush atmosphere with management behind closed doors and everybody else waiting until they drop the boom on us. They are right down pitching in, not standing around with their hands on their hips."
- James Berdahl, vice president of marketing for Business Incentives, says, "People want to feel empowered to find better ways to do things and to take responsibility for their own environment. Allowing them to do this has had a big impact on how they do their jobs, as well as on their satisfaction with the company."
(Source: Nelson, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees.)
Instead of abandoning their employees to the sharks, great leaders throw their followers life preservers when the going gets particularly rough. Although leaders allow their employees free rein in how they achieve their organizations' goals, leaders are always there in the background -- ready to assist and support workers whenever necessary. With the added security of this safety net, employees are more willing to stretch themselves and to take chances that can create enormous payoffs for their organizations.
Leading Leadership Traits
The new business environment for the '90s and beyond is constant, unrelenting change. About the only thing you can be sure of anymore is that everything will change. And after it changes, it will change again. And again. And again. (Oops, sorry! The keyboard got stuck for a moment there.)
You had better get used to it now, because this is the way of life in business for the foreseeable future. However, while so much in business is changing, great leadership remains steadfast -- like a sturdy rock standing up to the storms of change. Numerous traits of great leaders have remained the same over the years and are still highly valued today. The following sections discuss the leading leadership traits.
According to Stanley Bing, the incredibly insightful columnist for Fortune magazine, many trends are sweeping the business landscape. One major trend is the necessity for managers to talk the talk and walk the walk. While talking the talk means to sound like you know what you are doing, walking the walk takes this a step further and requires that you also look like you know what you're doing -- whether you do or not.
As the related graph shows, the percentage of executives who can talk the talk and those who can walk the walk has been increasing since 1970. However, the ability of managers to talk the talk and walk the walk at the same time has steadily declined from its peak some 20 years ago. Here is some advice from Bing regarding these critical leadership skills:
- "First, always talk the talk, even when others don't seem to understand what you're saying. It's all about consistency and perception -- so keep it up!
- Second, if you're not in a position to talk the talk, either because someone superior is doing so or because you've got your mouth full, default to walking the walk exclusively, thereby projecting the necessary executive qualities in dignity and silence.
- Third, don't try doing both together until you're very good at it. There's nothing more pathetic than somebody attempting to walk/talk concurrently and getting his ankles all bollixed up while irreverent employees stand around chortling. So practice!"
(Source: Fortune, Sep. 18, 1995, pp. 35-36.)
To great leaders, the future is always a wonderful place. While they may find much adversity and hard work on the way to achieving their goals, leaders always look forward to the future with great promise and optimism. This optimism becomes a glow that radiates from all great leaders and touches all those who come into contact with them.
People want to feel good about themselves and their futures, and they want to work for winners. Workers are therefore naturally attracted to people who are optimistic rather than pessimistic. Who wants to work for someone who enjoys nothing more than spouting doom and gloom about the future of a business? Leaders like this only demotivate their employees and coworkers and lead workers to spend more time polishing their resumes than they do concentrating on improving their organizations.
Optimism is infectious; before long, a great leader can turn an organization full of naysayers into one that is overflowing with positive excitement for the future. This excitement results in greater worker productivity and an improved organizational environment. Morale increases, and so does the organization's bottom line.
Be an optimist. Let your excitement rub off on those around you.
Great leaders have no doubt that they can accomplish any task that they set their minds to -- at least not in public. What? A 10,000 foot-high mountain is in the way? No problem -- we'll climb it. You say that a vast ocean is separating us from our goal? No sweat -- we'll swim it. Hmmm . . . a bottomless crevasse blocking our path? Fine -- we'll leap it. Whatever the challenge may be, we'll find a way to surmount it.
Confident leaders make for confident followers, which is why organizations led by confident leaders are unstoppable. An organization's employees mirror the behavior of their leaders. When leaders are tentative and unsure of themselves, so are workers (and the bottom-line results of the organization). When leaders display self-confidence, workers follow suit, and the results can be astounding.
Be a confident leader. You inspire the best performance of your employees at the same time as you help them to become more confident in their own abilities.
One trait that sets great leaders apart from the rest of the pack is integrity: ethical behavior, values, and a sense of fair play. Honest people -- and that means you -- want to follow honest leaders. In a recent survey, integrity was the most desired trait that employees wanted from their leaders. When an organization's leaders conduct themselves with integrity, the organization can make a very real and positive difference in the lives of its employees, its customers, and others who come in contact with it. This, in turn, results in positive feelings about the organization.
Most working Americans devote a third (or more) of their waking hours to their jobs. Whether the organization makes light fixtures, disposes radioactive waste, develops virtual reality software, or delivers pizzas, people want to be part of an organization that makes a positive difference in people's lives. Sure, money is important -- people have to make car payments and buy baby shoes -- but few would not count this extrinsic reward a secondary consideration to the intrinsic rewards that they derive from their work.
The five principles of ethical power for organizations
In their book The Power of Ethical Management, Ken Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale present five principles to gain ethical power in any organization. As the authors note in the book's introduction, "We believe that a strong code of morality in any business is the first step toward its success. We believe that ethical managers are winning managers."
Blanchard and Peale say that the five principles of ethical power for organizations are
(Source: Kenneth Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Ethical Management, William Morrow & Co., 1988, p. 125.)
The best leaders are decisive. If any complaint is heard from employees time and again, it's that their bosses won't make decisions. Despite the fact that making decisions is one of the key reasons that people are hired to be managers, too few are willing to risk the possibility of making a wrong decision. Instead of making wrong decisions -- and having to face the consequences -- many so-called leaders prefer to indefinitely postpone making a decision, instead continually seeking more information, alternatives, and opinions from others. They hope that, eventually, events may overtake the need to make the decision, or perhaps that someone else may step up to the plate and make the decision for them.
Great leaders make decisions. Now, this doesn't mean that they make decisions in a shoot-from-the-hip, cavalier, gotta-do-it-right-now fashion. No, great leaders take whatever time is necessary to gather whatever information, people, or resources they need to make an informed decision within a reasonable time frame. If the data is immediately available, so be it. If not, then a leader carefully weighs the available data versus the relative need of the decision and then acts accordingly.
Be decisive. Don't wait for the course of events to make decisions for you. Sometimes making a decision -- even if it's the wrong decision -- is better than making no decision at all.
Different Strokes for Different Folks Situational Leadership
Using a single style of leadership to manage employees is no longer enough. Not only have downsizing, increased global competition, and other factors radically changed the work environment over the past couple decades, but the workforce itself also has changed. If you want to be an effective manager, you can no longer use only one style of leadership. Instead, you must apply different styles of leadership to match the differing needs of your employees.
Situational Leadership is the adaptation of a manager's leadership style to match the development level of the employee for each assigned task. The end result is the belief that no one best way to manage people exists. A leadership style that works for a new, inexperienced employee will likely fail with an experienced worker. And within a group of seemingly identical workers, each employee has his or her own unique needs.
In Situational Leadership, three factors interact to determine a given result:
- The amount of direction that a leader provides to employees
- The amount of support that a leader provides to employees
- The ability of employees to perform tasks, functions, or objectives
Leadership involves four distinct styles. These four styles depend on whether a leader exhibits low or high directive behavior and whether a leader exhibits low or high supportive behavior. Each style is appropriate according to the particular needs of those being led.
Directing is the manifestation of a high directive, low supportive leadership behavior. Leaders in directing mode tell their workers exactly what they want done, when they want it done, where they want it done, and how to do it. This style is appropriate for new employees or for employees who have been assigned a new task. These enthusiastic beginners bring energy and excitement to a new job or task, but they need clarity in work direction. This style is not appropriate for experienced employees, who may associate their bosses' directing behavior with a lack of trust in the employees' abilities.
For an example of what we're talking about: Suppose that you have a couple of new employees who have been assigned to assemble a complicated product -- perhaps a super-deluxe, professional-strength widget. This product is so complicated to assemble that you have a 5-page, 47-step procedure for doing the deed. Clearly, if you simply sit your new employees at their designated work stations, give them copies of the procedure, and leave them to fend for themselves, you'll have some frustrated new employees and some pretty lousy super-deluxe, professional-strength widgets.
A far better strategy is to apply directive leadership. Take the time to sit down with your new employees and give them clear direction, working through the process with them. Or ask one of your best assemblers to train the new employees in the process. If the new employees make a mistake, correct them -- immediately. At this point in their learning, your new employees must strictly follow your instructions. This is not a time for your new employees to get creative. After they master the task, then they can work to improve it.
When a leader applies high directive, high supportive behavior, the leader is doing what is called coaching. This style is best used when an employee still needs direction in learning a task but needs increasing support and encouragement to get the task done. In this situation, an employee is having problems in mastering a task and, in the process, has lost enthusiasm for doing the task. In other words, the honeymoon is over and the employee has become a disillusioned learner.
To see how coaching works, consider our example of the employees who are learning to assemble the super-deluxe widget. Your employees have followed your direction, and they are now trying to assemble the widgets on their own. They work and work at putting the widgets together, but because of the complexity of the 47-step procedure, they still have problems completing the assembly on their own.
As a coach, you need to check up on your new employees often to see how they are doing. When you see that they need help to successfully complete their task, your job is to coach them by providing encouragement and direction. You may need to walk them through the procedure again step by step, or you may need only to clarify one or two particular questions. Don't wait for your employees to ask to be coached! They may not even realize that they need to be coached, or they may be too embarrassed to ask.
One thing to remember is that whether in sports or in business, coaches lead their teams, but they don't play in the game. They provide training, guidance, clear direction, and strong support, but while their teams make it happen, the job of the coach requires that he or she watch from the sidelines.
Leaders who exhibit high supportive, low directive behavior are supporting their employees. You use supportive leadership when employees have learned and demonstrated the skills necessary to carry out the desired task but still lack the confidence to do so consistently. Employees in this state of development are called cautious contributors. Their leaders need to encourage them to continue to do a good job.
Back to our new widget assemblers. Actually, they aren't quite so new anymore. They are starting to get the hang of their job, and they usually get it right. As their performance improves, they begin to gain mastery of the task and, as a result, start thinking about alternate approaches to doing the job.
The role of the leader now changes again. Instead of providing the high level of direction that he or she provided in the coaching style of management, the leader now concentrates on supporting employees. The employees are not looking for direction in meeting their challenges, but they do need additional support -- someone to listen to them and help to build their confidence. Supporting managers provide support wherever necessary until their employees are confident in their own skills and abilities.
Solicit ideas and suggestions from your employees for better approaches to getting the job done. When you ask your employees to contribute, you create a learning opportunity for your employees by asking them to think about the details of how they do their jobs and how they can improve them. You reinforce their developing self-confidence by demonstrating that you trust their opinions.
Some of your employees' new ideas may be great -- and others not so great. By explaining to your employees exactly why a new idea will or won't work, you teach them even more about their work processes and about the decision-making process that you use to evaluate new ideas. This learning is invaluable to them as they become more independent of your day-to-day supervision.
Finally, delegating happens when leaders provide low direction and low support to their employees. This style of leadership works best with employees who are both skilled and confident in carrying out their duties. Such individuals are known as peak performers and can be given considerable responsibility to carry out tasks with little direction or support from leaders.
Now our super-deluxe widget assemblers can do their jobs independently and with little or no supervision. They do their jobs well, and if you allow them to implement improvements in the way they do their jobs without your explicit permission, they will do so. Along the way, your new employees have found ways to make the assembly process more efficient. Now, instead of a 47-step procedure to assemble a widget, the procedure may take only 35 steps -- saving your firm time and money while improving the quality of the finished product.
Examples of these employees are undoubtedly all around you. Perhaps your sales manager consistently meets the goals that you set -- on time, every time. Or maybe the mailroom clerk does a great job day in and day out without any direction from you. It could be the program manager who independently meets with customers, sets milestone schedules for project completion, and monitors the team's progress towards its goals.
Moving as many of your employees as possible through the various stages to become peak performers as quickly as possible is in your interest as a leader. Although you don't want to rush your employees into roles for which they are unprepared, the sooner you can delegate tasks to them, the more time you have to concentrate on the tasks that you are uniquely qualified to perform.